In an exclusive interview for eitb.com, Justo Sarria, owner of Basque Country Imports, talks about the economic crisis and his life far from the Basque Country.
Some predominant stereotypes that describe the life of Basques who emigrated to America in the early 1900s and later in the 1960s is that they left the Basque Country
because it was hard to find a job.
Their early life in the United States was really hard and it usually was more difficult for men to learn English, as they spent long periods of time on their own looking after the sheep on the mountains.
Unlike all those men and women, Justo Sarria, born in the fishing village of Lekeitio, did not leave the Basque Country in search of a job.
"My father was the owner of two companies
I was born in a wealthy family.
There were seven cars in Lekeitio and my father had one of those seven cars", Justo remembers in an exclusive interview for eitb.com in Boise.
Justo left the Basque Country at the age of 18 fleeing the political situation of the Franco regime and, unlike most of the Basques, his arrival there was not hard as he had some relatives in Boise who owned a ranch by the time he got there and he even had a tutor at home to learn English.
Since then, the standard of living of the Basques in Boise has improved 500 percent, Justo
There are not Basque sheepherders now.
Most of them took another job, so did Justo
He was working for American Natural Resources, a renewable energy company, for 27 years.
Then, in 1990, he
decided it was time for a change.
Despite his complete lack of experience as an importer, Justo created Basque Country Imports, a business that supplies local restaurants and distributes traditional Basque foods in the Northwest of the United States.
Thanks to Justo
, many American Basques can cook with piquillo peppers from the Basque Country
, drink Rioja wine and get other traditional products such as cider, Idiazabal cheese, anchovies and sardines.
first product was Faustino wine, with whom he
signed an exclusivity agreement that lasted 11 years and helped Basque Country Imports
Although in general his
business has gone well, Justo
does not forget that there have also been some difficult times.
"We lost Faustino after 11 years and then we started to bring wine from other countries such as Chile, Argentina, France and Italy", Justo
The economic situation is also affecting Justo's business, more than the current dollar-euro exchange rate.
"In the past, you went to Ketchum and took a 14 dollar wine and they did not want it.
They wanted a 25, 30 or 35 dollar wine.
Nowadays, they want 6 dollar wines", Justo
misses the Basque Country
and goes back at least once a year.
could not go back there for good.
"Basque weather kills me", he
, only Basque is spoken and both his
son Edu and Amaya, born in Boise, speak Basque.
, the essence of being Basque is to speak Euskera, the Basque language.
"A nation looses its identity when its inhabitants do not speak their mother language", Justo
"There are parents here in Boise who haven't taught Basque to their children, not even Spanish.
Their mother tongue is Basque but they talk to to their sons and daughters in English", Justo
I am a Basque born in Boise'", Justo
was also among those who organized the day of the Basque homeland in Boise for the first time.
"People from all over the western United States came to Boise.
The Basque flag was flying in the Capitol building.
It was something incredible", Justo
says with pride.