The Journal of San Diego History
Spring/Summer 2000, Volume 46, Numbers 2 & 3
Gregg Hennessey, Editor

Book Notes

Home Away from Home: A History of Basque Boardinghouses.

By Jeronima Echeverria. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1999. Photographs, maps, tables, appendices, glossary, notes, bibliography, index. Xvi + 359 Pages $44.95 Hardcover.

There are few ethnic groups in western America as interesting as the Basques. Although many came early with the Spanish conquest of this part of the world, most have come since the 1860s, with many serving as sheepherders for western flocks. One of the focal points of the Basque immigrants in the United States has been the boardinghouse or hotel, which the Basques called the ostatuak. These institutions gave the new immigrant a place to socialize with their own kind, and to share and perpetuate their common language, their culture, and their cuisine (which many current visitors to the Basque country still enjoy). The boardinghouse also served as a sort of social services agency, helping the new arrivals with jobs, legal problems, and assistance in survival in a new land. Many immigrant groups have had institutions which served these purposes (churches, lodges, political organizations, for instance) but the hotel or boardinghouse played a unique role for the Basques, since most of the immigrants were young, unattached males, who spent most of their year is isolated pastures. On the rare occasions when they could come to a town or to be with other Basques, it was logical that the hotel would be the place where it would happen. Echeverria’s book is another stellar product of the University of Nevada’s Basque Series. It is deeply and thoroughly researched and documented, rationally presented, supported by appendices full of important information. As such Home Away from Home makes a unique and significant contribution to immigration and western history. At the same time, the story is so compelling that the book makes good reading for the non-specialist.


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