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buber.net > Basque > Features > GuestColumns > The Basques of Saint Pierre and Miquelon
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The Basques of Saint Pierre and Miquelon

by Marc Cormier

Marc A. Cormier is a web veteran. He's been promoting his native islands via the Internet since 1993 and his community portal contains a treasure trove of information about every facet of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. Marc has also worked extensively on the history of the islands and the Basque's establisments from the XVIth to the XIXth century.

Near Newfoundland, Canada, there is a small group of islands that still remains part of France to this day and who's population came from Normandy, Brittany and of course the Basque country!

Very few people know about Saint-Pierre et Miquelon. Located some 800 miles northeast of Boston, these islands were a fishing hub for centuries.

Some will say Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is one of North America's best-kept secrets. This is no sunny Caribbean destination, nor is it a tourism Mecca, but being off the beaten path is what makes this island a charming place to escape from the hustle and bustle of modern living.

What is most fascinating about this island is the strong presence of the Basque spirit. In fact the name MIQUELON is of Basque origin and was first noted in Martin de Hoyarçabal's famous navigational pilot for Newfoundland. Printed in Bordeaux, France, this work was later translated into Labourdin Basque by Pierre Detcheverry. It is in this document that the island of MIQUELON is first named. Meaning "Michael" in Basque, Miquelon was a fishing station for several "Michaels" including Miquelon de Aramburu. Saint-Pierre was also used as a seasonal base for a Basque captain: Juanes de Liçaurdi -- who fished for Adam de Chibau of Saint-Jean de Luz -- established a fishing station on the southern coast between 1602 and 1611.

However, it was during the XIXth century that Basque immigration was renewed and many Basques settled in Saint-Pierre. The Basques who came to Saint-Pierre et Miquelon were mainly from five areas: Guéthary - Bidart, Saint-Jean-de-Luz - Ciboure, Urrugne, Hendaye and Saint-Pée. Other Basque migrants were born on the other side of the French-Spanish border (Fontarabie, Irun), and some came from as far as Saint-Etienne de Baïgorry.

American travel writer George Allan England mentions the Basque presence in Saint-Pierre in his "Islands of Romance", published in 1929: "I returned along the road with a gleam of bright sunlight falling over my shoulder. At a farm I observed an old man with huge trousers of meal sacking, engaged in sawing wood with a bucksaw which he held between his knees, rubbing the stick up and down on the teeth. The old man's red sash told me he was a Basque. His wrinkled face, bright eyes, and sweeping moustaches would have warmed a painter's heart. He was a very voluble old fellow, and for half an hour he told me words and phrases in the mysterious and little-known Basque tongue. No foreigner, I believe, has ever learned to speak it well, and one must be born a Basque to fathom its complexities. Sailors claim the only outsider who has ever learned Basque is the Old Boy himself."

Today, Basque names are ever present in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. Many families sport such names as Albistur, Apesteguy, Arrossaména, Borotra, Capendeguy, Dagort, Detcheverry, Etcheberry, Etcheverry, Goïcoëchea, Hacala, Haran, Légasse, Luberry, Olano, Sabarotz, Télétchea, Urtizberea and Urdanabia to name only a few...

This year, the Basque associations of Saint-Pierre are celebrating a double anniversary: the 25th anniversary of the Basque festival, which will be held between the 19th and the 27th of August, and the 100th anniversary of the town's FRONTON, aptly named the Zazpiak Bat.

For more information on the Basque Festival


Eskual Etxea

Place Richard Briand

PO BOX 4322

F97500 Saint-Pierre

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon

(via Montréal Canada postal Transit)

For more information on Saint-Pierre and Miquelon

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon Tourism -- www.st-pierre-et-miquelon.com

Grand Colombier Cultural Site - www.grandcolombier.com/english/basque

Also, see this brochure.

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