- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

RENO, Nev. (AP) - It was a century ago that Basque immigrants began to move to Nevada, attracted by the state’s free range law and its booming population during the Gold Rush of the 1800s.

But the Spanish Basque culture was still alive in Reno streets Saturday, where nearly 350 people gathered for traditional food, dancing, contests and music from the Pyrenees Mountains, the Reno Gazette Journal reported (https://on.rgj.com/1LxcsiQ ).

“When my father came to America, I’m sure they never imagined that 100 years later their kids would still be dancing or trying to speak Basque,” said 51-year-old Reno resident Kate Camino. “Now there are more opportunities to learn the language and different opportunities that have come along since they were sheepherders.”

Many of the Basque immigrants tended livestock to feed hungry gold miners. Camino, who works at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Center for Basque Studies, believes it’s important to preserve the culture of Reno’s unlikely early settlers.

She’s not the only one.

“I’m from a certain region in the Basque called Viscaya. I’m very proud of that fact,” said Alison Hull, 26, of Reno. “I show it off and I talk about it. Not a lot of people know what Basques are and I like to expand that knowledge with my tradition.”

Hull said she and her brother were only 3 years old when their mother began encouraging them to take part in Basque activities.

“That’s about when everybody starts,” she said.

Not everyone at Saturday’s festival claimed Basque heritage. Paul Woodin, 49, is president of the Zaspiak Bat Basque Club but is not himself Basque.

He joined a dance group when he was younger, though, and married a Basque woman.

“When my daughter came of age to dance with the people, I felt like I needed to do my part,” he said, so he joined the club.

“You go to any festival and they’re just having a great time,” Woodin said. “They’re happy, hardworking and energetic people. It’s kind of infectious. You just get wrapped up in it.”

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Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, https://www.rgj.com

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