Basque Bookshelf: Kaixo Amerika!  

This article is a translation of a news item that originally appeared at and is published here December 20, 2006 by NABO's Facilitator (John Ysursa). Neither NABO or the Basque Government is responsible for the following content.

Heidi Ayarbe, a native of Carson City, Nevada, recently had published Kaixo Amerika: Hello America.  Aimed at kids ages 8-13, it is the story of her grandfather Pierre who came to America from his Basque homeland, which she hopes will inspire young people to travel and see the world.

Heidi Ayarbe is a Basque-American, born in Carson City (Nevada), whose just published book Kaixo Amerika: Hello America narrates the story of her Basque immigrant ancestors. The treatment focuses on her grandfather Pierre, a Basque immigrant from the northern or French side of the Basque country). The author explains that in Nevada you'll find Basques everywhere, and she wants young people to learn how this one culture went into the creation of the state. "There are Basque restaurants, trees carved by Basque sheepherders, Basque boardinghouses; there have been important Basque people in business and government and award winning authors, like the Laxalt brothers Paul and Robert."

She was moved to write the book for several reasons. First of all, the presence of Basques is largely unknown to most students: "in schools there were not books about this experience and that is what I wanted to change." The objective of the book is that readers learn to embrace a set of values like tolerance, especially in a society composed of immigrants. "At this time 30% of Nevada children are the children of immigrants or were born elsewhere." She hopes that some of these kids will connect with the story of the book.

The book follows the adventures of her grandfather Pierre who came from the village of Aldude in the province of Nafarroa Beherea (Benafarroa). Her grandmother, Graxiana, was also from the same region in the town of Ortzaize. Heidi's father was born in the Nevada town of Ely, and while her mother is Norwegian, the author states that the Basque world was a constant for her has she grew up. (the photo here from the author is of her grandfather Pierre with his two sons Dominique and Joe along with a fellow sheepherder.)

"My sister and I always knew we were Basque" the author states as the Ikurrina (Basque flag) was present and we made chorizo or Basque sausage in the garage. About the latter, "it wasn't my favorite past-time, but it was Basque." Growing up we went to the Basque festivals and we learned Basque dances, she continues, but in reality she confesses that we didn't really understand what this Basque thing was. Writing this book was a means by which the author came to a deeper appreciation of her Basque heritage.

In search of her Basque origins, Heidi spent six months in the Basque country of Europe. "I spent every weekend surrounded by cousins, uncles and aunts, and I could see the house where my grandfather was born." But this was only the beginning of a larger trip that took Heidi to Asia, Europe, Central and South America. She went with her husband of Basque-Columbian descent, Cesar Aristizabal. (this photo is of grandparents Graxiana & Pierre who became known as Grace & Pete, with their three sons).

The author is a strong proponent of travel which she considers to be under-emphasized in our educational system. "Traveling is about taking risks, confronting new ideas, meeting incredible people and coming to realize that in the end, we are more or less all alike around the world." She hopes that her writing might inspire kids to want to travel, learn a new language, or to make a friend from a different culture. "We have too many barriers and traveling is a way to break those down." (this photo is of the author and her husband at the ancient ruins of the Cambodian city of Angkor).

In Kaixo Amerika: Hello America, meet Pierre, a young Basque immigrant, modeled after the author's own father. Alternating chapters follow Pierre, through his diaries, as he journeys from the Basque homeland to Nevada. The remaining chapters detail the Basque experience in America, from the turn of the 20th Century through today. You can order your copy by going to:



Foku Musikala