Coming Down From Chino

The Chino Basque Club‘s annual picnic this weekend was epic. Here’s why:


Even though there was a dinner going on at the fairgrounds, my parents and I opted to stick with our tradition of having dinner at Centro Basco on the eve of the picnic. After hosting the grandchildren of Monique Berterretche, Centro Basco’s owner, for San Francisco’s Udaleku in 2007, my family has been pretty close with the Berterretches. It’s great to check in with all of them at the bar.

Centro Basco

I had the veal named after my Chino bestie, Taylor Berterretche. Ever since I met her six years ago and found out she had a dish at Centro Basco, I order her veal every time.

My aita had a chicken the size of his cute little face.

At the end of the meal, Monique the owner ended up buying our dinner. Such a sweetheart! And her daughter Bernadette bought our drinks. They treat us like kings over at Centro Basco. Gotta love the Berterretches!

Centro Basco love note

After dinner, we headed to the fairgrounds. My parents followed their friends who wanted to see the stage production, Domingo Ibarburu, which they had scheduled to show after dinner. I tagged along to see who was around and where the party was going to be later that night.

With JesusI can tell you the party wasn’t at the fairgrounds. So I met up with some friends for a kickback. It turned out the aita whose house we were at is a Hella Basque fan. He walked out into the yard to say hi to everyone, and when he saw me, he was all, “Hella Basque is in my house!” It was super cute.

Thank you, sir, for giving us a venue for our catch up on Saturday night. Also, thank you for having so many awesome religious statues in your yard.

If you want to see what we got up to, I have a video of one of the drinking games up on the Hella Basque Facebook fan page.


Chino mass

Chino, only for you do I go to mass. This was my eighth Basque festival of the summer, but the first where I actually attended mass. I go to Chino’s mass mostly to see all of my friends dressed up in costume. The dance groups there have beautifully varied costumes, and the Besta Berri men are a uniquely Chino sight.

I noticed in the walk up to mass that Chino’s klika sounded really good. Maybe they actually practice? (*Ahem* Step it up, San Francisco. SoCal’s bugles put us to shame.)

Other than that and the appearance of the Biotzetik Basque Choir from Idaho, mass was standard.

Although there was one awkward moment… The priest was about to move on to the Prayers of the Faithful when a group of singers interrupted him by belting out Sinesten Dut. The priest was flustered but admitted he had forgotten the song.

Now maybe it’s the years of mass I sat through in all girls Catholic school where you’re expected to sit there and shut up, but I thought they had a lot of nerve to correct a priest in the middle of his mass. Was the song really that important? To some people, I guess it was. I just thought it was a shame it made mass longer.

Afterwards, lunch was standard, the same as usual. The line went way out the door.

lunch line

On the menu: steak, chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, salad, bread, and cheese. The salad dressing was delicious, and the cheese was strong.

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On the Road to Chino

Chinooooooooooooo, I’m coming for you!

This weekend is literally one of my favorite weekends of the year. I am celebrating my 10th consecutive Chino picnic. Where does the time go?

Chino picnic is my all-time favorite Basque American picnic, and Chino people are my all-time favorite Basques. I’m even writing a novel about it. Could you already tell I love Chino?

I am beyond excited for this weekend, but I’m trying to keep my expectations low. Yes, there will be downtime. It will probably be too hot for this San Franciscan to bear. I will probably experience boredom throughout the day tomorrow. But those things are all manageable, since Chino picnic is consistently awesome.

I realize I haven’t really explained yet why Chino’s Labor Day picnic is amazing. So if you’re wondering why I love it so much, here are a few reasons:

  • So many young people come out for Chino picnic! The dancers have been nothing but nice to me over the years, even when I was that random girl from San Francisco who didn’t know anyone. I’ve made a lot of good friends in Chino, merely by showing up to the picnic every year.
  • I usually only get to see my amazing SoCal cousins once a year at Chino picnic.
  • The dance is usually really lively, since Chino has such large dance groups and the picnic attracts many people who love to dance.
  • People bring their American friends for the dance. I always meet new people at Chino picnic, and the new faces keep things fresh and fun.
  • I LOVE CENTRO BASCO. Love their dinner, and I die for their breakfast on Monday morning. I also love when they keep the bar open after the dance. Perfect for afterparties!
  • There’s a skate park across the street from the Chino Fairgrounds. I try to get away from the picnic in quieter moments (after lunch or after the dance performances) to watch the skaters. It’s a cool way to break up the traditional picnic day, and it gives me a minute to recharge before the long day and night ahead.
  • Handball games at the Aphessetche trinquet. Although they’re not hosting games this year and showing Domingo Ibarburu at the fairgrounds instead, the handball games are usually a highlight for me. Aita and I would go together–him for the games, me to sip on a Coke and see who’s around. It’s a chill way to lead into the weekend.

Basically, everyone should go to Chino picnic at least once. It’s amazing.

The parents and I are getting an early start this morning, as Chino, California is about a 7 hour drive from the Bay Area. I won’t post tomorrow or Monday, but look out for the Chino recap on Tuesday.

Also, like and follow the Hella Basque Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for updates throughout the weekend.

If you’re going to the fairgrounds tomorrow, I’ll be handing out the last of my Hella Basque stickers. Get yours before they’re all gone! If you don’t know me, look out for my Jaime scarf out on the dance floor tomorrow night. Say hi!

Recovering from a Weekend at the Basque Cultural Center

A few days ago, the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco, California hosted its Jaialdia weekend. Here is the recap of events through my experience:


I arrived around 6:00 PM, in time to catch the last ten points of the handball game with the players from the Basque Country. First of all, there was no cover charge. I was pleasantly surprised by that! In the past few years the Center’s had us pay to watch handball, so thanks for the freebie.

The funny thing about the handball game was hearing my dad’s complaints. Usually Aita rags on “those Spanish Bascos,” but Saturday night he had nothing but criticism for the French handball players. He called them lazy, finding the game a little slower than he would have liked. According to Aita, pilotaris from Hegoalde hustle more.

My friends more in the know about the issue pointed out that these players were more accustomed to playing in smaller trinquets back home. So I told Aita to calm himself.

After handball, we headed for the bar. The Basque Cultural Center phased out the drink ticket system a while ago, but I always forget until I get there. I was a mooch all night, bumming Cokes off people nice enough to offer, because I was too stubborn to break my $20 bill for a soft drink.

Visiting band Baigura played on stage in the banquet room, but I refused to dance. The only people bold enough to dance in front of the large audience at the bar were mostly little kids and a handful of women. I hung back to chat with other people in the crowd, not wanting to join the fishbowl of the dance floor.

My friends and I eventually got in line for dinner. We jumped in the shorter line down the long hallway leading to the back serving line. In years past, the two lines used to be fairly equal, but it seems people forgot about the second serving line on Saturday night. We breezed right to the front.

serving line

When we got through the line, we were obliged to sit across from my parents, as they were on the end of the open table to which we were ushered. My parents even did that annoying thing where they sat side by side, so my friends and I had to sit in front of them, rather than across from each other.

Oh, the drama of family style seating! I actually had to sit with my family in the end. What a drag.

I kid, of course. My parents are wonderful people, but that adolescent attitude still takes over. You know the one where you don’t want your parents listening in on your conversations with your friends. Maybe they’ll hear something inappropriate. Oh goodness!

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Living at the Basque Cultural Center

Twice a year, South San Francisco’s Basque Cultural Center hosts a weekend of Basque festivities, once in February and once in August. Augustfest is upon us starting today! Finally, a party that doesn’t require a road trip!

Click here to see the flyer.


3:30 – Junior Pala featuring local players

4:00 – Pala game: Bakersfield vs. San Francisco

5:00 – Euskal Herria Handball Players: Christophe Arbeletche, Michel Etcheverry, Peio Indart, Xabi Urruty

6:00 – Apero with Baigura

7:00 – BBQ Steak Dinner (advance reservation and payment required) followed by dance with Baigura


10:00 – Basque mass with Aita Lastiri, San Francisco Klika, Elgarrekin Choir, and Zazpiak Bat dance group
followed by performances by the Zazpiak Bat dance group

12:00 – Apero with Baigura

12:30 – BBQ Rack of Lamb Lunch (advance reservation and payment required)

3:30 – theater performance in Basque with English translation by Elgarrekin from Armendaritz, Benafarroa – Domingo Ibarburu by Pantzo Hirigaray

Tonight I’ll be passing out Hella Basque stickers. Same drill as Running of the Bars: snap a picture, upload it to social media with #hellabasque, get a sticker. Simple, right? Come find me. I’ll be wearing my Jaime scarf, as usual.

Jaime scarf

Follow the @hellabasque Twitter account for our first live tweet session! I will be live tweeting the events Saturday night from 7 to 10 PST and Sunday from noon to 1:30 PST. Tweet me your questions and comments @hellabasque with #hellabasque.

I’ll take tomorrow and Monday off from posting on the blog, so check back on Tuesday for the Hella Basque recap.

Hope everyone has fun this weekend!

Dance Floor Etiquette

With the Basque Cultural Center‘s big party this weekend (which apparently is a secret on the internet because I couldn’t find a link to the program), let’s go over some simple rules for the dance floor.

1. Leave your drink to the side

While cans are definitely less risky than cups, please leave your beverages off the dance floor. Especially if you have a cup, for the love of the children please set it down. Don’t be that person who spills their kalimotxo all over a middle schooler. It’s very bad form.

2. No smoking

By the same token, don’t bring your cigarettes onto the dance floor. Accidentally burning people is not the way to Carnegie Hall.

3. If you’re leading, lead. If you’re following, follow.

This may seem basic, but for some of us it’s harder said than done. Pushy girls like me often had to dance the boys’ parts at dance practice due to an abundance of girls, so it can be hard to retrain your brain and feet. I’ve literally had a boy yell at me in frustration, “Will you let me lead?” That was awkward.

Avoid moments like that if you can. Playing your part will minimize the chance of stepping on the other person’s feet or bumping into each other.

4. Young ones, try not to bump into old ones.

I know we all get excited during Polka Pik, crashing into friends like we’re in bumper cars. But do your best not to bash into people not playing the same game. Also avoid bumping into people you don’t know. Dancing is safer and more enjoyable for everyone that way.

5. If someone doesn’t want to dance with you, be gracious about it.

You already know why I turn people down, but there could be a million reasons why someone else would. Don’t jump to conclusions and take it personally. Just find someone else to dance with.

What would you add to this list?

12 Reasons to Go to a Basque Festival

1. Make friends


Basque festivals are a great place to meet people and strengthen ties with those you already know. Long afternoons give you lots of time to get to know people.

2. Eat delicious food

Gardnerville lunch

Try the lamb. It’s always exquisitely seasoned, and there’s usually lots of it. Meals are usually meat-heavy, so vegetarians proceed with caution and vegans stay home.

3. Have drinks you can’t find at American bars

Star Hotel T-shirt

Drink Kalimotxos and Picon Punches to your heart’s content at Basque events. The bartender will actually know what you’re talking about.

4. Speak Basque or hear it spoken

Need to brush up on your Basque? There will be plenty of people to converse with. If you’re just a linguistics nerd, come to listen to this language isolate.

5. Socialize with free day care

Chantal + Joana

Everyone looks out for people’s kids at these events. The little ones happily run around with their new friends, but they always come back to mommy and daddy if they get hurt, tired, or hungry.

6. Watch Basque dance performances

Like folk dancing? Think kids dressed up in traditional costumes is adorable? Then a Basque festival is the place for you, as virtually every one involves a dance performance.

7. Polka, waltz, and fandango the night away


If you’re old school at heart, Basque festivals are the place to release your inner ballroom dancer.

8. Play mus or learn how to play


Unless you set up your own card tournaments, you probably don’t get much opportunity to play this Basque poker-esque card game. It can be hard to play on your own since the game requires four players, but you’re bound to find others to partner up with at a Basque event.

9. Catch up on the latest gossip


Sometimes the most exciting part of a Basque festival is hearing what other people have been up to. You hear a lot of interesting things by sitting around all day.

10. Try your hand at the txingas competition

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

You think you’re a tough guy? Prove it! See how far you can lift those heavy weights and maybe earn yourself some bragging rights.

11. Sing at the bar

Let go of your inhibitions! You’re among friends. Basques love to sing, especially after a big meal and a few drinks. If someone starts a tune and you know the words, join in! If it’s new to you, belt out some heartfelt la-la-las.

12. Volunteer


There’s always plenty of work that needs to be done at a Basque festival. Help out with food prep, bartending, serving, selling tickets, setting up tables and chairs, and breaking it all down at the end of the day. Find out who’s running the show and offer your services!

Coming Down From Gardnerville

Gardnerville Picnic

For anyone interested in finding out about Gardnerville, Nevada’s Basque picnic this year, here’s my humble recap of what I got up to.


The drive from San Francisco to Gardnerville, Nevada took three and a half hours Saturday morning. I ditched riding with my parents to keep my friend company on his drive. He being the only close friend of mine (in other words, old dance group friend) from San Francisco making the trek, we decided on the car ride up to be each other’s home base.

You know how you usually go to a party with certain people, but you go around and talk to a bunch of other people and then make your way back to your original friends? That’s your home base crew. But this weekend, we only had each other to rely on.  Or so we anticipated in the beginning… We eventually merged with another home base crew to form one big home base team. (Hi. I’m horrible at sports analogies. Just run with it.)

My home base and I timed our trip so that we would arrive in the middle of mass, and we ran into a few other people skipping mass when we got there. We opted to chat in the shade of the park across the street from the hall until mass was over.

When mass got out, it was the usual daytime picnic routine. Get a drink at the bar, talk to people until lunch is served. You may be starting to notice that there’s a lot of waiting around at Basque picnics.

Saturday’s lunch consisted of chicken, lamb stew, lamb steak, beans, salad, bread, cheese, a glass of wine, and a fudge bar for dessert.

The smart ones brought their own tables and chairs to set up in the shade, since the park’s picnic tables got snatched up quickly.


I was lucky enough to sit with my family in the fairly air conditioned hall. While at first glance, all of my food looked delicious, upon cutting into my chicken I found it really pink and a little bloody in places.

With my history of vomiting in Gardnerville, I was not going to risk anything by eating it. But the ice cream for dessert made up for the nasty chicken in spades. I can’t remember any other club serving ice cream with lunch at a summer picnic, so props to the Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba for making this sugar addict happy.

Following lunch was a program of singing and dance performances by Gardnerville’s Mendiko Euskaldun and Reno’s Zazpiak Bat dancers. Organizers cleared all of the lunch tables in the hall and set up rows of folding chairs in front of the stage.

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I have to admit that I was one of the many obnoxious people at the bar talking instead of giving my full attention to the performers, but I still appreciated what I was hearing and seeing. Even though I was in a town new to me and barely knew anyone at the picnic, there’s something about hearing Johnny Curutchet do his bertsolari thing that makes me feel at home.

I think this would be too rosy a recap if I weren’t honest and mentioned that yes, unfortunately some of the singers were off key. But that’s okay. Basque picnics are a supportive environment. We applaud your efforts, because God knows I wouldn’t be brave enough to stand in front of a room full of people and sing into a microphone.

Throughout the afternoon, some people played mus, some hung around outside…


But I spent the entire afternoon near the bar.

1. Because that’s where my home base was.

2. Because that’s where these cuties were hanging out!

Alicia and Dustin's twinsies

Alicia and Dustin’s hella Basque twinsies

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