By Igor Lansorena
Dave Bieter, the only mayor in the U.S. who speaks Basque, is one of the examples of how relationships between Boise and the Basque culture have grown more vibrant over time.
If you are a visitor in Boise, you will probably find that Boise is much more than what you expected it to be. Ranked third in the "Best places for business and careers" list of Forbes magazine in 2007, Boise has grown considerably in recent years mainly due to three businesses: Hewlett-Packard, Micron and Boise State University.
More things in Boise are also better than what you expected them to be. If we talk about the Basque community and its connection with the Basque Country, the same thing can be said. "If you had asked me twenty years ago, I would have thought that, where we are today, would have been a lot less", the mayor of Boise says.
Dave Bieter, a second generation Basque-American and the only mayor in the U.S. who speaks Basque, is one of the examples of how relationships between Boise and the Basque culture have grown stronger and more vibrant over time.
Although in direct contact with the Basque language and culture since he was a child, he did not learn Basque until he was fourteen. "My grandmother was still alive and lived with my parents, with my family. And she spoke Basque to my mother, although not to us", Bieter says.
At the age of fourteen, in 1974, Bieter went to the Basque Country with his family to participate in a year-long exchange program founded by in his father in Oñati. At first, people thought that this program was the front for an undercover CIA operation.
According to Dave Bieter, this program and the direct contact with the Basque Country was essential to him: "Without that reconnection, I probably would have not learned Basque", he says.
However, things are changing in Boise and although family connections get weaker over time, community connections are growing stronger. “The connections, with the Internet, with travel, with Jaialdis, all of those are a sort of reconnecting or a continuing connection and it has kept more lively,” Bieter recounts.
Better known now in the Basque Country after he led a crowd in a resounding cheer of "Gora Obama" in a meeting in Boise, Bieter still can’t believe his cheer traveled so far. "That was really interesting because I would have never imagined that anybody would film it, even little long that it would go out on the Internet. I got an email from a friend of mine in the Basque Country telling me about it. It is amazing how small the world is now".
As a member of the Basque community in Boise, Bieter remains optimistic and thinks that Boise will continue being a good example of how to keep traditions alive. As a mayor, he looks to the future with optimism and gets ready for the challenges in the next three years.
"We have had some very good times, especially Micron and Hewlett- Packard. It will be challenging to keep that economic atmosphere. Then, assuming that, if it goes pretty well, transportation is probably the single biggest issue beyond that, how we need a rail system. And then, I think, we need some other public investments, a new library, some other park investments", he says.