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A Crazy True Story About My Basque Family

October 20, 2014 by Kiersi


So, I’ve been in Spain the last week. Part of our trip here was to visit my father’s Basque relatives and, specifically, the house where my ancestors lived in the Basque Country (in the northern part of Spain) before migrating to the United States.

I’ve always wondered what brought them to the US all that time ago—but the truth was way more exciting than I thought it would be.

My great great grandfather’s brother was the first to immigrate to the US. But once he got there, he was murdered by a “blue-eyed Irishman.”

The news traveled back to my great great grandfather, Benito Arrizabalaga, who still lived in the Basque Country. After hearing it, he vowed to avenge his brother.

Benito stowed away on a ship crossing the Atlantic to the US, but somewhere along the way, he was discovered. The Captain gave him two choices: work as a cabin boy to pay for his passage, or get thrown overboard.

He obviously chose the first option.

Once in the US, though, Benito never did find that blue-eyed Irishman who killed his brother. Though he did get into some other trouble, I was not surprised to hear, that included accidentally driving a wagon and a team of horses off a cliff.

I see where I get it from, though I have yet to lose my whole wagon yet.


  1. Interesting story! I don’t really know any stories about my ancestors.

  2. Helen Rena says:

    Wow, that’s a colorful story! 🙂 I come from the Soviet Union where it was discouraged to know about your ancestors, in case they were capitalists :), so I don’t know much about my family.

  3. rfeiertag says:


    You ought to write a family history (fictionalized or not). Maybe your mom could provide you with some photos to go along with your text. It sounds as if you’re having amazing material handed to you on a platter.


  4. Lynn says:

    Hold onto that wagon, Kiersi! 🙂

  5. I love stories from my family. I wish I knew more. Make like a sponge and try to gleam as much as possible. Novel tidbits and short stories. Anyway, great snippet.

    • Kiersi says:

      For some reason, both sides of my family have one person who’s decided they’ll be the story-teller. I like to think I’m taking over that position for both of them. Thanks for coming by, Brenda!

  6. I have one ancestor buried standing up, facing west with his guns on (Texas, of course). On the other side of the tree is an ancestor murdered during a labor union dispute in the days of the first gold rush at Cripple Creek, Colorado. There is now a second ‘gold rush’ in progress and my retirement property (entirely by coincidence) is only fifteen miles west (as the crow flies). I’ll leave that part of my Parker relations’ story buried until the gold fever passes – no need to tempt history repeating. Perhaps my ancestor put his nose in where it wasn’t wanted – no one likes a nosy Parker. (LOVE your stories and the pic of you with girl ‘cousins’)

  7. Carlos Etice says:

    I found out one of my uncles was part of La ETA. That’s crazy.

    • Kiersi says:

      I bet that’s not entirely uncommon. Young people were very actively recruited at some point. If he was in his twenties at the right time, joining ETA was probably considered the thing to do.

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