News Presidency

The legend of the Santa Fe Basque-American hotel to be perpetuated in the Basque Diaspora Archive

2021 November 26

The Santa Fe hotel (in Reno, Nevada, USA) closed permanently in July 2020. It was another Basque hotel-restaurant in the United States that closed its doors due to the coronavirus. The "Santa Fe" was definitively closed after 71 years being in function (the new building of this Basque hotel-restaurant was built in 1949). The Basque Hotels were the meeting point of the Basque Community in the United States of America and today they are gradually closing, but part of their history will be preserved in the Basque Diaspora Archive.

The legend of the Santa Fe will continue thanks to the collection of objects belonging to the hotel that the Basque community of Reno has preserved and has just given to the Basque Diaspora Archive: a set of dishes, the menu cards, tablecloths and napkins and.... Pay attention, because it is very revealing of the spirit of solidarity of the Basque community: a notebook written in pencil as an elementary English course and with advice on the process to become a U.S. citizen. It is most likely a rudimentary handbook that helped in the integration of the new Basque shepherds arriving in the USA.

The Office for the Basque Community Abroad thanks Patty Miller of the Boise Basque Museum, Michelle Alzola and José Luis Egiluz for bringing to Euskadi this piece of our history abroad.

The history of the Santa Fe begins with Basque immigrant Jean Pierre Etcheberry, who took over the lease of the hotel in 1931 along with his wife Marie. They owned and operated the hotel together until Jean Pierre passed away in 1943. Then Marie took on Martin Esain as a partner. A terrible fire swept along Lake Street on August 15, 1948, damaging many buildings including the Santa Fe. Esain, by now the sole owner, constructed a new hotel building in 1949.

Esain's nephew, Joseph Zubillaga, and Zubillaga's sisters Aurelie and Anita, helped their uncle run the Santa Fe over the next decades, taking over its operation when Esain died in 1966. The new Santa Fe Hotel, always under Basque family ownership, continued to serve the community, offering Basque-style family dining and preserving elements of the rich local Basque-American culture, until July 2020, when the hotel closed. Now the legend will be perpetuated for the benefit of researchers and the general public who visit the Basque Diaspora archive.

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