This Nevada Town Feels Like Basque Country

Winnemucca offers a glimpse of a culture based a continent away

Signs in Winnemucca, Nevada
Winnemucca, Nevada is home to an unlikely outpost of Basque culture.
Chanilim714/Creative Commons

Basque Country has a long and rich history, including a distinctive cuisine and a notable literary tradition. It’s not surprising, then, that it’s a popular destination for travelers visiting from the United States and elsewhere. But it turns out that visiting the autonomous region in Spain isn’t the only way to immerse yourself in all things Basque. According to a new article, there’s also a spot a little closer to home — specifically, a small town in Nevada.

At Smithsonian Magazine, Jennifer Billock wrote about the town of Winnemucca, Nevada, which has a substantial Basque cultural influence.

Much of the land in Winnemucca (population: 7,788) is owned by descendants of the immigrants that came to the United States from Basque Country, a region straddling the border between France and Spain, in the 1800s.

It’s not the only place with such a history in the United States — Boise, Idaho also has a substantial Basque population — but its size and relative isolation make it unique. Billock explains that the town’s location made it suitable for a number of new arrivals to the country in the 1800s.

It’s right on the former Central Pacific and Southern Pacific railways, now Amtrak’s California Zephyr line, and was a natural stopping point, halfway between Salt Lake City and San Francisco, for those heading west.

Winnemucca has held an annual Basque Festival for over 40 years; the town also abounds with Basque restaurants, including The Martin Hotel, whose website describes it as an “internationally known Basque and American family style restaurant.” It’s one of several places that a distant culture can be glimpsed not far from an interstate highway, the Santa Rosa Range visible in the distance.

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