Basque historian says many Louisiana families have Basque origins, but don't know it

Historians in the News

Few New Orleanians would identify themselves as of Basque heritage, but according to one of them, that's only because they're unaware of their families' origins a few centuries ago.

From Abadie and Alciatore to Yzaguirre and Zatarain, says Michel-Antoine Goitia-Nicolas, dozens of longtime local families can trace their origins back to the Basque region that straddles the border between France and Spain.

Most of them, he says, are aware only that their ancestors emigrated from France or Spain, not of their exact ethnic background.

But, he says, whether Barbe or Begue, Chachere or Charbonnet, Gayarre or Goyeneche, Lacombe or Lemoyne, Mandeville or Marigny, Sapir or Soraparu -- all have Basque origins.

Goitia-Nicolas, 46, who was born in Canada and has lived in New Orleans since 1984, founded a nonprofit group, the Louisiana Basque-American Society and Cultural Organization, or LABASCO, in 2003 to promote awareness of the state's Basque heritage....

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