"Aita" Martxel Tillous

2000 - Boise Basque Block. Aita Martxel Tillous, playing txistu with Jimmy Jausoro and Juan Zulaica.

Martxel Tillous was the Catholic chaplain of the Basque community in the western United States during the 1990's and 2000's. He was born in Eskiula, Xiberoa in 1934. As a Catholic priest he was an anchor for the Basque community in the western states, being actively involved in 11 of these states during all those years. He drove over 100,000 kilometers in his van, Pottoka

Besides his religious duties, Martxel was an enthusiast of the Basque culture and especially its music. He was a skilled Basque flute, (txistu) player and also a variation called the txirula. He also was teacher of txistu and singing for several NABO (North America Basque Organization) music camps, and contributed to the education of the next generation, passing on the music he had learned in the Basque Country. Aita Tillous was also the director of the Elgarrekin Basque Choir and txistu band of San Francisco in the 90's. The txistu band was made up of Valerie Arrechea, Caroline Chiramberro, Christian Iribarren, Mark Souruet and led by Aita Tillous.

Because of all the contributions he made to the Basque communities in the States he received several recognitions such as NABO's Bizi Emankorra Award in 2002 and his induction into the Basques Studies in America's Basque Hall of Fame (2002).

He died in Lapurdi in 2009 after a year-long fight with cancer.

Sources:

Oiarzabal, Pedro J: Gardeners of Identity, Basques in the San Francisco Bay Area. Uranzadi collection, 2009.

Basque Wikipedia page

Obituary by Johnny Kurutxet

San Francisco Basque Club journal

Text by Eneko Tuduri.