Benito Ysursa

Benito was born on March 21, 1895, in Iurreta, Bizkaia. He was born to Jose Maria Izurtza Artabe and Clara Urrutia Lejarreta at the Iturburu farmstead.  He came to the United States in November of 1915 and worked in the logging industry in Oregon. He married Asuncion, a native Basque woman, on February 7, 1919. Together they raised two children, Ramon and Ruby. In 1926, he and his brother Tomas, along with their wives, became partners in the Modern Hotel (1926-1940), a Basque boarding house in Boise, Idaho. Then in 1940 he and his brother built and operated the Valencia Restaurant and Boarding House in Boise, managing the business until his retirement in the 1970s.

Benito Ysursa stood out as an amateur musician and promoter of Basque music and culture in the community of Boise. He was an avid guitar player, who also enjoyed singing. According to his grandson, John, "Almost every boarding house in the Boise area -and there were several dozen larger ones - had its own unique element to try and draw new boarders. Of course good food was essential, as well as a comfortable bed, but Benito made use of his musical talent to add music after the meal. In the early 1940s he purchased a recording device (a 78 rpm record-maker) that made albums, and promptly sat down with ‘invited artists’ (his boarders) to literally ‘cut a record’. He taught his two children how to dance the old style of the "Jota" and they performed it with gusto, being featured at one of the pivotal moments of Basque-American culture in Boise when the “Song of the Basque” stage show was presented in 1949. For the first time on a major scale, Boise Basques introduced themselves to their non-Basque neighbors in a sold-out program of music and song"2.

Benito was instrumental in the formation of the group, the Vasconians in the early 1930's. Ramon and Ruby Ysursa would be part of this early Basque Orchestra. They would travel to various communities on the weekends providing music for Basque dances.

His guitar, a Gibson L-1, was produced by Gibson in the 1920s. His guitar and daughter Ruby's castanets are on display at the Basque Museum, Jacobs/Uberuaga House, along with some audio clips. Benito passed away on April 13, 1984, leaving a great legacy for the Basque community which is now being carried forward by succeeding generations of Ysursas. Because of this, Benito Ysursa was recently named favorite son of Iurreta by the mayor of this town, Inaki Totorikaguena who visited Boise to confer the honor in April 2016, to mark a new century for the Ysursas. 

The Ysursa family music album. Kaiet Records, Christmas 2000.

John Ysursa, text for the pamphlet of the tribute to Benito Ysursa in the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Friday April 15, 2016.

The Ysursa family, with Benito in the center of the picture with his guitar, in the Idaho Stateman, May 10, 1949.

1950 - Benito Ysursa, playing guitar for Ramon and Ruby in the Song of the Basque Festival.

The Gibson L-1, in the Jacobs/Uberuaga House, Basque Museum & Cultural Center.

Audio Recording: 
Jota (Benito Ysursa, guitar), 1.
Porrusalda (Benito Ysursa, guitar), 1.