Maria (Arruabarrena) Bilbao, Juanita (Auzqui) Bilbao & Joe Bilbao

c. 1928 - Juanita Bilbao & Joe Bilbao in Salt Lake City - Mary Auzqui Collection.

Maria Santa Arruabarrenawas born and raised in the mountain community of Ochandiano in Bizkaia.  She arrived at Ellis Island on her way to a new life in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she married Juan “John” Bilbao, of Axpe, Bizkaia, in 1912.  Together they operated the Casa Espanola boarding house located near the Union Station railroad depot in the same neighborhood as the Hogar Hotel in Salt Lake City until September 1930.  Maria and John had two children who were raised in the boarding house.  They moved back to Bilbao, Bizkaia briefly in 1930, and then relocated to Buffalo, Wyoming where Maria and John opened another boarding house.  Maria loved music and was known for her love of singing in both Spanish and Basque and for playing her tambourine.  She passed away on October 7, 1981

Juanita Bilbaowas born on August 15, 1913 in Salt Lake City.  Her mother’s love of music was passed on to her and there was ample opportunity to play her violin at family gatherings and for the boarders as she was raised in the boardinghouse.  She married Arnaud Auzqui who was a boarder at her parents’ boarding house in Buffalo, Wyoming and their three children were born in Buffalo.  Juanita passed away on November 9, 1985.

Joe Bilbao, was born on November 10, 1914 in Salt Lake City, UT and excelled as an athlete in high school sports (football, baseball, basketball, and track).  He played the accordion at various Basque activities in both in Salt Lake City, UT and in Buffalo, WY.   His accordion, with the Bilbao name prominently displayed above the keyboard, is currently on display at the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum in Buffalo, WY.  Joe passed away on September 6, 1987.


Information and photos provided by Mary Auzqui, daughter of Juanita (Bilbao) Auzqui.  August, 2016.

Maria (Arruabarrena) Bilbao with her children, Joe & Juanita.

Joe Bilbao Accordion - on display at the Jim Gatchell Museum in Buffalo, WY.