Martin Goicoechea

2003 - Martin Goicoechea, National Heritage Fellowship concert, Arlintong, Virginia, photograph by Jim Saah. National Endowment for the Arts.

Martin Goicoechea was born in Gorriti, Nafarroa, in the Basque Country in 1948.  He was the fifth of ten children born to Santos and Mikaela Goikoetxea.  When he was 18, he came to the United States to work on a sheep ranch for three years, but decided to stay.  He arrived in Rock Springs and after his training at various ranches, he was given a contract of three years with the responsibility to tend 8,000 head of sheep, including lambs, year round and double the number in the summer.  He worked at the ranch for ten years.  In 1975, he married Georgia Gaviotis and they had two sons, Santos and Mikel.

Martin tried his hand at various filed:  oil service, butcher shop, real estate and car sales.  He made an impression on the Ford Motor Company by selling a green truck, Ford F-150 that nobody wanted.  He went on to become the general manager of the Ford-Lincoln-Mercury-Nissan dealership.  He now owns his own car dealership.  In July 1997 he married Veronica Jaramillo in Saratoga, Wyoming.  They have one daughter, Mikaela.

Martin has a parallel life in artistic and cultural ventures.  From an early age of about 8, he became fascinated by the songs of bertsolaris, singer story-tellers.  When he was 12, he sang at a dinner where he made such an impression that he was invited to different occasions and became popular in the Nafarroa region.  After coming to the United States, he was a mute bertsolari for 20 years.  He sang verses to himself.  In 1991 he decided to sing at the Kantari Eguna (Day of the Singer) in Gardnerville.  He was so successful, he has been singing ever since.  In 2003, Martin was one of four bertsolaris (including Jesus Arriada, Johnny Curutchet and Jesus Goni) from the United States who was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts, National Heritage Fellowship Award.  In the cultural arena he has taught Basque Language classes and initiated the Alkartasuna Basque Club in Southwest Wyoming in 1990.  He has served in directorship positions including President.  As a NABO (North American Basque Organizations) delegate, he has been the Euskara (Language) Preservation chairman for many years.

Information from:  Journal of the Society of Basque Studies in America; 25th Annual Hall of Fame Awards, Boise, Idaho.

Bertsolariak from left to right jesus Goni Martin Goicoechea Johny Curutchet and Jesus Arriada were recipients of the 2003 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship. Photograh by Jim Saah. National Endowment for the Arts. 

2010 Feb. - Martin Goicoechea photo Hidden in Plain Sight. The Basques Exhibit Opening at Ellis Island. Courtesy of Mikel Arrazola.jpg