Basque Immigrants and Nevada's Sheep Industry Geopolitics and the Making of an Agricultural Workforce, 1880-1954 by Iker Saitua
A geopolitical perspective on Basque migration to the American West
Basque Immigrants and Nevada's Sheep Industry "This is a story that is simultaneously transnational and intensely local. Historians of the American West are deeply indebted to this fine young historian." - Steven M. Avella
Basque Immigrants and Nevada's Sheep Industry is a rich and complex exploration of the history of Basque immigration to the rangelands of Nevada and the interior West. It loooks critically at the Basque sheepherders in the American West and more broadly at the modern history of American foreign relations with Spain after the Second World War.
Between the 1880s and the 1950s, the western open-range sheep industry was the original economic attraction for Basque immigrants. This engaging study provides deep detail about the sheepherders' history, their native and local culture, the challenges they faced, and the changing conditions under which the Basques lived and worked. Saitua also shows how Basque immigrant sheepherders went from being a marginalized labor group to a desirable, high-priced workforce in response to the constant demand for their labor power.
In 1924, the Restrictive Immigration Act resulted in a truncated labor supply from the BAsque Country in Spain. During the Great Depression and the Second World War, the Labor shortage became acute. In response, Senator Patrick McCarran from Nevada lobbied on behalf of this wool-growing constituency to open immigration doors for Basques. Subsequently, Cold War international tensions offered opportunities for a reconciliation between the United States and Francisco Franco, despite Span's previous sympathy with the Axis powers.
This fresh portrayal shows how Basque immigrants became the backbone of the sheep industry in Nevada and contributes to a wider understanding of the economic interest of western ranchers, and McCarran's diplomacy as catalysts that eventually helped bring Spain into the orbit of Western democracies.
Iker Saitua is a Basque Government Postdoctoral Fellow in History at the University of California, Riverside and the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). He is a native of the Basque Country and a historian of the BAsque Country and the United States.