Daughter of Spanish Basque immigrants to New York, and distinguished scholar of Basque and Spanish culture, Emilia Doyaga reminisces about the family friend Valentín Aguirre, a pillar of the Spanish-Basque community in New York in the first half of the twentieth century. Aguirre and his wife Benita Orbe owned the Jai Alai restaurant and the Santa Lucia Hotel at 82 Bank Street, where he also ran a travel agency and an informal employment agency.
My father, Victor C. Canales, was a partner with Aguirre in the Jai Alai Restaurant at bank St. My father cooked and then bartended for years there.
My father, Manuel de Encio, brought us to stay at the hotel when we arrived from California, in 1950. We were three small children. My father came from Spain, via Argentina, in 1918. I believe he was well know to the Basque community. Theresita Osta was a friend. We lived at 75 Bank St. thru the 50’s. Thank you for you website.
Valentín, was my great grandfather. Thanks you, this a is great way to pass our heritage down to my children
Thanks so much for the comment on our blog entry about Valentín Aguirre.
Your great-grandfather was a GIANT in the Spanish colonia, as he helped thousands of people settle in the US, find work, etc.
For a long time now I have been trying to find more documentation about Valentín Aguirre –family documents, photos, etc.– to no avail. If you have any interesting documents, or tips on where I might find them, I’d really appreciate hearing from you. My e-mail address is email@example.com.
James D. Fernández
New York University
My father, Lorenzo Arriola Barinagarrementeria, was a jai alai player from Vizcaya. He left Spain as a young man to play in the Canary Islands and then the Philippines. From there, he went to Havana via the US and spent one month at Valentin Aguirre’s in December of 1951. He always spoke very fondly of the Aguirre family, and told me how well they treated all the Basques that came to NY. His father, my grandfather Pedro Maria Arriola, was a shepherd at the turn of the last century in Unamuka, Nevada, coming in from Spain through NY, and he told me the story of how he was met at the dock, fed and then placed on a train with a paper tag on the front of his jacket, just the way Ms Doyaga describes!
Valentin Aguirre was my dad John Aguirre’s uncle. Valentin’s brother Elias was my grandfather who married Ceferina Orube. My dad remembers going to Valentin’s house as a child and “boxing” with him in the basement. I regret that he passed away before I could meet him but I do remember as a small child going to their house in Brooklyn and visiting Valentin’s wife Benita. A few years ago I bought my dad who is now 89, the book “Basques of NY”. He enjoyed hearing me read to him about things he hadn’t thought about in years. Thanks for this website.
I am interested in Valentin’s daughter Antonia. Was she adopted? In the 1920 census, she is listed as a daughter, but was born in spain where the rest of the children-even the older sister-was born in the US. I have a great-great-aunt I have been researching and I believe that Antonia came to the US with her in 1908 through Ellis Island. Her name was Josefa Lezamiz. After she immigrated, I cannot figure out what happened to her, but it seems that this little 3 year old girl that traveled with her is Valentin’s Antonia… Just trying to find someone who can help me piece together my puzzle. I am trying to figure out what happened to Josefa after immigrating…
Is Dr. Emilia Doyaga a former professor of Spanish at CUNY’S York University ca.1967 – 1971? I think I’ve found my wonderful professor.