Death Calls County Basque Pioneer

You wouldn't know it from reading the Orange County Register's obituary of Jean Lacouague, but the man was more than the son of one of South County's first orange growers; he was also one of the county's last living links to its Basque heritage.

Though Basques never invaded OC on the level of, say, the Mexicans or Vietnamese, there were enough that communities sprang up in North and South County in the early 20th century. The Lacouagues arrived in San Juan Capistrano in 1910, and tilled the city's soil until the 1980s. One of Jean's aunts married into the county's best-known Basque clan, the Bastanchurys. Another prominent Lacouague is quadriplegic Christian singer, Renee Bondi.

The best resource for the history of Basques in Orange County is Nancy Zubiri's A Travel Guide to Basque America. Another good place is Cal State Fullerton's Center for Oral and Public History, which has a collection of interviews with old-time Basques dating to the 1970s. Do yourself a favor and learn about this past instead of the umpteenth retelling of the Irvine Ranch or Uncle Billy Spurgeon


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