Friday, January 8, 2010

Cenarrusa to sign new memoir

Carey native has long history in Idaho politics

Express Staff Writer

Pete Cenarrusa, center, was honored last month during the state’s “Capital for a Day” event in Carey. Among the celebrants were Gov. C.L. “Butch Otter, center-right, and Cenarrusa’s wife, Freda, center-left. Photo by

Former Idaho Secretary of State Pete T. Cenarrusa was born Dec. 16, 1917, in Carey. The Republican politician served continuously for over half a century in elective office, longer than anyone else in the state's political history.

This weekend, Cenarrusa will return to Carey to sign copies of his memoir, "Bizcaia to Boise, The Memoirs of Pete T. Cenarrusa."

"Carey is a fine town with good, family-oriented people," Cenarrusa said in an interview. "They are similar to the Basque. They are hard-working."

The book was written with the help of several news reporters, including former Associated Press reporter Quane Kenyon, who followed Cenarrusa's political career. It tells the story of a son of Basque immigrants who attended grade school and high school in Bellevue, served as a naval aviator during World War II, and later served nine terms in the Idaho House of Representatives and spent 36 years as secretary of state.

Cenarrusa said he was proud of his participation in the 38th Legislature, which passed a 3 percent sales tax in 1965.

"Before that it was a patch-and-scratch effort to pay for running the government and paying for schools," he said.

Bizcaia, also spelled Viscaya in Spanish, refers to a province in northern Spain where Basque culture has deep roots. The Basque people have a unique language and have lived in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France for thousands of years.

Many came to the U.S. to herd sheep in the 1950s. Because of their ancestral herding knowledge, Basque people were offered permanent residency in exchange for their expertise.

Cenarrusa, and his wife, Freda, established the Foundation for Basque Studies at Boise State University to promote understanding of Basque culture and history.

Cenarrusa estimates there are from 10,000 to 15,000 Basque people living in Idaho. Basque was his first language, and he still speaks fluent Basque and Mexican Spanish.

The book signing will take place at the Carey High School on Monday, Jan. 11, from 4-7 p.m.

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