The Basque people have lived in the region of the Pyrenees Mountains around the Bay of Biscay in northern Spain and southern France for thousands of years. They are the oldest surviving ethnic group in Europe.The Basque region straddles southern France and northern Spain. The region is made up of seven provinces spanning both sides of the Spanish/French border and has its own unique culture and language. The Basques are known to have had their distinctive language as early as 7,000 BC, and they have the last remaining non-Indo-European language in the area. Their language, Euskara, is the oldest surviving in all of Europe. Through history, the Basque people were renowned as fishermen, traders and shepherds.There are approximately 18 million people of Basque descent around the world. Many people in Atlantic Canada are descended from Basque fishermen and whalers. Many prominent Basque clergymen and government officials were sent to the New World. Today, about 8 million people in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico trace their roots to the Basques, who emigrated to work as sheepherders, farmers, and miners. There are about 60,000 people of Basque ancestry in the United States. Many reside in the American West.
A Pirate In The Family
While Goyetche family members have mostly lived uneventful lives, there are a few scoundrels in the family tree.Among them was Martin Goyetche, a pirate who consorted with the infamous Laffite brothers. The brothers, Pierre and Jean Laffite, terrorized Louisiana, Texas and the Caribbean in the late 1700's and early 1800's. They have been the subject of several books and movies.According to Leonce Goyetche of France, a well-known historian and member of l'Academie historique de Paris, his grandfather Martin Goyetche (1792 - 1878) was Pierre Laffite's son-in-law. Martin married Marie-Anne Laffite, one of Pierre's daughters.In 1810, Jean Laffite became chief of a band of pirates with headquarters on Grande Terre Island in Barataria Bay in the Gulf of Mexico just south of New Orleans. With his brother Pierre, he commanded a fleet of ships and raided both Spanish and neutral vessels in the Gulf. His ships flew the flags of the Central and South American nations revolting against Spain. In 1813, Governor William Claiborne of Louisiana offered $500 for Laffite's capture. Laffite, then at the height of his power, boldly offered $1,500 for the governor's head. All efforts to take and prosecute Laffite under the law failed. In 1814, the British were at war with the United States. They offered Laffite $30,000, a pardon, and a naval captaincy if he would aid them in attacking New Orleans. He refused, informed the U.S. government of the plans, and offered the services of the Barataria smugglers to the United States. Laffite fought for General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815 and received a pardon from President James Madison. American forces had destroyed the community at Barataria, so Laffite moved to Galveston Island. There, he established a town called Campeachy and returned to piracy. After he raided the Louisiana coast and scuttled an American ship, the United States sent an expedition in 1821 to destroy the Galveston pirate colony. Laffite quietly yielded, set fire to his town, and sailed away. Most historians believe that he died either in exile in Yucatan or in battle.