Being America and living in the Basque Country, I really enjoy finding tidbits of information that link the two together. With an ocean seperating the Old Land and the New World, you would doubt that there are many connections but turns out the Basque immigration to the States has left many imprints of the culture that I am submersed in every day to the good ol' US. One shining example that I recently learned about is the heritage of the State of Arizona, according to Arizona Highways Magazine!
Although I lived there for 4 years (Go Devils!), I never took time to think about nor investigate the meaning of the state name. I figured, as many people I assume, that it was either Spanish or Native American. However, in the end, it is Basque! Did you know?
When the area split from New Mexico it was then that it was named the Arizona Territory. Having had a rich history of minerals, namely silver, the name that was chosen needed to reflect the wealth of the area. They chose the name Arizona because it did just that. But as time went on it seems the original meaning, the word that had been used in the Territory for over a hundred, got lost. In modern times, some people thought it was a translation of arid zone, which is Spanish would be zona arida not arida zona, so that didn't work. Others thought it was a word used by the Native Americans of that area, the Pima, but again, no such word existed.
In the 1700s many Basques came to the New World and some settled in the New Spain region of current day Arizona. One namely Basque, Bernardo de Urrea lived in the area on a farm he named Arisonac. In the Basque at the time, it translated to mean:
Aris - oak tree
on - good
a - the
c - (makes the word plural)
So, this Mr. Urrea lived on a farm called The Good Oak Trees. In modern Basque it would be written as Aritzonak. Seeing as Basque wasn't a written language until recently, these changes in spelling could have contributed to the confusion about the origin of the name.
When modern people saw this labelled on a map, they didn't assume it was the Basque name of the farm, but instead the Pima's original word and when they named their Territory after it searched for the translation, finally coming up with 'place of little springs'. This wasn't an actual true translation though because this translation comes from the Pima word ali shonak, seeing as the word Arisona didn't exist. Notated that the word Arisonac was the original word of the area on a map from the 1730s, many copies were made and in the end the misconception grew.
Looking back now, with the original and true translation, as you drive through the Sonora area, you notice the many Oak trees that sprinkle the landscape and understand the Basques aptly naming of the place.