North American Basque Organizations
  A federation of organizations to sustain BASQUE culture


  Izan ziralako, gara, eta garalako izango dira  
"Because they were, we are, and because we are they will be"
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Eguberri eta
Urte Berri On!

Merry Christmas &
Happy New Year!

Feliz Navidad y
Prospero A
ño Nuevo!

Joyeux No
ël et
Bonne Ann






The following is adapted from an earlier tribute to Aita Tillous by NABO; in 2002 he was presented NABO's "Bizi Emankorra" or lifetime contribution award.  He served as Basque chaplain since 1994 until cancer would not let him continue any longer.  He left the world after a year-long battle with cancer in 2009.  GOIAN BEGO--R.I.P.

Related links:  
Farewell letter from Aita Tillous       Basque chaplains in America 
San Francisco tribute booklet (pdf)


We have not heard about an official place so far for memorial donations and will post that when we do.  Something to consider if you'd like to donate in his memory could be the newly founded
"Aita Martxel Tillous" NABO Youth Aid Fund 
This was started this year to help provide financial aid--when money becomes the biggest obstacle--for Basque youth to participate in Basque programs.

Martxel Tillous was born in 1934 in the Basque town of Eskiula in Xiberoa.  Following his calling he entered the priesthood and began work as a missionary for 26 years in Africa .  Returning to Europe he served four years as the Basque chaplain for the Basque community of Paris from where he came to the United States to serve as chaplain of Basque-Americans since 1994, until he could no longer continue because of the onset of cancer.


It turned out that Aita Martxel was the last in a line of earlier Basque chaplains. His ministry as chaplain to the Basques of the United States had him criss-crossing the country averaging 60,000 miles a year!  He usually spent 200 nights a year sleeping in his van—with the license plate “Pottoka”—as he traveled from his base in San Francisco, California to the scattered Basque communities of eleven states of the American West.  All of this to serve the spiritual needs of Basque-Americans—from celebrating mass in the Basque language to baptizing, marrying Basque couples and consoling us at funerals.


In 2002 our chaplain from Zuberoa was recognized by NABO with its "Bizi Emankorra" or Lifetime Contribution award, for both his spiritual and cultural contributions.  An avid txistulari, Aita Martxel was often seen and heard playing this ancient Basque flute (or its variation the xirula).  He served as the txistu instructor at NABOs annual Udaleku-Music Camp (Basque Cultural Summer Camp) for youth for most all his years with us.  After a Basque picnic meal he was always there to join in a sing-along or to help encourage the formation of new Basque cultural venture.  He also started a newsletter (“Lokarria”) that goes out to thousands of Basque-American families and thus further assisting efforts to bring our community closer together.


NABO salutes Aita Martxel’s self-less dedication to his tasks and we consider ourselves fortunate to have been blessed with his presence among us.  Esker mila Aita Martxel!


"He was a quiet, unassuming, gentle, holy man.  When people these days get discouraged with their priests and don’t feel that they are practicing what they preach, all they would have to do is look at the wonderful example that Aita Tillous gave to us.  He lived for years and years in Africa helping the poor; he traded in his apartment for a little room in the Euskal Etxea of San Francisco to be close to the people; he drove thousands of miles to share in the most important days of many families’ lives; he took time to teach children the gift of music; and he sang like God himself was coming through his lungs.  He was such a good man and such a great example of what a priest can be."  --Astero reader

Being honored in 2008 by the San Francisco Basque Cultural Center; applauding left is Juan Jose Ibarretxe, the Lehendakari of the Autonomous Basque Government of Euskadi.

To carry on the good work with Basque youth in his name, NABO founded the 
"Aita Martxel Tillous" NABO Youth Aid Fund in his honor.  This was started this year to help provide financial aid--when money becomes the biggest obstacle--for Basque youth to participate in Basque programs.

After 14 years, tens of thousands of miles driving, and hundreds of masses as our Basque-American chaplain, Aita Martxel's last NABO Convention Basque mass in August 2008 in Chino, CA.


San Frantziskotik trixte kantuz nahiz hasi
Marzel zure berri daute helarazi
Neure baitan halere ezin dut sinetsi
Mundutik joateko gaituzula utzi.


Ipar Amerikan zuk egin dituzunak

Beti gure laguntzen gau eta egunak

Galde hau entzun otoi zeruko Jaun onak

Ordaintzen-hal dazkotzu guk zor dazkogunak.


Senditzen dituztanak ezin erran elhez

Anai bat izan zaitut Marzel anitz urtez

Begirik hetsi gabe hasten naiz nigarrez

Maite zaitudalakotz gogo 'ta bhhotzez.  --Johnny Kurutxet



Recreate + Educate = Perpetuate is the website of the North American Basque Organizations, Inc. (N.A.B.O.) a federation of organizations for the promotion of Basque culture. Helping to make this website possible is the Basque Autonomous Government of Euskadi.  Please send inquiries to  For links to all our pages on this website click on SITEMAP