Mother of Basque Immigrants to Bakersfield
Mayie Etchebarne Maitia was born on May 8, 1929 in St. Etienne de Baigorry, France. She is the seventh of nine children of a closely knit family. When Mayie was very young, her mother passed away and, as was the Basque custom, her grandmother took over the responsibility of raising the family.
It was in this environment that Mayie’s character developed. Her religion taught her the importance of caring for others, how to give and how to share. In 1947, when she was 18 years old, Mayie along with some of her brothers and sisters, emigrated to the United States. She worked for Frank and Marie Amestoy, Noriega Hotel and Pyrenees Café. Her experience prepared her well for the future.
Mayie met J.B. Maitia, a bartender, and married him in 1947. They had two children, Jenny and Daniel. In 1954, when Mayie was only 25 years old she and J.B. opened their own restaurant, the Wool Growers Cafe on Sumner Street. They relocated to the present location in 1975 and expanded the banquet facility in 1981.
Although Mayie worked long hours at the restaurant and cared for two children, she always found time to help Basque immigrants. She had learned the new language and the new ways of dealing with bureaucracy. She helped the new arrivals to face intimidating situations by actually taking to them to such places as: the consulate for legal papers, the Dept. of Motor Vehicles for licensing, travel arrangements, doctors, and dentists and all the challenging experiences that newly arrived Basques had to meet. In addition, she employed many Basques at her restaurant. Thus, Mayie became known as the mother or big sister to so many.
Mayie has been an inspiration and role model. She has contributed generously to the well-being of the Basques community and received a lifetime achievement award.