Olivier LafayeTHE BÉARNAIS OF SAN FRANCISCO Olivier Lafaye
6 x 9 PB170 Pgs • $26.00 • ISBN 978-1-60052-195-9

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Translated by Arwen Dewey

Olivier Lafaye’s book Béarnais of San Francisco does a great job of telling and documenting the history of immigrants to San Francisco from the area of France known as Béarn. It is a well-deserved account of the unique contribution of Béarnais immigrants to 170 years of collective history of the French-American community in San Francisco. From the early days of the California Republic to this day, Béarnais immigrants, and their descendants, have played a key role in the community’s development and leadership.

They participated in the successive waves of immigration that made California’s development possible – from the gold rush to the current high-technology booms. Between immigration waves, descendants often kept relations with the old country alive, visiting Bearn and making it easier for family and friends to come settle in California. Occasionally, descendants born and raised in America made the choice to go back and re-settle in France, further strengthening relations.

As their prominence in the community continued and spanned decades, making sure new generations remained involved, San Francisco Béarnais became a critical backbone of French presence and culture in the Bay. They showed particular excellence in some industries like for instance and still today in the laundry business, coining the term “French laundry”. Through their involvement in the creation of San Francisco’s French-American fraternal organizations and their development during more than 100 years, they played an invaluable role as leaders of the French-American community.

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