Thursday, May 1, 2014

Introduction to Basque Country

The Basque Country stretches over two countries, North Spain and Southwestern France, and is bordered by the Bay of Biscay. The Basque Country is divided into three communities. Two of which are in Spain and one in France. In Spain there is the Basque Autonomous Community and the Autonomous Community of Navarre. In France there is the French Basque country. Each of these Communities have different provinces. The provinces included in the Spanish Basque community include Araba, Bizkaia (Biscay) and Gipuzkoa. The one province in the Autonomous Community of Navarre is Nafarroa (Navarre). The provinces included in the French Basque country include Lapurdi (Labourd) , Nafarroa Beherea (Lower Navarre) and Zuberoa (Soule).

The Basque country had a population of 2.193 million in 2012. The natives name the Basque Country Euskal Herria, and the Basques call themselves Euskaldunak. The Basque original language is Euskara, this language is isolated from all other languages. Euskara is a pre - Indo - European language that has been around for thousands of years. Today many Euskaldunak speak Spanish or French depending if they live in the Spain or France communities.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

History of the Basque people

The Basque people have been living in the Pyrenees Mountains surrounding the Bay of Biscay for thousands and thousand of years. Historians and other scholars have neither determined the precise origins of the Basque people, nor have discovered all of the Basque history. The Basque might have been related to a group of people called the Vascones who lived in Northern Spain.

During the ages when the Romans were conquering many parts of Europe. The Basque were never conquered by the Romans, because the Romans had no interest in their mountainous land. Later on during the 1500s, the Spanish army conquered the Basque territory. The Spanish forces allowed the Basque to govern themselves as a community, but during the Carlist Wars in the 1800s the Basque were forced out of many of their rights.

During the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, the Basque people were treated very badly. Dictator Francisco Franco banned the Basque from speaking their native language (Euskara), and forced them to speak Spanish. During this time the Basque lost all their rights,  their governance rights and economic rights. Francisco Franco imprisoned and even killed many Basque people. In 1937 Francisco Franco told the Germans to bombed the Basque town of Guernica, this bombing killed hundreds of Basque people. In 1975 after Francisco Franco's death, the Basque people got back the right to govern themselves, but this did not fully heal their pain.

In 1979 the referendum passed the statue of Autonomy. From there Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa joined to form the Autonomous Community of Basque Country (Euskadi). Later in 1982 the law on the reintegration and improvement of the autonomous regime in Navarre was passed,
and this established the Autonomous Community of Navarre.

In 1959, the ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) or ( Basque Homeland and Freedom) was founded. ETA is an armed Basque nationalist organization, their main goal is to gain independence for the Basque Country. By 1968 the Eta were responsible for the deaths of over 800 people, thousands of injuries, and over a handful of kidnappings. This organization is looked at by most of the European countries as a terrorist organization.

Today the Basque people are considered one of the oldest surviving ethnic groups in Europe.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Homeland of the Basque Country: Physical landscape and climate

Basque Country regions:

As mentioned in my first blog, the Basque Country is divided into three communities. The Basque Autonomous Community and the Autonomous Community of Navarre which are in Spain. The third is the French Basque country which is in France. The provinces in Basque autonomous community are Araba, Bizkaia (Biscay) and Gipuzkoa. The one province in the Autonomous Community of Navarre is Nafarroa (Navarre). The provinces in the French Basque country include Lapurdi (Labourd) , Nafarroa Beherea (Lower Navarre) and Zuberoa (Soule).

Basque Country Geography and Landscapes:

The Basque Country stands in the Norther part of Spain and the Southern part of France. The Basque Country has a total land area of 8,088 sq. miles (20,947 km²). The Basque landscape consists mostly of coastal planes and mountainous chains. Basque Country's northern border is the Mediterranean sea, and it's western border is on the Pyrenees mountain chain. The largest river that flows throughout the Basque Country is the Ebro river. The Ebro river is 910 km long, and it flows along the southern boundary of the Basque Country before it joins the Mediterranean Sea. The main geographic regions in the Basque
Country are those that spread across the Pyrenees Mountains and
those that are along the coast of the Biscay Bay.

The most distinctive landscapes in the Basque Country are the Pyrenees Mountains. The Pyrenees Mountains are very old, they are about 100 to 150 million years old. They were first deposited during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras. The Pyrenees mountains cross over three countries Spain, France, and Andorra. The Pyrenees stretch about 435 kilometers long, from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea. The peak of the Pyrenees is Aneto.

Basque Country Climate:

The Basque Country enjoys a mild climate, with colder winters with an average temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and a warm but not too hot summer with an average temperature of
70 degrees Fahrenheit. The Basque Country has a good amount
of rain all year long, especially in the more humid coastal zones.
There are a few different climates in the Basque Country.
The first is subalpine climate, this is in the area of the Pyrenees Mountains. The second is temperate humid climate, which is on the coast. The third is the Mediterranean climate, this climate is mostly in the southern part of Araba and the southern part of Navarre.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

World of The Basque People

The Basque people make a living performing all different kinds of jobs, their occupation mainly depends on their geographic location within the Basque Country. In the highly populated coastal provinces of Biscay and Gipuzkoa the main occupations found include fishing, shipbuilding ship repairing, mining. In the province of Araba the main jobs performed are farming and raising cattle.

Fishing has been a major part of the Basque economy since the sixteenth centuryFishing is not only an occupation to the Basque people but it is a major tradition to them as well. This is very much due to the
 Basque Country's geographic location which is exhibited by numerous 
coastal areas. While visiting the Basque Country one will find many fishing neighborhoods and villages, fishing markets, fishing museums, and different historical fishing boats. An example of a famous fishing village is Bermeo, Bermeo is one of the most important fishing locations on the Bay of Biscay.
In Bermeo one can visit a fishing museum or even visit the historical whaling 
ship of Alta. In the Basque County there are even fraternities called the 
Basque Fishing Brotherhoods. The Basque are most famous for fishing cod.

The Basque people are known also for their mining, they are most famous for mining iron, lead, and copper. In the Basque Country they have a must see mining attraction, this is the Basque Country Mining Museum. Mining does boost Basque's economy and provides jobs to the public.

Agriculture plays a significant role in the Basque economy. Basque farmers are known for growing corn and sugar beets. The Basque Country is also famous for Wine and cider making. In Basque one will find many farming communities, and farmers' markets filled with fresh produce. In Basque there is the Basque Farmers’ Union, EHNE (Euskal Herriko Nekazarien Elkartasuna), this union tries to preserve all the farming locations, this is to keep the food production running on track to meet the demand for food.

Finally As for livestock, the species that are breed in the Basque Country are sheep, dairy cattle , beef cattle, goats, and horses. 

Tourism is also a very important aspect of the Basque economy, in recent years tourism in Basque has skyrocketed compared to before.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Basque Current Religious beliefs and Past Cosmos

Today most of the Basque people are Roman Catholics. A main part of Basque is its Catholic culture, this Catholic culture arose from the great number of people in Basque that are Catholic. Today about 85% of the Basque population are Catholic. For many centuries in the past the Catholic Church helped in governing the Basque Country.

The Christianization of the Basque Country has been a debate for a period of time. Some say that Christianity was first introduced into the Basque Country between the 4th and 5th century, while others say that Christianity was first introduced into the Basque County between 12th and 13th century. Their is more evidence agreeing that Christianity was first introduced into the Basque County between the 4th and 5th century, not between the 12th and 13th century. Either way the Basque people were among the last people in Europe
to turn to christianity.

Before the Christianization of the Basque Country, the Basque people believed in many different mythological creatures, gods, and goddesses. The main goddess they focused on was Mari, she was married to god Sugaar. As a couple Mari and Sugaar were believed to hold ultimate ethical power, and the power of creation and destruction. In different legends, Mari was said that she might have sons or daughters, but nobody knew how many. The two most well-known were her two sons Atxular and Mikelatz. Local Legends connected Mari to the weather Legends connected Mari to the weather, there came many different beliefs, People said that when she and Maju travelled together hail would fall down, when she departed from her cave storms or droughts will come, and depending which cave she lived in at different times would determine dry or wet weather.

Other famous mythological creatures, gods, and goddesses:

Aatxe: or Etsai is a cave-dwelling evil spirit who takes on the form of a red bull, but as a shapeshifter, sometimes can take the shape of a man.

Atxular and Mikelatz: are the sons of Mari, among others.

Basajaun: is the wild man of the woods and his female version basandere.

Galtzagorriak: is a type of iratxoak.

Gaueko: is an evil character of the night.

Herensuge: is the name of a dragon who plays a role in a couple known legends.

Erge: is an evil spirit that takes mens lives.

Ilargi or Ile: are the names of the Moon.


Jean de l'Ours: a man born to a woman and a bear.

Jentilak (gentiles): giants, sometimes portrayed throwing rocks at churches. They are believed to be Basques themselves, seen from a partly Christianized viewpoint. A surviving jentil is Olentzero, the Basque equivalent of Santa Claus.

Lamiak or laminak: a type of creature with bird-feet that dwelt in rivers and springs.

Mairuak or Intxisuak: are the male equivalent of lamiak in the Pyrenean region.

Odei: is a storm clouds.

San Martin Txiki: is a trickster, also a famous christian character

Sorginak: is a mythological being that travel with Mari and other real witches.

Tartalo: the Basque version of the Greco-Roman Cyclops.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Birds of the Basque Country

Out of the 563 different species of birds that can be seen in Spain, 347 of them have been spotted in the Basque Country. The Basque Country is in one of the most important bird migration routes, making the Spring and Fall the best seasons for birdwatching in Basque. The Basque Country has a significant amount of conservation and biodiversity locations to protect birds, these conservation areas take up about 20% of the Basque territory. In Basque there are three different Bioclimatic Zones that distinguish where birds live. There is the Bioclimatic Atlantic Zone, the Bioclimatic Transition Zone, and the Bioclimatic Mediterranean Zone.

There are four main regions where birds are found in the Basque Country.

1- Valleys and Mountains south of the coastal range:

This is an area of rugged terrain in the interior area of the province of Araba. This area is well preserved and features beautiful landscapes. Birds found in this area:

European Honey Buzzard
Booted Eagle
Short-toed Eagle
Griffon Vultures
Egyptian Vultures
Golden Eagles
Peregrine Falcons
Eagle Owls
Middle Spotted Woodpeckers

2- Wetlands of the interior:

These wetlands are home of some amazing and diverse birdlife. Today in the Basque Autonomous Community these wetlands are scarce, but there have been recent movements to
restore these wetlands. Birds found in this area:

Little Ringed Plovers
Marsh Harriers
Tufted Duck
little Ducklings
Water Storks
Short-toed Larks
Woodchat Shrikes
Starling roost
Great-crested Grebes
Red-crested Pochards

3- Estuaries along the coastline of the Cantabrian sea (Biscay Bay):

This area attracts numerous aquatic and sea birds especially in migration times and the winter. Birds found in this area:

Little Grebes
Water Rails

4- Mountainous massifs of the coastal range:

These Mountainous areas are among the best conserved areas in the Basque Country. Birds found in this area:

Black Woodpecker
European Honey-buzzard
Red-backed Shrike
Water Pipit
Citril Finch
The rare Alpine Accentor
Griffon Vultures
Egyptian Vultures
Alpine Chough
Alpine Swift
Rock Thrush

Birds are of great importance to the Basque people, every year the Basque people hold a Feather and Folk Festival. This festival is held in the Spring, between May 31st and June 9th, to greet the many migratory bird species that fly their way to Basque at this time. At this festival bird lovers get together, experience nature, and welcome all the arriving birds.

There are a few different beliefs about different birds in Basque, especially in a town like Obaba where people live and interact with birds daily. Some Basque people believe that the Robin is a wholly bird and that nobody should kill it. They believe this because they believe the Robin plucked out the thorns from Christ’s forehead. That is why the Robin has a red breast, because it got stained with the blood of Christ.

There is a widely known Basque children's song about birds, that says:

Txantxangorria txantxate,
Birigarroa alkate,
Xoxoa dela meriante,
Txepetxa preso sartu dute.

Which means in english:

The robin sings his song,
The song thrush is the jailer,
And, with the blackbird’s help,
They’ve put the poor wren in prison.

This song represents that their are four season by singing about four birds, the Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, and the Wren. The interpretation of this song is that the Wren stays in Basque all year long until December then it leaves, and the Robin only comes to Basque in December when the Wren leaves. This symbolizes that the Wren leaves at the end of an old year and the Robin comes at the to open up a new year. This song originated because in the past the Basque people would sacrifice a Wren in december to mark the end of the year, and around christmas time they would release a Robin to mark the beginning of a new year.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Basque People and their Neighbors

The country of Spain is divided in 17 autonomous communities. Each Autonomous communities has its own Executive Power, its own Legislative Power and its own Judicial Power. Within these 17 Autonomous Communities Spain has fifty provinces. The 17 Autonomous Communities are listed below with their capital cities.

Andalusia: its capital is Sevilla

Aragon: its capital is Zaragoza

Asturias: its capital is Oviedo

Balearic Islands: its capital is Palma de Mallorca

Basque Country: its capital is Vitoria

Canary Islands: they have two capitals - Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Cantabria: its capital is Santander

Castile-La Mancha: its capital is Toledo

Castile and León: its capital is Valladolid

Catalonia: its capital is Barcelona

Extremadura: its capital is Mérida

Galicia: its capital is Santiago de Compostela

La Rioja: its capital is Logroño

Community of Madrid: its capital is Madrid

Region of Murcia: its capital is Murcia

Navarre: its capital is Pamplona

Valencian Community: its capital is Valencia

The Spanish language is the official language in all of the Autonomous Communities, but 6 autonomous communities have their own languages that they speak as well as Spanish. 

In Catalonia they speak Catalan and Occitan.

In the Valencian Community they speak Catalan, also called Valencian.

In Balearic Islands they speak Catalan.

In Galicia they speak Galician.

In Basque Country they speak Basque.

In Navarre they speak Basque also but only in the north.

Spain also has two cities on the north coast of Africa, Ceuta and Melilla. They are called Autonomous Cities.

How the 17 Autonomous Communities are financed has been one of the most important aspects concerning their relationship with the central government. The constitution gave all of the Autonomous Communities control over spending, but the central government retained effective control of each Community’s revenue intake. This means the central government is still in charge of levying and collecting taxes, which it then redistributes to the autonomous communities. This applies to all Autonomous Communities except for the Basque Country and Navarre.

Many in the Basque country still view their communities as independent Nations, not just as Nationalities under Spain as a plurinational state or a Nation of Nations. In 2004 the Basque parliament approved the Ibarretxe Plan, where the Basque country would approve a new Statute of Autonomy containing key provisions such as shared sovereignty with Spain, full independence of the judiciary, and the right to self-determination. The plan was rejected by the Spanish Parliament in 2005.

The Spanish Government does not recognize the right of self-determination for any of the underlying nationalities or nations and will not respect the outcome of a regional referendum regarding the subject of self-determination. However, the Basque Parliament voted for recognizing this right in its region’s independence. The term nationality refers only to the Autonomous Community, and not to its citizens. An Autonomous Community can be a nationality, but that does not mean that their citizens have the nationality of that community, because there is only one Spanish nationality.

The Basque Country is Spain's fifth largest regional economy, with a gross domestic product of 66.1 billion euros, meaning it accounts for around 7 percent of national GDP. Basque has the highest per capita output in Spain at 31,288 euros compared to the national average of 23,271 euros and an European Union average of 25,134 euros, this is according to the national statistics office.

"Euskadi is in better shape to weather this situation because over 20 years ago it bet on industrial policies," said Inigo Urkullu, the leader of the Basque Nationalist Party.

Many of Spain's biggest corporate names are Basque.

1- BBVA, is Spain’s second-largest bank. BBVA is a major player in South America; it is the source of more than half its revenues.

2- Gamesa is the world's fourth largest manufacturer of wind turbines.

3- CAF, a producer of rolling stock, sells trains as far afield as the United States and China.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Basque Immigration and Diaspora

Basque Diaspora is the name given to those people who left their homeland "Basque Country" to go live in other regions of the world for economic or political reasons. There are approximately ten million Basque people all over the world whom have preserved their original Basque language and culture. A Well known Basque community or Basque Diaspora in the United States is in Boise, Idaho

Euskal Etxeak or Basque clubs are organizations where Basque immigrants around the world and their descendants gather to share aspects of Basque culture. The majority of the members are descendants of Basque immigrants who left their homeland in the nineteenth century in search of a better life. There are 161 Euskal Etxeak in 21 countries. There are 106 Euskal Etxeak located in Latin America. In Latin America, Argentina has the most with 76, then Uruguay has 10, and Venezuela has 6. Outside of Latin America, there are 36 in North America, 10 in Spain, 5 in the rest of Europe, and 3 in Australia.

Basque fishermen and sailors reached American waters before the voyage of Columbus in 1492. They were amongst the first Europeans to hunt whales off the coast of North America. When Columbus recruited his sailing crew, the majority of his crew were of Basque ethnicity. The Basques continued to participate in voyages across the Atlantic during the earliest years of European exploration of North America. While large-scale immigration to the United States did not begin until the Mid to late 1800s.

The Basque people started to immigrate to the United States in the mid 1800's. Main reasons why the Basque people started immigrating from Basque to the United States and other Countries during the mid 1800s include: Production declines, Economic Stagnation, and Political upheaval in the Basque Country during this period. All of these negative factors arose in the Basque Country during and kept on continuing after the two Carlist wars. The first Carlist war was between 1833 and 1839, the second was between 1872 and 1876.

Today most Basque immigrants around the world consider themselves as they are part of both a country and a culture. Basque immigrants will classify themselves as Basque-Argentinean, Basque-American, or Basque-Mexican. This shows that these Basque immigrants identify themselves a s members of the new country they immigrated to, but still did not forget their original Basque culture.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I am interviewing a native Basque citizen online, his name is Beñat Apaolaza


1- where are you from in the Basque Country?

I am from Oiartzun, a small town in Gipuzkoa, near San Sebastian.

2- what is your opinion about the ETA Euskadi Ta Askatasuna)?

In my opinion, Its period is gone, With its violent activity get the Basque goals (the language and the independence) are impossible to get (and nonsense this way), because nowadays the violent activity is nonsense, because we are not living under Franco’s system, but it's true that still there is a repression to any national political activity.

3- what is the opinion of the general Basque people about the ETA Euskadi Ta Askatasuna)?

ETA is a response of the huge repression that Franco did, it began this way, but there were a lot of processes that led to the violence of the ETA, but most of the public believes that today the ETA'S violence is unacceptable, it might have been during Franco's days.

4- What are some interesting aspects about that Basque culture that not everybody might know about?

The Basque language is a huge treasure, it's not that the origin is unknown, the mysterious is that it lasts alive for so many years. It's the language of a really old civilization. Another interesting thing is that the Basque dances gave some steps to "Vallet" (there is the Basque step). We also have another Basque singers "Bertsolari", and they song in the main square with some certain rythms (Almost all of the singers are graduated in the university). We also have our own sports (Eskupilota, aizkolaritza, txingak, sokatira, harrijasotzaile....).

5- What actions are the Basque taking to preserve their native Basque language (Euskara)?

We have our own schools (ikastola), but there is also some Basque public schools (in the beginning they were just in Spanish). We also have schools for grown people that they want to learn and speak. (40 000 students). There are also some groups, supporting the movement and the normalization of the Basque in their own region. We also have man or woman Basque writers, the literal movement is big. And we also have Basque radios and TV. By the way, i made my degree in Basque (not all the subjects, but the most important).

6- are there any internal conflicts between the Spanish Basque and the French Basque?

I don't think so, i don't know at least about it.

7- What historical or natural sights may a person visiting Basque should go see?

Gernika, because there is the only tree that stand after the bombing of condor legion. Bilbo and Donosti, because they are the main cities of Basque country, and they are so nice. Arantzazu, because it's a cultural and religious place. Any place of the coastline, even the "Spanish side" or the "France side" both are amazing and a there are a lot of mountains anywhere. In Navarra is Iruña/pamplona, because historically it was the capital of the Navarra kingdom.

8- Are the Basque people still affected by their harsh history, especially what Dictator Francisco Franco put the Basque people through for many years?

Yes there are, there are a lot of disappeared people that still are unknown where they are. There were a lot of executed people by shooting (fusilamiento). A lot of people that were in prison for so many years, and tortured. They stole the house and steal Basque books and some valuable stuffs. Steal their children, raped people....There are many books just with the victims

Monday, February 10, 2014

Basque Cultural Survival

The main difficulty to the Basque's cultural survival until today is reaching an agreement regarding relations between the Basque Country and Spain (the State). People have tried to resolve this issue by force and violence, but this hasn't been an effective method yet. 

This major disagreement between the Basque Country and Spain has been traced back to the 15th century or even before then. Between the 15th century and the 19th century, there were many conflicts and wars that arose because the Basque provinces wanted to exercise sovereignty over the Basque people. Between 1936 and 1975 the Basque problem got worse. During this time period dictator Francisco Franco had control of Spain, and he believed in one unified Spanish State. He banned many parts of the Basque culture, especially he banned the use Basque language Euskera. In 1958, the ETA (Euzkadi Ta Azkatasuna) or Basque Homeland and Freedom was born as a result of the extreme repression. In 1975, dictator Francisco Franco died, and Basque's transition towards Autonomy began. In 1978, Basque's right of Autonomy was approved, but until today Basque still has issues with the Spanish State.

The continued survival of the Basque nationalism is mainly due to a great emotional power all Basque people have, and this makes up the Basques' group identity.

A major wonder is the extreme loyalty the Basque diaspora have towards the Basque language, culture, and identity throughout the years and distances. The Basque ethnic populations have demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to new environments, while still holding on to their traditional culture. This could help us understand Basque identity persistence in their diaspora, even after five and six generations after immigration.

Many say that the Basque Culture survived until today, because Spain gave the Basque Country freedoms that other countries did not give to their indigenous groups. Besides the time Between 1936 and 1975, during the control of dictator Francisco Franco, Basque never suffered the extreme degree of economic deprivation, exploitation, or collective political oppression by Spain, that is usually associated with separatist movements. Basque language, culture, and history are allowed to be taught in schools, this I think is a major reason why the Basque culture has survived until today.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

EXTRA CREDIT POST: Basque Country Football Team

The Basque Country football team is officially called "Euskal Herriko futbol selekzioa" in Basque. The team consists of players from the Basque autonomous communities, both of Spain and France. The team in Basque has a few different names including "Euskal Herriko Selekzioa, Selección de Euskadi, Euskal Selekzioa, Euskadi XI and Basque XI". The Basque football team is not affiliated with either FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) or UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), and because the Basque football team is not affiliated with FIFA or UEFA it can only play friendly matches. The Basque football team mostly plays agains other countries as Algeria, Russia, Romania, and Hungry, not against other leagues or teams like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea.

The Basque football team's last match was on December 28th, 2013 against Peru, and their squad consisted of:

1 GK Gorka Iraizoz 

13 GK Eñaut Zubikarai 

2 DF Andoni Iraola 

3 DF Jon Aurtenetxe 

4 DF Ion Ansotegi 

5 DF Iñigo Martínez 

16 DF Mikel Balenziaga 

14 DF Borja Ekiza 

15 DF Mikel San José 

12 DF Oier 

17 MF Markel Bergara 

10 MF Óscar de Marcos 

8 MF Beñat 

19 MF Asier Illarramendi 

6 MF Ander Iturraspe 

7 MF Xabi Prieto 

20 MF Markel Susaeta 

11 MF Roberto Torres 

18 FW Gaizka Toquero 

22 FW Ibai Gómez 

9 FW Aritz Aduriz 

21 FW Imanol Agirretxe

Their is also a Basque Country Women's football team, they are also not affiliated with FIFA or UEFA, so can only play friendly matches.