Basques (/bɑːsks/ or /bæsks/; Basque: euskaldunak
[eus̺kaldunak]; Spanish: vascos [ˈbaskos]; French: basques [bask])
are an indigenous ethnic group characterised by the Basque
language, a common culture and shared ancestry to the ancient Vascones
Basques are indigenous to and primarily inhabit an
area traditionally known as the Basque Country (Basque: Euskal
Herria), a region that is located around the western end of the
Pyrenees on the coast of the
Bay of Biscay
Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of
Spain and south-western France.
1 Etymology of the word Basque
3.1 Political and administrative divisions
3.2 Population, main cities and languages
4 Basque diaspora
5.2 Land and inheritance
5.6.1 Pre-Christian religion and mythology
6 Sports in the Basque Country
6.2 Rural sports
6.3 Bull runs and bullock games
6.5 Rugby union
6.6 Professional cycling
8 Political conflicts
8.2 Political status and violence
8.2.1 Political violence
10.1 New genetic findings, 2015
11 Notable Basques
12 See also
15 External links
Etymology of the word Basque
Barscunes coin, Roman period
The English word Basque may be pronounced /bɑːsk/ or /bæsk/ and
derives from the French Basque (French pronunciation: [bask]),
which is derived from Gascon Basco (pronounced /ˈbasku/), cognate
with Spanish Vasco (pronounced /ˈbasko/). These, in turn, come from
Latin Vasco (pronounced /wasko/), plural
Vascones (see History section
Latin labial-velar approximant /w/ generally evolved into
the bilabials /b/ and /β̞/ in Gascon and Spanish, probably under the
influence of Basque and Aquitanian, a language related to old Basque
and spoken in
Gascony in Antiquity (similarly the
Latin /w/ evolved
into /v/ in French, Italian and other languages).
Several coins from the 2nd and 1st centuries BC found in the Basque
Country bear the inscription barscunes. The place where they were
minted is not certain, but is thought to be somewhere near Pamplona,
in the heartland of the area that historians believe was inhabited by
the Vascones. Some scholars have suggested a Celtic etymology based on
bhar-s-, meaning "summit", "point" or "leaves", according to which
barscunes may have meant "the mountain people", "the tall ones" or
"the proud ones", while others have posited a relationship to a
proto-Indo-European root *bar- meaning "border", "frontier",
In Basque, people call themselves the euskaldunak, singular euskaldun,
formed from euskal- (i.e. "Basque (language)") and -dun (i.e. "one who
has"); euskaldun literally means a Basque speaker. Not all
Basque-speakers. Therefore, the neologism euskotar, plural
euskotarrak, was coined in the 19th century to mean a culturally
Basque person, whether Basque-speaking or not. Alfonso Irigoyen posits
that the word euskara is derived from an ancient Basque verb enautsi
"to say" (cf. modern Basque esan) and the suffix -(k)ara ("way (of
doing something)"). Thus euskara would literally mean "way of saying",
"way of speaking". One item of evidence in favour of this hypothesis
is found in the Spanish book Compendio Historial, written in 1571 by
the Basque writer Esteban de Garibay. He records the name of the
Basque language as enusquera. It may, however, be a writing mistake.
In the 19th century, the Basque nationalist activist Sabino Arana
posited an original root euzko which, he thought, came from eguzkiko
("of the sun", related to the assumption of an original solar
religion). On the basis of this putative root, Arana proposed the name
Euzkadi for an independent Basque nation, composed of seven Basque
historical territories. Arana's neologism Euzkadi (in the regularized
spelling Euskadi) is still widely used in both Basque and Spanish,
since it is now the official name of the
Autonomous Community of the
Main articles: History of the Basque people, Origin of the Basques,
Basque Country (greater region)
Basque Country (greater region) § History
Basque women in Bayonne
Monument to the Charters in
Ulgor, earliest nucleus of the cooperative movement and MCC (1956)
Basque language is unrelated to Indo-European, it has long
been thought to represent the people or culture that occupied Europe
before the spread of Indo-European languages there. A comprehensive
analysis of Basque genetic patterns has shown that Basque genetic
uniqueness predates the arrival of agriculture in the Iberian
Peninsula, about 7,000 years ago. It is thought that
Basques are a
remnant of the early inhabitants of Western Europe, specifically those
of the Franco-Cantabrian region. Basque tribes were already mentioned
in Roman times by
Strabo and Pliny, including the Vascones, the
Aquitani, and others. There is enough evidence to support the
hypothesis that at that time and later they spoke old varieties of the
Basque language (see: Aquitanian language).
In the Early Middle Ages the territory between the
Ebro and Garonne
rivers was known as Vasconia, a vaguely defined ethnic area and
political entity struggling to fend off pressure from the Iberian
Visigothic kingdom and Arab rule to the south, as well as the Frankish
push from the north. By the turn of the first millennium, the
territory of Vasconia had fragmented into different feudal regions,
Soule and Labourd, while south of the
Pyrenees the Castile,
Pamplona and the Pyrenean counties of Aragon, Sobrarbe, Ribagorza
(later Kingdom of Aragon), and Pallars emerged as the main regional
entities with Basque population in the 9th and 10th centuries.
The Kingdom of Pamplona, a central Basque realm, later known as
Navarre, underwent a process of feudalization and was subject to the
influence of its much larger Aragonese, Castilian and French
neighbours. Castile deprived
Navarre of its coastline by conquering
key western territories (1199–1201), leaving the kingdom landlocked.
Basques were ravaged by the War of the Bands, bitter partisan wars
between local ruling families. Weakened by the Navarrese civil war,
the bulk of the realm eventually fell before the onslaught of the
Spanish armies (1512–1524). However, the Navarrese territory north
Pyrenees remained beyond the reach of an increasingly powerful
Lower Navarre became a province of
France in 1620.
Basques enjoyed a great deal of self-government
until the French Revolution (1790) and the
Carlist Wars (1839, 1876),
Basques supported heir apparent Carlos V and his descendants.
On either side of the Pyrenees, the
Basques lost their native
institutions and laws held during the Ancien régime. Since then,
despite the current limited self-governing status of the Basque
Autonomous Community and
Navarre as settled by the Spanish
Basques have attempted higher degrees of
self-empowerment (see Basque nationalism), sometimes by acts of
violence. Labourd, Lower Navarre, and
Soule were integrated into the
French department system (starting 1790), with Basque efforts to
establish a region-specific political-administrative entity failing to
take off to date. However, in January 2017, a single agglomaration
community was established for the Basque Country in France.
Political and administrative divisions
Mountains of the Basque Country
Leitza, in Navarre, Basque Country
The Basque region is divided into at least three administrative units,
namely the Basque
Autonomous Community and
Navarre in Spain, and the
Bayonne and the cantons of
Tardets-Sorholus in the département of Pyrénées Atlantiques,
The autonomous community (a concept established in the Spanish
Constitution of 1978) known as Euskal Autonomia Erkidegoa or EAE in
Basque and as Comunidad Autónoma Vasca or CAV in Spanish (in English:
Autonomous Community or BAC), is made up of the three
Spanish provinces of Álava,
Biscay and Gipuzkoa. The corresponding
Basque names of these territories are Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, and
their Spanish names are Álava, Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa.
The BAC only includes three of the seven provinces of the currently
called historical territories. It is sometimes referred to simply as
"the Basque Country" (or Euskadi) by writers and public agencies only
considering those three western provinces, but also on occasions
merely as a convenient abbreviation when this does not lead to
confusion in the context. Others reject this usage as inaccurate and
are careful to specify the BAC (or an equivalent expression such as
"the three provinces", up to 1978 referred to as "Provincias
Vascongadas" in Spanish) when referring to this entity or region.
Likewise, terms such as "the Basque Government" for "the government of
the BAC" are commonly though not universally employed. In particular
in common usage the French term Pays Basque ("Basque Country"), in the
absence of further qualification, refers either to the whole Basque
Country ("Euskal Herria" in Basque), or not infrequently to the
northern (or "French") Basque Country specifically.
Under Spain's present constitution,
Navarre (Nafarroa in present-day
Basque, Navarra historically in Spanish) constitutes a separate
entity, called in present-day Basque Nafarroako Foru Erkidegoa, in
Spanish Comunidad Foral de Navarra (the autonomous community of
Navarre). The government of this autonomous community is the
Government of Navarre. Note that in historical contexts
refer to a wider area, and that the present-day northern Basque
Lower Navarre may also be referred to as (part of)
Nafarroa, while the term "High Navarre" (Nafarroa Garaia in Basque,
Alta Navarra in Spanish) is also encountered as a way of referring to
the territory of the present-day autonomous community.
There are three other historic provinces parts of the Basque Country:
Lower Navarre and
Soule (Lapurdi, Nafarroa Beherea and
Zuberoa in Basque; Labourd, Basse-
Soule in French), devoid
of official status within France's present-day political and
administrative territorial organization, and only minor political
support to the Basque nationalists. A large number of regional and
local nationalist and non-nationalist representatives have waged a
campaign for years advocating for the creation of a separate Basque
département, while these demands have gone unheard by the French
Population, main cities and languages
Olentzero in Gipuzkoa, Basque Country
There are 2,123,000 people living in the Basque Autonomous Community
(279,000 in Alava, 1,160,000 in
Biscay and 684,000 in Gipuzkoa). The
most important cities in this region, which serve as the provinces'
administrative centers, are
Bilbao (in Biscay),
San Sebastián (in
Vitoria-Gasteiz (in Álava). The official languages are
Basque and Spanish. Knowledge of Spanish is compulsory under the
Spanish constitution (article no. 3), and knowledge and usage of
Basque is a right under the Statute of Autonomy (article no. 6), so
only knowledge of Spanish is virtually universal. Knowledge of Basque,
after declining for many years during Franco's dictatorship owing to
official persecution, is again on the rise due to favourable official
language policies and popular support. Currently about 33 percent of
the population in the Basque
Autonomous Community speaks Basque.
Navarre has a population of 601,000; its administrative capital and
main city, also regarded by many nationalist
Basques as the Basques'
historical capital, is
Pamplona (Iruñea in modern Basque). Only
Spanish is an official language of Navarre, and the
Basque language is
only co-official in the province's northern region, where most
Basque-speaking Navarrese are concentrated.
About a quarter of a million people live in the French Basque Country.
Nowadays Basque-speakers refer to this region as Iparralde (Basque for
North), and to the Spanish provinces as Hegoalde (South). Much of this
population lives in or near the Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz (BAB) urban
belt on the coast (in Basque these are Baiona, Angelu and Miarritze).
The Basque language, which was traditionally spoken by most of the
region's population outside the BAB urban zone, is today rapidly
losing ground to French. The French Basque Country's lack of
self-government within the French state is coupled with the absence of
official status for the
Basque language in the region. Attempts to
introduce bilingualism in local administration have so far met direct
refusal from French officials.
Main article: Basque diaspora
Basque festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Basque festival in Winnemucca, Nevada
Large numbers of
Basques have left the Basque Country to settle in the
rest of Spain,
France or other parts of the world in different
historical periods, often for economic or political reasons.
Basques abroad were often employed in shepherding and
ranching and by maritime fisheries and merchants. Millions of Basque
Basque American and Basque Canadian) live in North
America (the United States; Canada, mainly in the provinces of New
Brunswick and Quebec),
Latin America (in all 23 countries), South
Africa, and Australia.
Miguel de Unamuno
Miguel de Unamuno said: "There are at least two things that clearly
can be attributed to Basques: the
Society of Jesus
Society of Jesus and the Republic of
Chile." Chilean historian Luis Thayer Ojeda estimated that 45
percent of immigrants to
Chile in the 17th and 18th centuries were
Basque. Over 2.5 million Basque descendants live in Chile;
the Basque have been a major influence in the country's cultural and
Basque place names are to be found, such as Nueva Vizcaya (now
Chihuahua and Durango, Mexico),
Biscayne Bay (Guatemala), and
Aguereberry Point (United States). Nueva Vizcaya was the first
province in the north of the Viceroyalty of New
Spain (Mexico) to be
explored and settled by the Spanish. It consisted mostly of the area
which is today the states of Chihuahua and Durango.
In Mexico most
Basques are concentrated in the cities of Monterrey,
Saltillo, Reynosa, Camargo, and the states of Jalisco, Durango, Nuevo
León, Tamaulipas, and Coahuila. The
Basques were important in the
mining industry; many were ranchers and vaqueros (cowboys), and the
rest opened small shops in major cities such as Mexico City,
Guadalajara and Puebla. In Guatemala, most
Basques have been
concentrated in Sacatepequez Department, Antigua Guatemala, Jalapa for
six generations now, while some have migrated to
Basques settled mainly in Antioquia and the Coffee Axis.
It is estimated that nearly 2,500,000 persons from all Antioquia (40%
of this department) have Basque ancestry, as well, in the 19th century
about 10% of Colombia's total population were Basque
descendants.[not in citation given] Antioquia has one of the
biggest concentrations of
Basques descendants around the
world. In 1955, Joaquín Ospina said: "Is there
something more similar to the
Basque people than the
"antioqueños". Also, writer Arturo Escobar Uribe said in his book
"Mitos de Antioquia" (Myths of Antioquia) (1950): "Antioquia, which in
its clean ascendance predominates the peninsular farmer of the Basque
provinces, inherited the virtues of its ancestors... Despite the
predominance of the white race, its extension in the mountains... has
projected over Colombia's map the prototype of its race; in Medellín
with the industrial paisa, entrepreneur, strong and steady... in its
towns, the adventurer, arrogant, world-explorer... Its myths, which
are an evidence of their deep credulity and an indubitable proof of
their Iberian ancestor, are the sequel of the conqueror's blood which
runs through their veins...". Bambuco, a Colombian folk music, has
The largest of several important Basque communities in the United
States is in the area around Boise, Idaho, home to the Basque Museum
Cultural Center, host to an annual Basque festival, as well as a
festival for the
Basque diaspora every five years. Reno, Nevada, where
the Center for Basque Studies and the Basque Studies Library are
located at the University of Nevada, is another significant nucleus of
Elko, Nevada sponsors an annual Basque festival
that celebrates the dance, cuisine and cultures of the Basque peoples
of Spanish, French and Mexican nationalities who have arrived in
Nevada since the late 19th century.
Texas has a large percentage of Hispanics descended from
participated in the conquest of New Spain. Many of the original
Tejanos had Basque blood, including those who fought in the Battle of
the Alamo alongside many of the other Texans. Along the Mexican/Texan
Basque surnames can be found. The largest concentration
Basques who settled on Mexico's north-eastern "frontera", including
the states of Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and
Tamaulipas, also settled along Texas'
Rio Grande River
Rio Grande River from South
Texas to West Texas. Many of the historic hidalgos, or noble families
from this area, had gained their titles and land grants from
Mexico; they still value their land. Some of North America's largest
ranches, which were founded under these colonial land grants, can be
found in this region.
California has a major concentration of Basques, most notably in the
San Joaquin Valley
San Joaquin Valley between Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield. The city
of Bakersfield has a large Basque community and the city has several
Basque restaurants, including Noriega's which won the 2011 James Beard
Foundation America's Classic Award. There is a history of Basque
culture in Chino, California. In Chino, two annual Basque festivals
celebrate the dance, cuisine, and culture of the peoples. The
surrounding area of San Bernardino County has many Basque descendants
as residents. They are mostly descendants of settlers from
California are grouped in the group known as
Basques of European Spanish-French and
Latin American nationalities
also settled throughout the western U.S. in states like Louisiana, New
Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, and
Culture of Basque Country
History of the Basques
Pastoral (theatre of Soule)
Mus (card game)
Mythology and folklore
St John's Eve
Maskarada (carnival of Soule)
Music and performing arts
Basque rural sports
Basque Country national football team
Athletic de Bilbao
Basque Rugby union
Coat of arms
Cover of the first
Basque language book, written by Bernard Etxepare
Classification of population according to cultural identity: Do you
consider yourself Basque? 1 - Yes
2 - Yes, in some ways 3 - No
4 - Don't know / Don't answer
Main article: Basque language
The identifying language of the
Basques is called Basque or Euskara,
spoken today by 25%-30% of the region's population. An idea of the
central place of the cultural terms in Basque nationalist politicians
is given by the fact that, in Basque,
Basques identify themselves by
the term euskaldun and their country as Euskal Herria, literally
"Basque speaker" and "Country of the Basque Language" respectively.
The language has been made a political issue by official Spanish and
French policies restricting its use either historically or currently;
however, this has not stopped the teaching, speaking, writing, and
cultivating of this increasingly vibrant minority language. This sense
of Basque identity tied to the local language does not exist in
isolation. It is juxtaposed with an equally strong sense of national
identity tied with the use of the Spanish and French languages among
other Basques. As with many European states, a regional identity, be
it linguistically derived or otherwise, is not mutually exclusive with
the broader national one. For example, Basque rugby union player for
France, Imanol Harinordoquy, has said about his national identity:
I am French and Basque. There is no conflict, I am proud of both. . .
. I have friends who are involved in the political side of things but
that is not for me. My only interest is the culture, the Euskera
language, the people, our history and ways.
As a result of state language promotion, school policies, the effects
of mass media and migration, today virtually all
Basques (except for
some children below school age) speak the official language of their
state (Spanish or French). There are extremely few Basque monolingual
speakers: essentially all Basque speakers are bilingual on both sides
of the border. Spanish or French is typically the first language of
citizens from other regions (who often feel no need to learn Basque),
and Spanish or French is also the first language of many Basques, all
of which maintains the dominance of the state tongues of both France
and Spain. Recent Basque Government policies aim to change this
pattern, as they are viewed as potential threats against mainstream
usage of the minority tongue.
Basque language is thought to be a genetic language isolate in
contrast with other European languages, almost all of which belong to
the broad Indo-European language family. Another peculiarity of Basque
is that it has been spoken continuously in situ, in and around its
present territorial location, for longer than other modern European
languages, which were all introduced in historic or prehistoric times
through population migrations or other processes of cultural
However, popular stereotypes characterizing Basque as "the oldest
language in Europe" and "unique among the world's languages" may be
misunderstood and lead to erroneous assumptions. Over the
centuries, Basque has remained in continuous contact with neighboring
western European languages with which it has come to share numerous
lexical properties and typological features; it is therefore
misleading to exaggerate the "outlandish" character of Basque. Basque
is also a modern language, and is established as a written and printed
one used in present-day forms of publication and communication, as
well as a language spoken and used in a very wide range of social and
cultural contexts, styles, and registers.
Land and inheritance
The Aranguren baserri in Orozko, converted from a fortified tower
The Lizarralde baserri (Bergara)
Basques have a close attachment to their home (etxe(a) 'house, home'),
especially when this consists of the traditional self-sufficient,
family-run farm or baserri(a). Home in this context is synonymous with
family roots. Some
Basque surnames were adapted from old baserri or
habitation names. They typically related to a geographical orientation
or other locally meaningful identifying features. Such surnames
provide even those
Basques whose families may have left the land
generations ago with an important link to their rural family origins:
Bengoetxea "the house of further down", Goikoetxea "the house above",
Landaburu "top of the field", Errekondo "next to the stream", Elizalde
"by the church", Mendizabal "wide hill", Usetxe "house of birds"
Ibarretxe "house in the valley", Etxeberria "the new house", and so
In contrast to surrounding regions, ancient Basque inheritance
patterns, recognised in the fueros, favour survival of the unity of
inherited land holdings. In a kind of primogeniture, these usually are
inherited by either eldest male or female. As in other cultures, the
fate of other family members depended on the assets of a family. The
wealthy Basque families tended to provide for all children in some way
while the less affluent had only one asset to provide to one child.
However, this heir often provided for the rest of the family. Unlike
England with the strict primogeniture where the eldest son inherited
everything and did not provide for others. Even though they were
provided for in some way siblings had to make their livings by other
means. Before the advent of industrialisation, this system resulted in
the emigration of many rural
Basques to Spain,
France or the Americas.
Harsh by modern standards, this custom resulted in a great many
enterprising figures of Basque origin who went into the world to earn
their way, from Spanish conquistadors such as
Lope de Aguirre and
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, to explorers, missionaries and saints
of the Catholic Church, such as Francis Xavier.
A widespread belief that Basque society was originally matriarchal is
at odds with the current, clearly patrilineal kinship system and
inheritance structures. Some scholars and commentators have attempted
to reconcile these points by assuming that patrilineal kinship
represents an innovation. In any case, the social position of women in
both traditional and modern Basque society is somewhat better than in
neighbouring cultures, and women have a substantial influence in
decisions about the domestic economy. In the past, some women
participated in collective magical ceremonies. They were key
participants in a rich folklore, today largely forgotten.
Main article: Basque cuisine
Basque cuisine is at the heart of Basque culture, influenced by the
neighboring communities and the excellent produce from the sea and the
land. A 20th-century feature of Basque culture is the phenomenon of
gastronomical societies (called txoko in Basque), food clubs where men
gather to cook and enjoy their own food. Until recently, women were
allowed entry only one day in the year. Cider houses (Sagardotegiak)
are popular restaurants in
Gipuzkoa open for a few months while the
cider is in season.
Artzaiak eta inudeak festival, Donostia, Basque Country.
At the end of the 20th century, despite ETA violence (ended in 2010)
and the crisis of heavy industries, the Basque economic condition
recovered remarkably. They emerged from the Franco regime with a
revitalized language and culture. The
Basque language expanded
geographically led by large increases in the major urban centers of
Pamplona, Bilbao, and Bayonne, where only a few decades ago the Basque
language had all but disappeared. Nowadays, the number of Basque
speakers is maintaining its level or increasing slightly.
Main article: Basque music
Basques have been mostly Roman Catholics. In the 19th
century and well into the 20th,
Basques as a group remained notably
devout and churchgoing. In recent years church attendance has fallen
off, as in most of Western Europe. The region has been a source of
Francis Xavier and Michel Garicoïts. Ignatius
Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, was a Basque. California
Fermín Lasuén was born in Vitoria. Lasuén was the
Junípero Serra and founded 9 of the 21
California Missions along the coast.
A sprout of
Protestantism in the continental Basque Country produced
the first translation of the new Testament into Basque by Joanes
Leizarraga. After Henry III of
Navarre converted to
become king of France,
Protestantism almost disappeared.
Bayonne held a Jewish community composed mainly of Sephardi Jews
fleeing from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. There were also
important Jewish and
Muslim communities in
Navarre before the
Castilian invasion of 1512-21.
Nowadays, according to one single opinion poll, only slightly more
than 50% of
Basques profess some kind of belief in God, while the rest
are either agnostic or atheist. The number of religious skeptics
increases noticeably for the younger generations, while the older ones
are more religious. Roman
Catholicism is, by far, the largest
religion in Basque Country. In 2012, the proportion of
identify themselves as Roman Catholic was 58.6%, while it is one
of the most secularized communities of Spain: 24.6% were non-religious
and 12.3% of
Basques were atheist.
Pre-Christian religion and mythology
Main article: Basque mythology
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Anboto mountain is one of sites where Mari was believed to dwell
Sorginetxe dolmen next to the stream and cave Lezao, home to legends
featuring mythological character Mari
Christianisation of the Basque Country has been the topic of some
discussion. There are broadly speaking two views. According to one,
Christianity arrived in the Basque Country during the 4th and 5th
centuries but according to the other, it did not take place until the
12th and 13th centuries. The main issue lies in the different
interpretations of what is considered Christianisation. Early traces
Christianity can be found in the major urban areas from the 4th
century onwards, a bishopric from 589 in
Pamplona and three hermit
cave concentrations (two in Álava, one in Navarre) were in use from
the 6th century onwards. In this sense,
Christianity arrived "early".
Pre-Christian belief seems to have focused on a goddess called Mari. A
number of place-names contain her name and would suggest these places
were related to worship of her such as
Anbotoko Mari who appears to
have been related to the weather. According to one tradition, she
travelled every seven years between a cave on Mount
Anboto and one on
another mountain (the stories vary); the weather would be wet when she
was in Anboto, dry when she was in Aloña, or Supelegor, or Gorbea.
One of her names, Mari Urraca possibly ties her to an historical
Navarrese princess of the 11th and 12th century, with other legends
giving her a brother or cousin who was a Roman Catholic priest. So far
the discussions about whether the name Mari is original and just
happened to coincide closely with the Christian name María or if Mari
is an early Basque attempt to give a Christian veneer to pagan worship
have remained speculative. At any rate, Mari (Andramari) is one of the
oldest worshipped Christian icons in Basque territories.
Mari's consort is Sugaar. This chthonic couple seem to bear the
superior ethical power and also the power of creation and destruction.
It's said that when they gathered in the high caves of the sacred
peaks, they engendered the storms. These meetings typically happened
on Friday nights, the day of historical akelarre or coven. Mari was
said to reside in Mount Anboto; periodically she crossed the skies as
a bright light to reach her other home at mount Txindoki.
Legends also speak of many and abundant genies, like jentilak
(equivalent to giants), lamiak (equivalent to nymphs), mairuak
(builders of the cromlechs or stone circles, literally Moors),
iratxoak (imps), sorginak (witches, priestess of Mari), and so on.
Basajaun is a Basque version of the Woodwose. This character is
probably an anthropomorphism of the bear. There is a trickster named
San Martin Txiki ("St Martin the Lesser").
It has been shown that some of these stories have entered Basque
culture in recent centuries or as part of Roman superstition. It is
unclear whether neolithic stone structures called dolmens have a
religious significance or were built to house animals or resting
shepherds. Some of the dolmens and cromlechs are burial sites serving
as well as border markers.
Ioaldunak dancers of Navarre.
The jentilak ('Giants'), on the other hand, are a legendary people
which explains the disappearance of a people of
Stone Age culture that
used to live in the high lands and with no knowledge of the iron. Many
legends about them tell that they were bigger and taller, with a great
force, but were displaced by the ferrons, or workers of ironworks
foundries, until their total fade-out. They were pagans, but one of
them, Olentzero, accepted
Christianity and became a sort of Basque
Santa Claus. They gave name to several toponyms, as Jentilbaratza.
Senior Basque women during the 16th century; the attire was forbidden
on Pierre de Lancre's intervention in the Basque Country (1609-1612)
Historically, Basque society can be described as being somewhat at
odds with Roman and later European societal norms.
Strabo's account of the north of
Spain in his
between approximately 20 BC and 20 AD) makes a mention of "a sort of
woman-rule—not at all a mark of civilization" (Hadington 1992), a
first mention of the—for the period—unusual position of women.
"Women could inherit and control property as well as officiate in
churches. Combined with the issue of lingering pagan beliefs, this
enraged the leaders of the Spanish Inquisition, perhaps leading to one
of the largest witch hunts in the Basque town of
This preference for female dominance existed well into the 20th
...matrilineal inheritance laws, and agricultural work performed by
women continued in Basque country until the early twentieth century.
For more than a century, scholars have widely discussed the high
status of Basque women in law codes, as well as their positions as
judges, inheritors, and arbitrators through ante-Roman, medieval, and
modern times. The system of laws governing succession in the French
Basque region reflected total equality between the sexes. Up until the
eve of the French Revolution, the Basque woman was truly ‘the
mistress of the house', hereditary guardian, and head of the
Although the kingdom of
Navarre did adopt feudalism, most
possessed unusual social institutions different from those of the rest
of feudal Europe. Some aspects of this include the elizate tradition
where local house-owners met in front of the church to elect a
representative to send to the juntas and
Juntas Generales (such as the
Juntas Generales de Vizcaya or Guipúzcoa) which administered much
larger areas. Another example was the fact that in the medieval period
most land was owned by the farmers, not the Church or a
Sports in the Basque Country
Rivalry and betting in a wood-chopping contest (1949)
Main article: Basque pelota
The great family of ball games has its unique offspring among Basque
ball games, known generically as pilota (Spanish: pelota). Some
variants have been exported to the
United States and
Macau under the
name of Jai Alai.
Trainerilla in the
Barrenatzaileak in Barakaldo.
Main article: Basque rural sports
There are several sports derived by
Basques from everyday chores.
Heavy workers were challenged and bets placed upon them. Examples are:
estropadak rowing regattas: from fishermen activities.
harri-jasotzea: stone-lifting, from quarry works.
aizkolaritza and trontzalaritza: wood-chopping and log sawing.
sega jokoa: cutting grass with a scythe.
Giza-abere probak: stone block pulling, from construction works:
idi probak with teams of oxen.
asto probak with donkeys.
zaldi probak with horses.
gizon probak with human teams.
txinga eramatea: carrying of weights, one in each hand, representing
ahari topaketa: ram fights.
harri zulaketa competitions: drilling stone blocks with a metal bar,
only in the former mining areas of West Biscay.
Basque sheepdog trials competitions.
Bull runs and bullock games
The encierro (bull run) in Pamplona's fiestas Sanfermines started as a
transport of bulls to the ring. These encierros, as well as other bull
and bullock related activities are not exclusive to
Pamplona but are
traditional in many towns and villages of the Basque country.
Main article: Basque Country national football team
There are several clubs within the Basque Country, such as Athletic
Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Deportivo Alavés, SD Eibar, and CA Osasuna
(the only club in
La Liga that has a Basque name — osasuna means
"health"). In the 2016-2017 season these five clubs played together in
La Liga, the first instance where five Basque clubs have reached that
level at the same time. Athletic's recruitment policy has meant the
club refuses to sign any non-Basque players.
Real Sociedad also
previously employed such a policy.
Rugby union is a popular sport among French Basques, with major clubs
Biarritz Olympique and
Aviron Bayonnais traditional powerhouses in the
premier division of French Rugby (the Top 14). Biarritz regularly play
Heineken Cup matches, especially knockout matches, at Estadio Anoeta
in San Sebastian. Games between the Basque clubs and Catalan club USA
Perpignan are always hard fought.
Cycling is popular and the
Euskaltel-Euskadi professional cycling
team, partly sponsored by the Basque Government participated in the
UCI World Tour division until 2014. Known for their orange tops and
hill-climbing ability, their fans were famous for lining the famous
Pyrenean climbs in the Tour de France, in support of their
Each April the week-long
Tour of the Basque Country
Tour of the Basque Country showcases the
beautiful rolling Basque countryside.
Basque Country (greater region)
Basque Country (greater region) § Politics
2014 human chain for Basque Country's right to decide
Bilbao in solidarity with Catalan independence
referendum, September 2017
While there is no independent Basque state, Spain's autonomous
community of the Basque Country, made up of the provinces of Álava
Biscay (Bizkaia) and Gipuzkoa, is primarily a historical
consequence and an answer to the wide autonomy claim of its
Navarre has a separate statute of autonomy, a contentious arrangement
designed during Spanish transition to democracy (the Amejoramiento, an
'upgrade' of its previous status during dictatorship). It refers back
to the kingdom status of
Navarre (up to 1841) and their traditional
institutional and legal framework (charters). Basque, the original and
main language of
Navarre up to the late 18th century, has kept family
transmission especially in the northern part of
Navarre and central
areas to a lesser extent, designated as Basque speaking or mixed area
in Navarrese law. Questions of political, linguistic and cultural
allegiance and identity are highly complex in Navarre. Politically
some Basque nationalists would like to integrate with the Basque
French Basque Country
French Basque Country today does not exist as a formal political
entity and is officially simply part of the French department of
Pyrénées Atlantiques, centered in Béarn. In recent years the number
of mayors of the region supporting the creation of a separate Basque
department has grown to 63.87%. So far, their attempts have been
Main article: Basque language
Basque Country (greater region)
Basque Country (greater region) § Language
Both the Spanish and French governments have, at times, suppressed
Basque linguistic and cultural identity. The French Republics, the
epitome of the nation-state, have a long history of attempting the
complete cultural absorption of cultural minority groups.
at most points in its history, granted some degree of linguistic,
cultural, and even political autonomy to its Basques, but under the
regime of Francisco Franco, the Spanish government reversed the
advances of Basque nationalism, as it had fought in the opposite side
of the Spanish Civil War: cultural activity in Basque was limited to
folkloric issues and the Roman Catholic Church.
Southern Basque Country
Southern Basque Country within
Spain enjoys an extensive
cultural and political autonomy. The majority of schools under the
jurisdiction of the
Basque education system use Basque as the primary
medium of teaching. However, the situation is more delicate in the
Northern Basque Country
Northern Basque Country within France, where Basque is not officially
recognized, and where lack of autonomy and monolingual public
schooling in French exert great pressure on the Basque language.
In Navarre, Basque has been declared an endangered language, since the
anti-Basque and conservative government of Navarrese People's Union
opposes the symbols of Basque culture, highlighting a Spanish
identity for Navarre.
Basque is also spoken by immigrants in the major cities of
France, in Australia, in many parts of
Latin America, and in the
United States, especially in Nevada, Idaho, and California.:1
Political status and violence
A republican mural in
Belfast showing solidarity with Basque
Since its articulation by
Sabino Arana in the late 19th century, the
more radical currents of
Basque nationalism have demanded the right of
self-determination and even independence. Within the Basque country,
this element of Basque politics is often in balance with the
conception of the Basque Country as just another part of the Spanish
state, a view more commonly espoused on the right of the political
spectrum. In contrast, the desire for greater autonomy or independence
is particularly common among leftist Basque nationalists. The right of
self-determination was asserted by the
Basque Parliament in 2002 and
2006. Since self-determination is not recognized in the Spanish
Constitution of 1978, a wide majority of
Basques abstained (55%) and
some even voted against it (23.5%) in the ratification referendum of
December 6 of that year. However, it was approved by clear majority
overall in Spanish (87%). The autonomous regime for the Basque Country
was approved in a 1979 referendum but the autonomy of Navarre
(Amejoramiento del Fuero: "improvement of the charter") was never
subject to a referendum but only approved by the Navarrese Cortes
Main article: Basque conflict
See also: ETA (separatist group), Grupos Antiterroristas de
Liberación, Batallón Vasco Español, Comandos Autónomos
Anticapitalistas, and Iraultza
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August
As with their language, the
Basques are clearly a distinct cultural
group in their region. They regard themselves as culturally and
especially linguistically distinct from their surrounding neighbours.
Some Basques, especially in Spain, are strongly nationalist,
identifying far more firmly as
Basques than as citizens of any
existing state. Others do not, feeling as much Basque as Spanish.
Basques regard the designation as a "cultural minority" as
incomplete, favouring instead the definition as a nation, the commonly
accepted designation for the
Basque people up to the rise of the
nation-states and the definition imposed by the 1812 Spanish
In modern times, as a European people living in a highly
industrialized area, cultural differences from the rest of Europe are
inevitably blurred, although a conscious cultural identity as a people
or nation remains very strong, as does an identification with their
homeland, even among many
Basques who have emigrated to other parts of
Spain or France, or to other parts of the world.
The strongest distinction between the
Basques and their traditional
neighbours is linguistic. Surrounded by Romance-language speakers, the
Basques traditionally spoke (and many still speak) a language that was
not only non-Romance but non-Indo-European. The prevailing belief
amongst Basques, and forming part of their national identity, is that
their language has continuity with the people who were in this region
since not only pre-Roman and pre-Celtic times, but since the Stone
Basque peasants ploughing
H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells referred to the
Mediterranean race as the Iberian
race. He regarded it as a fourth subrace of the Caucasian race, along
with the Aryan, Semitic, and Hamitic subraces. He stated that the main
ethnic group that most purely represented the racial stock of the
Iberian race was the Basques, and that the
Basques were the
descendants of the Cro-Magnons. In 1994, in his book The History
and Geography of Human Genes, population geneticist L. Luca
Cavalli-Sforza stated that "there is support from many sides" for the
hypothesis that the
Basques are the descendants of the original
Basque people in 1927
Even before the development of modern genetics based on DNA
Basques were already noted for distinctive genetic
patterns, such as possessing the highest global apportion of the Rh-
blood type (35% phenotypically, 60% genetically). Additionally, the
Basque population has virtually no B blood type, nor the related AB
type. They have a high rate of O blood group but this is probably due
Although they are genetically distinctive in some ways, the Basques
are still very typically European in terms of their
Y-DNA and mtDNA
sequences, and in terms of some other genetic loci. These same
sequences are widespread throughout the western half of Europe,
especially along the western fringe of the continent.
The distinctiveness noted by studies of 'classical' genetic markers
(such as blood groups) and the apparently "pre-Indo-European" nature
Basque language has resulted in a popular and long-held view
Basques are "living fossils" of the earliest modern humans who
colonized Europe. However, studies of the
Y-chromosome found that
on their direct male lineages, the vast majority of modern Basques
have a common ancestry with other Western Europeans, namely a marked
predominance of Haplogroup R1b.
Initially Haplogroup R1b was theorised to be that a Palaeolithic
marker, introduced when Europe was repopulated after the Last Glacial
Maximum, about 25,000 years ago. As such, Basque populations were
used as proxy representatives for the "Palaeolithic component" in
admixture studies that tried to quantify the extent of Neolithic
diffusions. Such studies concluded that the main components in the
European genomes appear to derive from ancestors whose features were
similar to those of modern
Basques and people of the
Near East (or
Western Asia), with average values greater than 35% for both these
parental populations, regardless of whether molecular information is
taken into account or not. The smallest degree of both Basque and Near
Eastern admixture is found in Finland, whereas the highest values are,
respectively, 70% "Basque" in
Spain and roughly 60% "Near Eastern" in
the Balkans.(p.1365 Table 3) This theory encountered
inconsistencies even prior to most recent chronological
re-evaluations. That R1b should be a Palaeolithic marker was an ad hoc
assumption suggested by Semino et al. (2000) and propagated by
subsequent scholars without further analysis. Higher resolution STR
analysis of R1b lineages from other western European populations (e.g.
Italy or Britain) show that their populations appear to derive
from the Basque ones.
More recent studies instead propose that R1b spread through Europe
from southwest Asia in the
Neolithic period or later, between 4,000
and 8,000 years ago.
Autosomal genetic studies have confirmed that
close genetic ties to other Europeans, especially with Spaniards, who
have a common genetic identity of over 70% with Basques.
homogeneity amongst both their Spanish and French populations,
according to high-density SNP genotyping study done in May 2010,
a genomic distinctiveness, relative to other European populations.
Several ancient DNA samples have been recovered and amplified from
Palaeolithic sites in the Basque region. The collection of mtDNA
haplogroups sampled there differed significantly compared to their
modern frequencies. The authors concluded that there is
"discontinuity" between ancient and modern Basques.
Basques harbour some very archaic lineages (such as mtDNA
Hg U8a), they are not of "undiluted Palaeolithic ancestry", nor
are they ancestral to large parts of western Europe. Rather, their
genetic distinctiveness is a result of centuries of low population
size, genetic drift and endogamy.
New genetic findings, 2015
In 2015, a new scientific study of Basque DNA was published which
seems to indicate that
Basques are descendants of
who mixed with local
Mesolithic hunters before becoming genetically
isolated from the rest of Europe for millennia. Mattias Jakobsson
from Uppsala University in Sweden analysed genetic material from eight
Stone Age human skeletons found in El Portalón Cavern in Atapuerca,
northern Spain. These individuals lived between 3,500 and 5,500 years
ago, after the transition to farming in southwest Europe. The results
show that these early Iberian farmers are the closest ancestors to
The official findings were published in Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences of the United States. According to the study,
the "results show that the
Basques trace their ancestry to early
farming groups from Iberia, which contradicts previous views of them
being a remnant population that trace their ancestry to Mesolithic
hunter-gatherer groups." These early
Neolithic farmer ancestors of the
Basques, however, additionally mixed with local southwestern
hunter-gatherers, and "the proportion of hunter gatherer-related
admixture into early farmers also increased over the course of two
millennia." This admixed group was also found to be ancestral to other
modern-day Iberian peoples, but while the
Basques remained relatively
isolated for millennia after this time, later migrations into Iberia
led to distinct and additional admixture in all other Iberian
It has also been suggested that the high incidence of R1b among
Basques can be attributed to an invasion by Indo-European warriors who
intermarried with local women, who then raised the resulting children
in their culture, not that of their fathers.
Main article: List of Basques
Among the most notable
Basque people are
Juan Sebastián Elcano
Juan Sebastián Elcano (led
the first successful expedition to circumnavigate the globe after
Ferdinand Magellan died mid-journey); Sancho III of Navarre; and
Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier, founders of the Society of
Jesus. Don Diego María de Gardoqui y Arriquibar (1735–1798) was
Spain's first Ambassador to the United States.
Miguel de Unamuno
Miguel de Unamuno was a
noted novelist and philosopher of the late 19th and the 20th century.
Basque code talkers
Duchy of Vasconia
Genetic history of Europe
List of Basques
National and regional identity in Spain
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Chile son las dos
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Miguel de Unamuno
Miguel de Unamuno used to say, 'The Company of
Jesus and the
Republic of Chile
Republic of Chile are the two great achievements of the
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Zugarramurdi in 1610. The Spanish
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attention to Judaizers, Moriscos and Protestants.
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should have the right to use their language in private and public
life. Contrary to these principles, local authorities from
Pamplona (capital city of the
Autonomous Community of Navarre
in Spain) have been implementing a series of reforms to the Autonomous
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is the only endangered language in the
Autonomous Community of
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The Basques, the
Catalans and Spain, Daniele Conversi, 2000,
The Basque History of the World, Mark Kurlansky, 1999,
The Oldest Europeans, J. F. del Giorgio, A. J. Place, 2006,
Ethnologue report for
France for population statistics in France.
Euskal Herria en la Prehistoria, Xabier Peñalver Iribarren, 1996,
Gimbutas, Marija, The Living Goddesses (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 2001).
Hadingham, Evan (September 1992). "Europe's Mystery People". World
Monitor. 5 (9).
Hamilton, Carrie (2000). "Re-membering the Basque nationalist family:
Daughters, fathers and the reproduction of the radical nationalist
community". Journal of Spanish
Cultural Studies. 1 (2): 153–71.
Look up Basque in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Wikimedia Commons has media related to People of the Basque Country.
Basque Autonomous Government
8 Probintziak. Non profit association working with the basques in the
Oroitzapenak Voices From Basque America, University of Nevada, Reno,
Basque Digital Collection,
University of Nevada, Reno
University of Nevada, Reno Special
Sheepherders of Northern Nevada, University of Nevada, Reno, Special
Basque Posters, University of Nevada, Reno,
Voices from Basque America
University of Nevada, Reno
University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Ethnic groups in Spain
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