Friday, August 21, 2009

Basques - History of a Culture. Behind Guernica; and Forward

Basque Country

Nation. A Nation. This Nation. 

Then, That Nation. Whose Nation has Rights.
Whose Nationalism Prevails.

Force Decides, Temporarily, or Uneasily, or Permanently.
For How Long?

I. Basque country.

This site is a mini-course in Basque history, geneology, linquistics.  How else to communicate their unique qualities, the mystery of their origins.  Pablo Picasso immortalized their slaughter at the town of Guernica. See III below.

Pablo Picasso, portion of photograph at the Picasso Museum, Barcelona

Travelling north and east, from Burgos, between Bilbao and San Sebastian, well off the main highway, north, in mountains, is the town of Guernica, the old capital of the ethnic group. Do a maps search to find it.

If you are heading ultimately from Bilbao and San Sebastian, to the rowdiness of Pamplona , curved to the south from San Sebastian, it is all too easy not to explore the hills. Parts of the mountain area are called "the Basque Switzerland" - around the Alava valleys to the north, and vineyards to the south (think Rioja), see  Three provinces make up the "Basque Autonomous Community" - Alava, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa. New to us, but a must go next time. The lakes of Laguardia are in Alava - LaGuardia Airport of New York Mayor fame?

But with our best meal of the trip in a Basque restaurant in Bilbao, and so many unanswered questions about the Basque country, this is our advance scouting for the next trip. Basques. Who, where from. Why the violence. We want to go back.

Basques: stop at flatland. Here, south of Bilbao 

The land south of Bilbao is flat, windmill farms, easy for invaders. Basques settled in the mountainous, green-hilly, rocky areas. Easier to defend, escape. Invaders gave up.

II. The Basques: A Group that considers itself its own race.

Theirs is a persistent history of the different, living in an area from time unknown, consistent, uninterrupted heritage, seeking independence from the later-enveloping Spain, the alien governmental amoeba, or from enveloping France on the other side of the Pyrrhees Mountains. Separatists, others call them. But they never asked to be surrounded by the aliens.  They resist absorption.  Think back to high school microscopes and the amoebas.  Gotcha. Farmers, herders, navigators, fishermen. They will not be absorbed.

Source and trigger of that interest in Basques suddenly, after a trip is over, this time: The novel, Guernica, by Dave Boling, Bloomsbury 2008, see  Emphasis at the outset.  The unique language. The card game mus. Find the rules at  Draw cards, then bet on who has the best hand. Bluff, insult and look at these rules! Go there. The winner is the mano.  Now. I love it. Must learn mus. Grande, chica, pares, juego.

Fair use: quote from Quernica, by Boling:

The creative Basques decided that cheating could be prevented by declaring it a legal part of the game. Accordingly, if one never recognizes the existence of a border, then carrying goods across it is not smuggling, merely nocturnal commerce. And if a race believes it has always lived in its own nation, then protecting its imaginary boundaries is a matter of patriotism, not separatism.

From page 3. We are hooked already.

Picasso's comment to a son, the son age 15 (says the book at page 83), while they passed through Basque country, France to Spain side:   How to check if Picasso said that? Or is this just a novelist being a novelist?   Will go to quotes sometime. This is from the book:

"I know many Basques.  Nobody works harder, or is more dedicated to his family. We used to say, 'Straight and tall, there goes the Basque. The ones I know could be stubborn and suspicious, but to have a Basque as a friend is something you can count on for a lifetime."

Apparently the Republicans (this is in the 1930's) wanted Picasso as a supporter, but Picasso saw himself as an artist, and art was about "other things" and not boring politics.  Page 83.

Dance.  Basques have a long history - this site says they themselves identify with Cro-Magnon peoples, see and some dances reflect the pagan past (everybody's was, if it not is, is that so?)  The "witch dance" is the sorgin dantza.

Other dances: see mixed group with hoops  All men, the ezpata dantza. solemn (what is the occasion?), with swords, at Good view of flutes and drums. See a couple's dance, Arin Arin, at

The novel references the "jota" dance, see and hear it at at ://  Go to for the Itzartu Euskal Dantzari Taldea (traditional dance group - videos at; and for the North American Basque website at  On Youtube videos are a series of lessons in the jota put up by the NaBasque group.

Euskara Language.

The language is not Indo-European. Hear Patricia speak it at  Translation?  There is a Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada.  The language is called euskara. See background and FAQ's at are some similarities with these languages:  the Georgian in the Caucasus; the Berber family of languages, Africa; the Quechua, Latin America. See  

  • Linguistics:  See this discussion of the languages related to Neolithic - Ice Age Cro Magnon, even possibly Paleolithic times, at Linguistic Connections, a Paleolithic Language, at  Areas: Aquitanian (ancient tribe, central France), Lusitanian (western Iberia).  Cro Magnon types include the Basque, some Berber (including the blondish ones among the Rifians, some Tuareg, Mauritani, Bretani (even the names sound like the modern areas). This is not my field, but it sounds interesting.  The language is not related to others around, but is related to others in the group. 
  •  Is this the ancient "Atlantic" language. Think Atlantis? More fun to consider, speculate.  Where did it come from? See inscriptions at the Linguistics site. Authentic? Also connected to Welsh, Erse and Gaelic? Much to read at the Linquistics site.

Creation and linguistics.  Are you ready for this?  This site connects roots of Basque and Basque-roots languages with Eden.

Go for it. Read at Basque Paganism at  Follow any interest that arises, and then assess.  Cited as an authority is an Abhot, Dominique Lahetjuzan, 1766-1818.  He finds Basque origins in names.

The point is, with other references there, whether or not you accept all of them:  roots here are deep, deep, back to Romans, Greeks, others with contacts with these peoples.  Fascinating.

What are the rights of first occupiers. Anywhere. Where does "time" begin.

Read up there on the Spanish Inquisition, other oppressions, killing of millions of healers, etc. Understand the heritage here.  We forget. Also, refresh on divinities, early creation principles.  Basques.  A wealth of information on our earliest selves, before the nations, hierarchies and institutions tainted it all. Is that so?

Basque Geneology; Origins. 

Basque people are unique, we understand, in a number of ways.  Their blood carries a high RH Negative factor. Are they so different from others in the linguistic group?  Not sure.  Go back to linguistics - Origins are unclear, with Cro Magnon populations, or original Iberians, or even survivors of Atlantis all circulating in the stories.  See site notes an "innate reluctance" of members of these groups to interact, intermarry with others not in the group.
They have fought off assimilation for thousands of years. See For Atlantis geeks, read; and, of course, Plato: The Lost Cities of Atlantis, at ://; and at Plato's Atlantis Dialogues,  Do a find for Atlantis to get to it. There was a wonderful and mighty empire, that conquered and built and shone forth in virtue and strength, see and Solon's Tale continues:

But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.
One Critias had memorized the story of Atlantis, and it continues at the site. Keep doing the find for Atlantis to speed it up. So, there is Atlantis. Did remnants survive? Mists, smoke ....
Oak.  Then, reference to the symbolic oak in the center of town, an original and two successors that had been used as a gathering point for law-making or planning defenses, since the Middle Ages.  It survived even the destruction of 1937, but finally died in 1994, see

The first was planted in the 1300's, and lived some 400 years. The tradition is that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella swore under that oak in the 1400's to uphold the Basque ancient privileges.  It is a symbol of loyalty. BBC at A replacement was to be planted.

Nationalist Anthem.  In the 1800's, one Jose Maria Iparraguerra composed a song, Gernico Arbola, and dedicated it to the tree, and that composition became the nationalist anthem for the Basques. BBC at  Here is an instrumental at

Flag.  The Ikurrena flag, red, white and green is banned. See it at - like a pattern from the Union Jack, red ground, white center cross side to side and up and down, superimposed on a green X full diagonals.

Flag of Basque

Flags courtesy of ITA's
Flags of All Countries used with permission. *

Since no map identifies Basque country, the language is a definer, as are the dances, the celebrations. Some say the Basques survived because of inaccessibility - rocky, stony coast; high mountains around. But was it instead the language, incoherent to all others. "Everything that has a name exists," from page 6. What have the words seen. This takes us to a look, because memory is hazy, at what happened here.
III. A WWII history: Basques at the epicenter of civilian slaughter.


World War II; on one side.  The Spanish Civil War, on the other.  They met at Guernica, the ancient Basque capital. The Germans were eager to try out their Luftwaffe. In 1935, a German general published a book claiming that war is total and no segment of a population should be exempt, including civilians, and targeting them was legitimate in furthering the goals of the invader. Meanwhile, the Spanish civil war had begun in 1936, Guernica had held out. The Nationalist Franco was displeased, as he fought the Republicans.

Now the big names: Wolfram von Richtoven, cousin of the Red Baron from WWI, arrived with his Condor Legion, sent by Hitler. Bomb the city to see what would happen, since the city had not been involved in the civil war, and what would a bombing raid do to it. Send a signal to the Republicans of the power behind the Nationalist cause. An experiment, and a warning, with Guernica the tool. And get the troublemaker Basques in line. Richtoven chose it.

There were no defenses. The planes flew as low as 600 feet, destroying Guernica on market day. Dead: 1664. Wounded: 889. Political impact: England feared similar treatment on her shores, Chamberlain met with Hitler three times (appeasing?) in 1938, and modernized the air force. All this from The History Learning Site at Ask,

IV. The Picasso Painting, Guernica.  The Basque Apocalypse, Muralized.

Pablo Picasso memorialized this Apocalypse, at a town used for target practice, animals in the explosions, a slaughterhouse of people and chaos, in a huge painting, see Do an Images search if it is unfamiliar to you. Guernica. Picasso. Here it is, at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid (we only saw the Prado), and a fine article, at

Without knowing the story, no wonder some moderns see nothing special in it, just another Picasso, see Learn the history, and nationalism and horrors are no longer abstracts.

III. Now back to the book.

To be continued. This section to include bits, such as this:  Did the Basques originate as the survivors of Atlantis?  Some of their traditions so suggest.

Other groups seeking self-determination: Thinking now also of Uighurs, any group surrounded, surviving, uncertain future in the way of the march of others.

IV. Current politics in Spain.

There are two Basque political parties: The EHAK, or Communist Party of the Basque Territories; and the EAE, or Basque Patriotic Action.  See recent activities (past several years) of the independence movement from Spain, at

 V.  Exonyms (!) - Endonyms.  Names in countries with foreign names. 

See the evolving and self-questioning site at  Where are Basque origins (the origins of the Basques is unknown, so all this is very interesting, trust me). Rats. Nothing turns up.  Stay tuned and we will keep looking.  Why does wiki link to Geneva, Bern and Basel. No idea.  See no connection with Basque.
Look at the x's in Basque words.  The sound of that.  History of a culture.  Takes digging.


*To do that, we have to publish this exploration of Basques, as it is so far, and send the flag site an email, says their site, so we will do that. Publish. Get the URL. Then back to here. Is this worth it? No. The verbal description we think is enough, but the colors are striking. Bureaucracies. Turf. This flag is mine, say they at :// We want to separate! In the alternative, can we consider that this one permission covers future uses of flags? Or do we have to do this each time? No wonder the old ways, so simple, so common sense, lure us away from modern tickytacky. There must be another approach to copyright. Basques, good for you.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Conchita Cintron, Bullfighter - Women's Rights in Spanish Culture

Bull, Bahre name (real or not?)

Sometimes, a country transports its culture as much as its people. Here, bullfighting.

One of the first women bullfighters - a matador - was Conchita Cintron, who just died at age 86. Her obituary from the New York Times is at ://

Apparently she began her vocation at age 13, and was from Peru, not Spain. Still, the sport is so tightly tied with Spain, and she was living in Portugal at the time of her death, we include here regionally and culturally, here - with Spain.

Her life and near death - in 1949, she was gored in the thigh during a bullfight in Mexico, was taken out of the ring, broke away from the doctors in the infirmary, and returned to the ring to kill the bull. That bull was one of 750 taken in her career. She then fell unconscious and was taken to emergency surgery.