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Culture Description

Basques live in southwestern Europe straddling the French-Spanish border. There are four traditional regions (Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Nafarroa, Araba) on the Spanish side and three (Lapurdi, Behe-Nafarroa, and Zuberoa) on the French side. While the seven regions have not been unified for nearly a millennium, the Basques remain one of Europe's most distinctive ethnic groups. Until recently the Basque homestead was a mixed-farming enterprise which emphasized self-sufficiency. Now the Basque country is one of Iberia's most industrialized regions and only a minority of the population is engaged in agriculture, which has become increasingly industrialized.


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Europe --Southern Europe




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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Basques file consists of fifteen English and two Spanish language documents. Many of these are specific community studies dealing with the villages of Echalar, Murelaga, Elgeta, Fuenterrabia, Mondragon, Usurbil, Itziar, Excurra in northern Spain, and Sainte-Engrace in the Province of Soule in southwestern France. Most of the studies in the file, however, relate to the Spanish Basque areas and particularly to the Province of Guipuzcoa.

Although there is no single work in this file to give a comprehensive ethnographic coverage for all the Basques, the studies by Douglass (1975, no. 1), Heiberg (1989, no. 8), and Caro Baroja (1959, no. 20), will give the reader a general overview of the society. Douglass presents a comparative study of social, economic, and demographic change in two Spanish Basque villages -- Echalar and Murelaga -- from the beginning of the twentieth century to around 1966. This work contains much information on social structure, the domestic group, the hamlet or AUZOA, and the social and economic history of the two communities. Heiberg's work, although primarily an historical study of the development of Basque nationalism, does provide some information on the evolution of the traditional political system, the emergence and development of the Basque bourgeoisie, economic and social evolution of the rural area (especially the village of Elgeta), and industrialization within the area. Caro Baroja's study of the Spanish and French Basque areas, presents an in-depth look at Basque culture history from pre-Roman times to the mid-twentieth century. Although this work is entirely in Spanish, it does contain much information on agriculture, pastoralism, dwellings, the food quest, craft specialization, concepts of ethnicity, marrige, the household, death, religion, and the fine arts.

As to be expected in Basque studies, many of the works lean heavily on the subject of Basque nationalism and politics, and relations with the Spanish government during the Spanish Civil War. Principal documents dealing with these topics (in addition to those already noted above), are: Zirakzadeh (1989, no. 10), Silva (1989, no. 14), and Zulaika (1988, no. 19). Other major topics given special attention in this file are: the Mondragon system of cooperatives in Clamp (1989, no. 12) and Milbrath (1989, no. 13); culture history in Collins (1987, no. 5); and gender roles and the status of women in Basque society in Valle (1988, no. 21). This latter document, like that of Caro Baroja noted above, is also in Spanish.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article, "Basques", by William A. Douglass, in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 4, 1992, Linda A. Bennett, editor. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The Human Relations Area Files wishes to acknowledge with thanks the suggestions offered by Davydd J. Greenwood and earlier ones by William A. Douglass in the bibliographical selection of materials for this file. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in April 2000.

Overview by

John Beierle

ADUR -- categories 772, 778

APARCERIA -- share cropping -- category 427

Arana -- categories 665, 159

AUZOA (pl. AUZOAK) -- neighborhood unit or hamlet composed of several adjacent BASSERIAK -- category 621

AYUNTAMIENTO -- "village" councils -- category 632

BASERRIA (pl. BASSERIAK) -- an agricultural household or farmstead; the basic rural social unit -- category 592; as a structure -- 342; as a peasant class -- 565

Basque Study Society -- category 814

BATZOKIS -- neighborhood recreational centers -- categories 529, 575

BEDERATZIURRUNE -- a novena (for mourning) -- category 765

BEREZKO -- essence of power or quality; fatalism -- categories 761, 181, 812

ASSOCIACIONES DE VECINOS -- neighbor' associations -- category 571

BERTSOLARIAK -- specialized singers and/or poets -- category 533

Catholic sacraments -- categories 779, 788 and other relevant categories

CAYOLAR -- a pastoral syndicate consisting of a group of shepherds, their communal hut, corral, and the mountain pastures on which the flocks graze -- categories 474, 233, 234

charters -- as grants or guarantees of rights -- category 642; as documentary records of proof of title to property -- category 423

civil code, Spanish or French, in effect in Basqueland -- categories 671, 177

COFRADIAS -- brotherhoods -- categories 575, 794; also village fiestas in honor of the Virgin -- category 796

CORREGIDOR -- the king's representative to each of the provinces -- category 647

CUADRILLA -- a group of individuals of similar age, marital status or sex who share a similar life style -- category 571

DEIXIX -- the spatio-temporal relations of an object to a referent -- category 823

ECHEA -- household, with emphasis on its physical components -- category 592

ECHEKOA (pl. ECHEKOAK) -- household, with emphasis on its constituent members -- categories 592, 596 (where relevant)

EGI -- the youth organization of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) -- categories 665, 668

ELGETA -- "village" or small town in size and political structure -- category 632

EMBATA -- a French Basque political movement -- category 668

ETXALTE -- propery consisting of both movable and inmovable objects (houses, barns, land, livestock, shares in a mill) -- categories 423, 422

EUSKADI TA ASKATASUNA (ETA) -- a Basque revolutionary movement of EUSKALTZAINDIA -- the Basque Language Academy -- category 814

FAMILIZHE -- kindred -- category 612

FELIBRIGE -- an ethnic movement in the French Basque region -- 665, 668

"first neighbor" relationship -- individual household in a community which cooperate with one another in ritual and agricultural services -- categories 571, 592, 476

Franco government treatment of Basque minorities -- category 675

FUEROS -- agreements made between kings or lesser lords and their prospective settlers -- category 642; also Basque traditional rights which have their core in custom -- category 671

HAUZOLAN -- communal work -- categories 464, 653

IKASTOLA -- Basque language schools -- categories 872, 871

INDARRA -- human physical strength, life-force, procreative power -- categories 761, 147, 827; supernatural (similar to mana) -- 778

IPEC/TALDE -- Basque research organizations -- category 814

livestock mutual insurance associations -- categories 456, 233

MAYORDOMO -- primary official of the AUZOA -- caategories 622, 794

Mondragon cooperative complex -- category 474 (with 453, 816, 871)

neighborhood roads and water systems maintained by the BASERRIA -- category 653

OLHA -- a shepherding and cheese-making syndicate -- categories 474, 233, 234

PARTIDO NACIONALIST VASCO (PNV) -- a Basque political party -- cateory 665


political radicalism -- category 668

religious sodalities -- categories 575, 794

SEPULTRIEK (SEPULTURIA) -- family church plots activated during funerals and mourning -- categories 424, 764, 765

SIADECO -- a research group in applied sociology -- category 816

SOCIEDADES -- private social clubs -- category 575

SOLIDARIDAD DE OBREROS VASCOS -- a nationalist labor union -- categories 665, 467

SOLIDARIDAD DE TRABAJADORES VASCOS -- the labor union of the PNV political party -- categories 467, 665

UNION GENERAL DE TROBAJADORES (UGT) -- categories 467, 665

"village" -- the social unit comprised of several affiliated AUZOAK, and with a central nucleus -- category 632; (sometimes referred to as a MUNICIPO or ERRIA)

"village" mayor, council and other officials representing and responsible to the national government -- category 632 (sometimes 631)

XIKITO -- ritual dueling between members of the OLHA -- categories 578, 154

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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