Behind The Basques: The Most Misunderstood Culture in Europe
The beauty and the mystery of one of the most isolated people in the world.
Imagine for a second; an indigenous ethnic group located in the heart of Europe that has barely changed over the centuries, unique, culturally different, and even genetically distinct. A group of people that the Visigoths were unable to conquer. Settled in lands of lush green highlands and daunting, gorgeous high-rock cliffs. A place where not long ago, it was common to see whales breaking the cold waters of its Atlantic Ocean shores. Imagine a culture with shared ancestry, a common social structure so distant and strong that it has survived the most prominent historical changes — invasions, kingdoms, and empires — the European continent has ever seen. Meet: The Basques.
The Basques are one of the most isolated ethnic groups in the world. Yet, somehow they have remained true to their identity since Paleolithic times. During prehistoric times, the Celts lived among them. Later, Basque speakers were influenced by the Romans and the introduction of Christianization, a fact ascertainable from the large number of old borrowings from Latin into the Basque language. For almost 40 years, they suffered under the regime of Francisco Franco, who prohibited using the Basque language and its cultural expressions. Villagers throughout the Basque territories were penalized and even jailed if they were seen speaking or showcasing their traditions. When the Spanish language took over, the Basque language lost its appeal and the number of speakers dramatically decreased for over two generations.
Currently, the Basque language (Euskara) is the second most-widely spoken isolated language in the world, after Korean. With no living linguistic relatives, linguists around the world have long speculated about its origin, with some stating that the language’s roots date back to pre-Indo-European times, while other scientists like Kalevi Wiik argue that the most plausible candidates for the ancient languages of the Iberian refuge are the Basque languages.
Nowadays, Euskara, spoken in the autonomous communities of Navarre and the Basque Country across northern Spain and south-western France, is thriving thanks to the efforts made by grassroots…