I can't say that I've learned all there is to know about the Basques, but after a month of being here I think I know enough to write a general blog post.
The Basques are a group of people who have lived in this area of Europe for centuries and centuries. To make an analogy, the Celtic and Gaelic people are to the United Kingdom as the Basque people are to Northern Spain and Southern France.
They still speak their language, Euskera, which is completely foreign to me and other Latin-influenced Europeans. It's very gutteral and the sentence structure is totally different. In a few entries previously, I said that I picked up the Euskera version of the Hunger Games. Looking at that version, the words are extremely long.
This is a paragraph from The Hunger Games summary in Euskera:
"'Kapitolio' aren aginpide tiranikoaren pean bizi dira herritarrak, miseriarik handienean eta norbere barrutitik irteteko askatasunik gabe. Pertsona bat baino ez da ausartuko arauak haustera eta bere familiarentzat zer jana ekartzera: Katniss da, hamasei urteko neska bat."
They have the root words and then add suffixes and prefixes to add different meanings. That's why words are so long.
When Spain started to form together as a nation, the Basque people were one of the last to be conquered. When they were, they were largely left alone to do their own thing. Even now, there is a "Basque Country" which consists of 7 provinces in Spain and France. Even though Navarra is not technically a part of the Basque Country (they want it to be), Euskera is everywhere. In the United States we often have Spanish or French in our stores and on our products. Here it's Euskera and maybe Catalan or Portugese. I can always pick out Castellano (Spanish), of course, but when distinguishing the other languages, Euskera uses a lot of z's and k's, which Latin based languages really don't.
Speaking of Catalan, the province of Catalonia is actively seeking their independence from Spain. As you probably know, Europe originally consisted of hundreds of smaller kingdoms that eventually combined into the countries that are here today. Most are content, but the regions of Catalonia, Galacia, and Vasconia (Basque Country) all want their independence. Cataluña's independence movement currently has the most force. If Spain where to lose Cataluña, they would lose all the tourist revenue earned from Barcelona.
The Basque independent movement used to have much more power; however, they have gone through a leadership change recently and have lost a lot of the force. The independent movement was mostly comprised of Eta, which is a Basque terrorist organization. It's actually quite like a mafia.
Eta is the reason that the University of Navarra has such strict security. There have been several bombings here. There was one in the 80's and a couple several years ago. My professor who told us this doesn't think there is any current danger because of the leadership change, but that little tidbit is certainly not advertised on the prospective student leaflets.
I've yet to actually meet a Basque person. Well, I probably have, but I haven't met a solidly Basque person. Carmen's mother was Basque. One of my professors has a Basque last name. However, I haven't met someone who has spoken the language in front of me and who is really passionate about their heritage. I really want to meet one (or more!) before I leave. I think their history is extremely interesting and I'd love to know more about it. There's this shroud of mystery around them for me still.
I'm sure my professors and other more knowledgable people who read my blog are cringing at all the historical mistakes I probably made. Sorry! This is just what I've come to understand over my month here. I hope that the majority of it was correct and you found this informative.