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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Joseba Aurkenerena Barandiaran > Extracts

Essay (literary and non-literary)

2006 Through the Northern Basque Country / Introduction | Gero

Dear Reader, this book is the chronological continuation of the book I published in 2003 under the title Iparraldeko kronikak (Northern Basque Country Accounts). It is now about ten years since I left Gipuzkoa to come and live in the Northern Basque Country [under French jurisdiction], and since then I have been using the pages of this book to record my experiences. When my first book came out, one reviewer wrote on seeing that the book was going to be along the lines of cultural events and festivals, that I was drinking from the folklore and from a society that is on the verge of disappearing. My aim both with the first book and with this second one is totally different. Today, even though we know about many things going on outside, we are totally ignorant about many other things going on close to home; and that, in my view, is precisely what happens to many inhabitants of the Southern Basque Country [under Spanish jurisdiction] with respect to the Northern Basque Country. They know about it; they are certainly familiar with it; they know, but they are full of clichés. These readings in the form of accounts are aimed at explaining everyday life in the Northern Basque Country, everyday survival; by recalling real people, places, events… The only exception is the text entitled Urruñatik Bartzelonara (From Urruña-Urrugne to Barcelona), in which I describe a trip to the capital of Catalonia, although it is told through the eyes of us Basques.

The reviewer in question says that what is reflected in these accounts is folklore, yet I think we need to include the numerous events linked to songs, dances and Basque identity in the Northern Basque Country within the conscious or unconscious struggle against globalisation and uniformity. In the Basque Country administered by France there is certainly a kind of vertigo, an unconscious fear of being wiped off the map of peoples and cultures. This is why the local inhabitants participate actively, passionately and with great feeling in all manner of cultural events in order to ward off their fears and satisfy their wounded identity. No, this is not folklore, not in the least, but a form of resistance, the collective revolt of a people that does not want to disappear, the will of a society that refuses to die.

And this sentiment lives on in Lapurdi, in Lower Navarre and in Zuberoa [the three provinces in the Northern Basque Country], both among those who have preserved their Basque language and among those who have lost it. It is not an organised movement, nor is it linked to any political persuasion. It is evident that Basque nationalists have a sense of conscious resistance in order to safeguard the future, but it is also true that aside from the nationalists, citizens who form part of the broad political spectrum are maintaining an unconscious resistance. To be or not to be, that is the real question in the Northern Basque Country today. The reviewer says I am reflecting a society that is on the verge of disappearing, maybe I am! Who knows? Disappear or survive, therein lies the key to the future. And in the Northern Basque Country Basques have come out in favour of survival. However, we need to change in order to survive, we need changes that take place gradually. We desperately need to see green shoots emerging but without losing our roots. And nobody denies that. Refusal to change would amount to succumbing to folklore, but going down that road, without abandoning our roots, and accepting changes would amount to cultural resistance. That is the difference between the two of them.

For many in the Southern Basque Country that is what the Northern Basque Country is, the past, folklore, something exotic… And I wanted to use these accounts to show them that they are completely mistaken. In the Northern Basque Country there are people who engage in folklore to attract tourism and make a few cents, or who exploit folklore, to be more exact, but there is also a passion firmly rooted in the people to preserve our culture, and that is precisely what I have aimed to portray, in a modest way, in these twenty-four accounts. Whether I have succeeded or not is up to you, the reader, to judge.

I have written this book, because I sincerely believe in the future of the Basque Country in freedom, thus in the promising future of the whole of Navarre. Inspired from the heart, this book has been produced with the aim of helping our descendents to prepare the way. I love you, Basque Country, in the same way that mothers are loved, with tenderness, passion and gratitude. May the future afford us the opportunity to experience that great day!
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