The Baffling Basques

With eyes and ears open, we have encountered a weird and wonderful land of extraordinary and enigmatic people conversing in a melodic and mysterious tongue. It is here that we have met and observed the baffling Basques, some of the earliest inhabitants of Europe, who possess unique physical characteristics, and speak a language with no connection to any other.

Basque flag

The Basque Flag

Even though the Basque Country has its own language and official flag, it is not technically a country with representation in the United Nations or Olympic Games. Instead, it is the name given to the home of the Basque people, straddling the border between France and Spain on the Bay of Biscay.

basque-map

The Basque Country

The Basques have inhabited this area continuously for millennia, and now remain the sole surviving relic of western Europe’s pre-Indo-European past. Based on old skull fragments, the Basques may even be the last surviving representatives of Cro-Magnon Man, Europe’s first human population.

Hairy surfer 1

Hairy Surfer Dude

Despite the profusely hairy backs we have observed on local beaches, a direct link between the Basques and Cro-Magnon Man has recently been called into question. DNA from ancient remains now suggest that the original Basques arose after Neolithic farmers from Asia Minor came to the area and coupled up with local hunter-gatherers some 7,000 years ago.

Independencia

A Basque Declaration for Independence

Since that time, the wild Basque tribes resisted conquest by the Romans, Visigoths, Franks, and Moors. Despite numerous invasions from these formidable adversaries, the Basques have preserved their autonomy, culture, and original language.

Gentleman profile

Basque Gentleman

The Basques possess an atypical blood group that is unlike any other. They are built short and sturdy, with handsome faces distinguished by long straight noses, thick eyebrows, strong chins, and long earlobes, all capped by floppy black wool berets.

Tug of War

Tug-of-War Team Clubhouse, Mutriku

The Basques are a hard-working people thriving upon the fertile rolling hills and bountiful seas. They even participate in sporting events derived from everyday chores, such as rowing regatta, wood chopping, log sawing, and stone block lifting.

Gernika Assembly House

Basque Assembly House, Guernica

In search of some answers about the Basque Country and its people, we visited the town of Guernica and the traditional heart of Basque nationalism. Guernica is home to the two most important political symbols of the Basque Country: the Assembly House where the autonomous Basques established their own set of laws, and the Tree of Guernica symbolizing the traditional freedoms of the Basque people.

Picasso Gerniuka

Mural of Picasso’s “Guernica” in Guernica

We came to Guernica on a Monday to shop at its weekly market, and to remember the infamous aerial bombing that occurred here during the Spanish Civil War. On a busy Monday market day in April 1937, Nazi Germany in support of Franco’s Nationalist Army conducted the first saturation bombing raid on a residential center. Hitler’s horrific military experiment resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and the destruction of 85% of the town’s buildings.

Man and peppers

Basque Farmer Stringing Peppers at Guernica Monday Market

During Franco’s 36-year dictatorship, he attempted to snuff out the Basque culture, outlawing their flag and ancient language. As they have always done, the people fought back, resisted this invasion, and are now enjoying a local resurgence befitting of the baffling Basques.

Basque Country sign

The Baffling Basques

11 thoughts on “The Baffling Basques

    • I think maybe I waxed a wide swath this time, Marty. The dude that we photographed wasn’t really that furry compared to some of the other Basquatches that we saw. I just couldn’t muster the nerve to ask them for photos of their bearded backs. Thanks! – Joe

      Liked by 1 person

  1. How interesting! I’d heard of the Basques, but I didn’t know they were such a unique group of people. Thanks for this post…it was both informative and entertaining. Who knew that the black wool beret was a characteristic of the male Basque?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Ann. The Basques are really friendly, hard-working, and handsome people. The black or navy blue woolen Basque beret helped fishermen and other peasant workers keep their heads dry and warm in the cold drizzly climate in the Basque Country. Now, we see them mostly being worn by the older guys. I bought a red one a few years back when we went to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. I still have it, but never figured out how to wear it without looking ridiculous.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting how it’s still possible, in this day and age, in a supposedly well-integrated continent, that you could still have an isolated language and DNA structure. Basque country isn’t exactly in the depths of an Amazon jungle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that it does seem improbable, Dave. I can’t imagine any “lost tribes” of Basques still living deep in the forest between France and Spain, without cell phones or any other contact with the outside world. Whether invaders chose not to incorporate the wild Basque tribes, or the Basques successfully resisted their attempts, they stayed remarkably independent and pure-blooded.

      Liked by 1 person

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