Tradition is a component of contemporary culture. The various aspects of Basque traditional culture have been studied mostly by ethnographers and folklorists. This essay brings together findings by cultural anthropologists who are aware that essentialized views of human behavior can hardly apply to contemporary Basques living in a globalized and postmodern world. We are interested in how tradition has informed the worldview of a large part of Basque society in the past and how it continues to do so at present.
The essay reviews some of the enduring stereotypes about the Basques. It explores what the grounds are, if any, for the “uniqueness” of Basque traditions, including archeological findings. It examines the relevant presence of Basque prehistoric art and artifacts, and the various interpretations given to them. After introducing the historical record of the Romanization and Christianization of the Basque population, the essay discusses the traditional social organization and culture of the baserri farmstead and its neighborhood relationships. It contrasts fishing and farming as the two main occupational characters and worldviews of traditional society. The role of animals in farming and hunting is described, as well as the cultural complex of the bull; the role of the bestiary as a source of metaphor in expressive culture is considered. The essay concludes with the oral nature of traditional culture and folklore, including the institution of troubadour verse improvisation or bertsolaritza.
Professor and anthropologist of the Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada
This is the introduction to the “Bertsolaritza” book; you can find the complete book here: