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Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

Basque Culture

Basques 1927


Map Basques The Basques are a European ethnic group, characterised by the Basque language, a common culture and shared genetic ancestry. Basques are indigenous to and primarily inhabit an area traditionally known as the Basque Country, a region that is located around the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north-central Spain and south-western France.

In Basque Country, people call themselves the "euskaldunak" (singular "euskaldun"), formed from "euskal" ("Basque (language)") and "-dun" (one who has"); "euskaldun" literally means a Basque speaker. Not all Basques are Basque-speakers, therefore, the neologism "euskotar," plural "euskotarrak," was coined in the 19th century to mean a culturally Basque person, whether Basque-speaking or not.

Large numbers of Basques have left the Basque Country to settle in the rest of Spain, France, or other parts of the world in different historical periods, often for economic or political reasons. Historically, the Basques abroad were often employed in shepherding and ranching and by maritime fisheries and merchants. Millions of Basque descendants live in North America, Latin America, South Africa, and Australia.

The largest of several important Basque communities in the United States is in the area around Boise, Idaho, home to the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, host to an annual Basque festival, as well as a festival for the Basque diaspora every five years. Reno, Nevada, where the Center for Basque Studies and the Basque Studies Library are located at the University of Nevada, is another significant nucleus of Basque population. Elko, Nevada sponsors an annual Basque festival that celebrates the dance, cuisine, and cultures of the Basque peoples of Spanish, French and Mexican nationalities who have arrived in Nevada since the late 19th century. Texas has a large percentage of Hispanics descended from Basques who participated in the conquest of New Spain. California has a major concentration of Basques, most notably in the San Joaquin Valley between Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield. There is a history of Basque culture in Chino, California. In Chino, two annual Basque festivals celebrate the dance, cuisine, and culture of the peoples. The surrounding area of San Bernardino County has many Basque descendants as residents.

Basque traditional music is a product of the region's historic development and strategic geographical position on the Atlantic arch at a crossroads between mountains and plains, ocean and inland, European continent and Iberian Peninsula. Folk instruments widespread in Europe ceased to be used in some places at some point of history and only remained in specific areas, where they took hold and adopted features and a character associated with the region, such as the "tabor (three-hole pipe) in widespread use in Europe ultimately resulted in two specific instruments in the Basque Country:

Some other traditional Basque musical instruments are:

The Basque people are especially given to singing. Basque language has stuck to the oral tradition stronger than Romance languages, and its literature was first recorded in writing in the 16th century. There are ballads dating from the 15th century that have been passed from parents to children by word of mouth.