Saturday, November 26, 2011

Don't be a square

Something that I find particularly strange about the Basque culture is the existence of things called 'kuadrillas' (quad-ree-uhs).  A kuadrilla is a group of friends who formed this circle in elementary school.  Normally this same group sticks together through thick and thin all thier lives and are very close.  Essentially a glorified clique, every Basque person belongs to one - be it a big kuadrilla or small.  Most Basques do practically everything with thier kuadrilla- dinners, trips, holidays, beach days, etc - and they are basically a huge group of best friends.

It's a great concept...if you are in a one.  If not, they make it quite difficult to enter.  It's sort of like the exclusivity of a sororiety or fraternity but without the hazing and pledging.  Say for example, you go to a bar alone.  In Berlin or New York or Tempe or Longview, someone would probably talk to you and you could even leave the bar having made a new friend.  Here that is almost unspeakable.  The kuadrilla keeps to themselves and normally aren't too intersted in looking for new members.  They are content with thier group and that's enough.   

Being Joseba's wife, I am automatically accepted into this kuadrilla but it's not my own.  Not having my elementary school friends here puts me at a disadvantage for starting up my own kuadrilla but alas, I am part of a newly formed one.  My 'foreign' friends and I decided that we too deserve a kuadrilla!  My new group is composed of Emma (the girl who was with me during my wedding, from Madrid in gray), Brenda (her close friend that lives here, from Mexico in blue) and Montse (my old roomie and bff, from Barcelona in green).  While two come from Spain, we are all still considered outsiders here and have no kuadrilla and happily pronounced ourselves one.  We do dinner every week (very kuadrillaish), and are already planning our Carnival outfits (no kuadrilla goes out without a group costume).

Forming a kuadrilla at this age seems to make more sense than when you are 5.  Imagine your intersts change from 5 to 25...then what do you do?  Nothing.  Switching kuadrillas is not something that is done.  Making friends with other people who share your intersts outside of the group is doable but usually something most kuadrilla members frown upon.  Can you believe that?  It's like a jealous girlfriend or something!

It makes it seem like on the whole Basques are very closed, and I will admit some are.  But the others are incredible.  Some of Joseba's friends are so outgoing and friendly and have accepted me as a friend right away.  Other Basques I have meet through classes or other friends are equally as open to meeting new people as me, which is refreshing.  The concept of the kuadrilla makes sense if you think back to the past of the Basque Country - a hilly land with many small towns spread through the mountains and along the coast.  Without transportation the distance between one town and another could take days, so people became very close to those who surrounded them.  This idea continued on into the present, and it is neat to see how well the Basques preserve thier history.  

Really our kuadrilla is just a great excuse for us to get together on a weekly basis and catch up during our girl's nights.  Here are our first photos as a group!  More photos will surely come with time.  Maybe we will even participate in Kuadrilla Eguna - Kuadrilla Day.  Yes, it is true, there is a day set aside to celebrate your group of friends, which I don't think is a half bad idea!