Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Uncelebrated

Today, after waking up at 10am and sipping coffee on the couch for awhile, I was quite happy that today was a holiday and I didn't have to go to work.  However, with this national Constitution Day, there will be no parades or celebrations in Basque Country.  Basically, people just shut down because it is a national holiday, but in Basque Country the day really doesn't signify much.  To understand why people wouldn't want to celebrate a day that the Spanish Constitution declared the country a democracy, only in 1978, we need to take a look much further back.

As most of you know, Basque Country would like it's independance back.  Being a community long before the country Spain even existed, the Basques enjoyed thier freedom and ruled thier lands with fueros, a sort of self-governing set of laws.  These laws were respected and worked for the Basques while they were part of the Kindgom of Navarre (the Kingdom they were part of before being joined with Spain).  However, in the early 19th century, liberalism came to Spain and started creating problems between the country and Euskal Herria (Basque Country in Euskera).  Some Basques accepted the changes and figured they could cooperate with the new Spanish ways, whereas other Basques staunchly wanted to maintain a distance and have thier language, race and culture distinguished from the Spanish.  With the Civil War brewing the latter group formed the Basque National Party and joined forces with many other groups (Catalunya Nationalists, Socialists, Anarchists, etc) to fight against the military who didn't agree with sovereignty for the Basque Country.  The Civil War soon brought about Franco as a dictator and hope for a free Basque Country was squandered even more.  Supported by a few countries (USA included), Franco reigned over Spain for many years and in tried to create national homogenity.  From this we have the idea of bullfighting and flamenco dancing as very Spanish, while in fact they are only practiced in certain parts of the country.  Basque language and culture, obviously drastically different from the Spanish mold were banned under Franco.  From this supression grew the group ETA, which I am sure you have heard about in the news (more on that in a different blog - its a heavy subject).

After Franco's time the country became a democracy, but as you can expect after so many years of bad treatment, the Basques weren't so keen on swallowing all that Spain offered them.  The current Constitution lists Basque Country as an autonomous community, which is more or less like a state for us.  Within thier own automous community, the Basques have the right to control thier own schools, universities, health care, social services, urban and rural development and culture.  They are also granted the right to have thier own police force (Ertzaintza).  That aside, the Basques would like to be able to determine thier own relationship with Spain - basically they want the right to decide thier own independance.  For hundreds of years, the Basques lived alongside or in the Kingdoms that eventually became Spain, and during all of that time thier own fueros were respected along with the right to succeed if they chose to do so.  The current Constitutuion does not honor this right and for that reason and more, it isn't so highly celebrated here.  When it was being voted in, the Basque National Party urged people to abstain from voting.  With more than 50% of the residents abstaining from voting in Euskal Herria, they Basques don't feel tied to a Constitution that doesn't take into account thier input nor that they never endorsed.

So, while I have the day off, here it is not really a day for streamers and music.  I'm not one to complain for a sofa day though, gives me a little time to write to you guys.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Knowing what you know re: the Basque and that we are desendents of the Basque its no wonder you are so independent and self relient. Mom