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Basque Families

Family Size, Gender Roles, Daily Life, Language In The Family, Families And Political Prisoners

Any discussion of the Basque family must begin by acknowledging that Basque families can and do exist outside the Basque country. They differ even within the Basque country because sociological and political definitions are framed by the influence of two different states, Spain and France. The region known as the Basque country comprises an area of a hundred square miles (about the size of the state of Rhode Island) historically divided into seven provinces. Three of the provinces are in France (Behe-Nafarroa, Lapurdi, and Zuberoa), and four are in Spain (Araba, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, and Navarra). The provinces in France are contained within the official Département des Pyrenées-Atlantiques.

Political changes in Spain since the death of Francisco Franco in 1975 have affected the names used to refer to the provinces there. With the Spanish Constitution of 1978, Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa became the Autonomous Community of Euskadi, and Navarra became the Autonomous Community of Navarra. In the Basque language, Euskara, the provinces on the French side of the border are called Iparralde "the north side," and those in Spain are Hegoalde, "the south side." Many Basques refer to the Basque country as a whole (the traditional seven provinces) as Euskal Herria, the Basque Country. The variation in the spelling of Navarra (the Spanish spelling) and Nafarroa (the Basque spelling in Behe-Nafarroa) is representative of political differences of opinion that have long existed between Navarra and the provinces now known as Euskadi.

Euskara has played an important role in many aspects of Basque life and politics, but the language had no standardized spelling for many centuries. During the mid-twentieth century, the process of standardization began in earnest. As a result, any search for information about the Basque provinces must take into account the variable spellings for each: Araba (Alava); Behe-Nafarroa (Basse-Navarre); Bizkaia (Vizcaya, Biscay); Gipuzkoa (Guipúzcoa); Lapurdi (Laburdi, Labourd); Navarra (Nafarroa, Navarre); and Zuberoa (Xiberoa, Soule).

The Basque history of migration means that there are also populations in the Americas, the Philippines, Australia, and other parts of the world who identify themselves as Basque. However, after the second generation, many of the family traits of these groups are strongly influenced by the culture in which they are living. The Basque provinces in rural agricultural Iparralde are very small, and the population is about one-tenth that of the provinces in Spain. For that reason, the Basque family described here is assumed to dwell in Hegoalde, unless otherwise noted.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural Aspects