Tag Archives: Basque

Basque Traditions: the Txarriboda, or Pig Slaughter

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By mid November climate changes and winter settles in the Basque Country. Then, in many “baserris“, Basque farm houses, people get ready for the celebration of the txarriboda, a centuries old event that was intended to assure the daily intake of food for the next few months. The baserritarras, of owners of the farm, call their friends and neighbours and settle a date for the txarriboda or pig slaughter. They choose the biggest one of their swines and feed him well in the weeks prior to the big day. It´s a big party for everyone, and kids are -usually- also (passive) spectators. The pig is laid down and the butcherer cuts his throat deep and long, blood spurting down into a bucket, where it´s collected to make the diverse pork products afterwards. Hairs are burnt with wooden sticks, pig is cleaned and ”sanitized”. Men kill and cut the pig, women make the food.

Once the pig is dissected, cut in half, his blood collected…the feast of the preparation of food begins. Meanwhile, there may be music on the frontyard of the farm, and people dancing, and friends socializing having some drinks and food. There´s normally a big table and food and drinks are laid on it, so everybody enjoys the party. Morcillas (blood sausage with rice or vegetables), chorizo (red sausage, spicy or not), bacon, ribs, ham,…, everything is stuffed and made and then hung on to the ceiling on a fresh space to cure for a few weeks. Deliciously fresh, natural, preservative free…a real pleasure to your senses once they are cured enough to eat.

Of course, a veterinarian has certified the good health of the pig and of the products that are obtained from it…this is a modern society too, despite its centuries old traditions.

I wanted to include some videos, but as they may be hard on your eyes :)  you may just type Txarriboda on Youtube…

Some Useless Facts & Figures about the Basque Country, I

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- Gipuzkoa is the smallest province in Spain, and the most densely populated. Capital city: San Sebastián, a.k.a. Donostia, in Basque.

- We are just 3 million Basques in Europe. Half live in Bizkaia. There´s five more times Basque descendants overseas.

- We have the highest number of blood and organ donors per capita in the world. Also, the highest income per capita in Spain.

- Basques know the Basque Country as “Euskadi“, its official name.

- Euskadi is also known as “The Little Switzerland“, because of its mountainous profile.

- 70% of our surface is forest, and a great part of it is protected.

- Basque language has seven dialects. Many Basque speakers use different words for the same concept. For instance, days of the week or months of the year.

- Basque is spoken too in the French Basque Country (Iparralde, in Basque). Euskadi is also known as Euskal Herria (an ethnic concept), 7 provinces, three forming Euskadi, another one is Navarre and the other three are in France. Around 30% of Basques speak Basque, an increasing figure.

- There are over 70 beaches in our 150 miles coast, all free from massive tourism and over construction.

- It used to rain a lot…it still does, but the feeling is that “it doesn´t rain as before”…

- The Rioja wine region is mostly in the Basque country, where top wines are produced. We also produce natural fermented cider and txakoli“, a young wine with Denomination of Origin.

- The Athletic Bilbao soccer team, founded in 1898, has never relegated to 2nd division and plays with Basque players only.

Castles in the Basque Country II. The Tower of Varona.

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This beautifully restored castle, or maybe fortress, built originally in the IX century and rebuilt on the XIII-XIV,  is located in the beautiful Valdegobia valley, in the much unknown province of Araba. Scarcely populated, it´s nevertheless full of historical places (very close to it is Valpuesta, one of the first places where the Spanish Castilian language was born) and near the pretty church of Tuesta. Also very close to the Natural Park of Valderejo and the town of Espejo (“mirror”, in Spanish). Nature at its full length…

The legends goes that there were three brothers and a sister, María Pérez, and the first three went to battle for Doña Urraca against  king Alfonso of Aragón. The lady also participated in the battle, hidden under an armor, and at one moment she found herself battling against the king, face to face. She defeated him, and admired by her braveness and after finding out he had been fighting with a woman, he told her “You´ve fought bravely, not as a feeble woman, but as a strong warrior. Therefore, you will not be considered a man hereafter (“Varón”, in Spanish), but “Varona” in feminine, and thus that will be the name for your descendents”. And so her name changed from Pérez to Varona.

For more info on the area, http://www.valdegovia.com/en/ver_index.asp, also on the romanic and pre-gothic church of Tuesta, Valderejo Natural Park, Salinas de Añana, etc…A very relaxing area, very authentic, full of unexplored jewels…And eating at the restaurant in the public swimming pool of Valdegobia may also be a great idea…

Castles in the Basque Country I. Castle of Butrón

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The castle of Butrón corresponds to the romantic idea of a castle. Located in Gatika, 20 miles from Bilbao, it was a mediaeval fortress built on the XIII century, that served as defensive tower in the fights that took place for centuries between Oñacinos and Gamboinos, the two big families that dominated the Basque Country in the Middle Ages. On the XVI century another castle was built on its place, and then it was abandoned for many years until the Marqués de Cubas recontructed and gave its present shape on the XIX century.butrón 1

At present, it belongs to a private company, it has served as restaurant for some years but it´s currently closed for visits. In any case, the views and the pictures you can take are spectacular. It is surrounded by a luxurious tree garden, with exotic species, and the visit is really worth it.

Those Basque Names and Surnames…

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As you all well know, in the Spanish Basque Country, Navarra and Basque French Country (complicated, uh!) there are three languages spoken, Spanish, French and Basque (and the latter, with 7 dialects!!). And that most signs are written in both languages (Basque and Spanish or Basque and French). Now I´ll deal with Basque people´s names, since they are also a particularity that make of us a rarity in the Iberian Peninsula…

Traditional names in the Basque Country were very common in the past: Jesús, María, José, Antonio, Francisco, Ángel, Ángeles, Piedad, …Yes, many people are called Jesus in Spain (without any religious connotation!!) And what´s more, they are called in many cases Jesús María (for a man) or María Jesús (for a woman). Or José María (man) or María José (woman). The custom was to put the name of the saint of the day to the newborn, or a biblical name. By the way, those called José are called Pepe (coming from P.P., short for Pater Putativo, a father that really isn´t), those called Jesus Maria are called Txusma or Jesusmari…Spanish names have a lot of “diminutive” alias.

In the 80´s there was a strong current in favour of  Basque names, based on Basque mythology or on nature. Hence, we got many “Aitor” (father of the Basques), “Amaia” (the mother), Garikoitz, Aritz (oak), Harri (stone), Eder (pretty), Garazi (special), Gorka (translation for George), Ibai (river), Odei (cloud), Ainara (swallow),  Oihane (scream), Irati (a virgin and also a forest),…These names have nothing to do with Spanish ones and are a clear sign of the origin (and sometimes, of the political views) of the parents. Also, many names are based on Virgin´s names, for instance, Arantza (from the Virgin of Arantzazu) or Begoña.

Basque surnames are also different. In many cases, they show the place of origin of the person. Etxebarria (or Echevarria) means “New House”, Madariaga (Place with Pear Trees), Ibarra (Valley), Urrunaga (Far Away Place), Arizmendi (Oak Mountain), etc. There are very long Basque surnames, with long meanings (Agirregomezkorta, Atxalandabaso, Aguinagalde, Uriberrementeria, Bedialauneta, Ocerinjauregui,…). An interesting place to visit and see the extraordinary long names in the tombs is the Markina cemetery, beautiful area and beautiful cemetery.

Last, in the Basque Country, as in Spain, we always use two surnames, the father´s first and then the mother´s. For example, a girl named Ainhoa, with a mother Ana García and a father David Zubizarreta, is named Ainhoa Zubizarreta García. Women don´t lose their maiden´s name when they marry. Now you can put the mother´s name first (as they do in Portugal, where they say that you always know who is the mother, but not so sure about the father…it makes sense!).

Yes, I know, what the heck has this to do with Basque tourism…but I thought you may find the above interesting!!