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2016

Basque

Innovation by Culture

Introduction

The Basque country is a region that spans borders. Located in northern Spain and southwestern France, straddling the Pyrenees Mountains, its spirit can be felt on the sheep-grazed mountains of Idaho, in fishing communities from Scotland to Newfoundland, and in towns across Mexico and Argentina.

From an early period, Basques looked beyond their borders for resources and inspiration, a trait that keeps them on the cutting edge of global economic and sustainability movements. However, their commitment to language and cultural preservation may be the key to their success. To present this intricate tension, musicians, dancers, boat makers, cooks, and other experts from the Basque country and diaspora communities shared their unique traditions and perspectives as part of the Basque: Innovation by Culture program.

Map by Dan Cole, Smithsonian Institution. Blaaa llldk dkdkd foo bar. Map by Dan Cole, Smithsonian Institution. Blaaa llldk dkdkd foo bar

Basque culture has always emphasized innovation. The Basque were among the earliest European explorers, fishermen, and whalers to venture to the Western Hemisphere, and their culture reflects this historic influence. Many iconic Basque foods have their roots in the Western Hemisphere and the seafaring heritage, including bakailao (salted cod), piperrada (pepper-based sauce), and marmitako (tuna and potato stew). Today, Basque cuisine sets the standard for farm-to-table and sea-to-table quality.

The Basque have long been leaders in industry, helping usher in the Industrial Revolution after discovering rich bands of iron ore in their mountains. They prospered during the cooperative movement of the mid-twentieth century and are now innovators in car part manufacturing, sustainable energy, transportation, and engineering.

While Basque culture is innovative and outward looking, the people maintain strong cultural roots. They constitute one of the oldest communities in Europe, and today approximately one million people worldwide speak Basque, or Euskara, a language once on the brink of extinction and now an example of successful language revitalization. To many Basques, language is a key component of their identity.

This program was co-presented and co-sponsored by the Basque Country institutions: the Basque Government

  • A blacksmith heats his iron in a traditional forge before demonstrating the technique for shaping the metal.

    Photo by Anne Pederson, Ralph Rinzler Photo Archives

    Frontoia (The Handball Court)
  • A blacksmith heats his iron in a traditional forge before demonstrating the technique for shaping the metal.

    Photo by Anne Pederson, Ralph Rinzler Photo Archives

    Lantegia (The Workshop)
  • A blacksmith heats his iron in a traditional forge before demonstrating the technique for shaping the metal.

    Photo by Anne Pederson, Ralph Rinzler Photo Archives

    Euskara
  • A blacksmith heats his iron in a traditional forge before demonstrating the technique for shaping the metal.

    Photo by Anne Pederson, Ralph Rinzler Photo Archives

    Baserria (The Farmstead)
  • A blacksmith heats his iron in a traditional forge before demonstrating the technique for shaping the metal.

    Photo by Anne Pederson, Ralph Rinzler Photo Archives

    Portua (The Port)
  • A blacksmith heats his iron in a traditional forge before demonstrating the technique for shaping the metal.

    Photo by Anne Pederson, Ralph Rinzler Photo Archives

    Basque Diaspora in the United States
  • A blacksmith heats his iron in a traditional forge before demonstrating the technique for shaping the metal.

    Photo by Anne Pederson, Ralph Rinzler Photo Archives

    Basque Journeys: Stories in Film
  • A blacksmith heats his iron in a traditional forge before demonstrating the technique for shaping the metal.

    Photo by Anne Pederson, Ralph Rinzler Photo Archives


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