Basque And Catalan Cultures

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Spain offers visitors a phenomenal wealth of history, art, gastronomy, and more, but the Basque and Catalan cultures stand out. Both are tributes to the resilience of their peoples, certainly, in that they have survived as well as they have through numerous attempts to absorb them into the Spanish whole. San Sebastian and Bilboa are the cities of Basque, and Barcelona the city of Catalan. The history lessons on each are long and fascinating. Both the regions and the distinct Basque and Catalan cultures are a delight and an opportunity for all travelers.

Basque and Catalan Cultures: the Context

For the visitor from abroad, however, it is important to recognize that the powers of endurance of these two Basque and Catalan cultures remain tenuous. The threats are different, of course. There is no longer any deliberate effort to subdue or assimilate them. This process, however, might continue on its own as part of a vastly changing world.

The Basque region lies in Spain's northeast along the Bay of Biscay and the Pyrenees. Traditional Basque culture, for example, has declined in the face of the great urban and industrial development in the region during the 20th century. Basque is spoken by only about 20 percent of its population, and all Basque speak either French or Spanish, or both.

The Catalan province lies to the southeast, along the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees. Governed in succession by different powers since the Phoenicians first arrived, the Catalan culture is perhaps exemplified in Barcelona. During the Spanish Revolution in the 1930s, Francisco Franco attempted to stamp it out entirely, by prohibiting Catalan names, enforcing Castilian Spanish over any dialects or other languages, and stamping out minority culture everywhere.

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