Analysis: Basque Independence

Robert Acheritogaray 6 November 2008

I was born in the Basque Diaspora of California.

There are many Basque communities outside of the “homeland” that maintain our rich culture and pass it on to the next generation. My wife (who was born in the Basque Country) and I relocated here with our son in 2006 for a multitude of reasons.

We are “living the dream”. Our eldest (5 years old) is in a Basque immersion school in our village. Our second son was born here. We are in the Basque rural interior.

The question of independence is a very interesting. In Iparralde (three French-administered northern provinces) the desire for independence is not as strong as in the Hegoalde (four southern provinces administered by Spain). In my own experience, here people don’t mind being part of France but are very frustrated at the same time.

At this moment the French government is attacking people and institutions that promote any form of Basque autonomy. The frightening thing is that they are arresting (or is it kidnapping when there is no charge?) people without evidence. In one incident that took place in our town last year two of my neighbours were taken from their homes because someone accused them of participating in an act of vandalism which is called terrorism when it takes place in the Basque region.

The horrible thing that happens when you are detained is the label of “terrorist”. When the Government accuses you of this, it doesn’t need evidence. You are picked up and shipped off to the department capital or Paris. Your bank account is frozen and nobody can see you for several days. Both people were released without charge and without finding weapons or documents in their homes.

But there are some postitves. The Basque language schools (ikastola) and the Chamber of Agriculture are two structures that the Basque population felt it needed, and when the French government didn’t provide it, the Basques did it themselves. The ikastola was a grassroots idea that started out like home schooling.

Today, more than 25 years later, the children that come out of the ikastola system perform better than their French counterparts on the all important “Bac” exams. The unofficial Basque Chamber of Agriculture has been very successful since it addresses the everyday issues of agriculture here.

I hope they continue to fight the system and do the important work of developing a part of the local economy that Paris doesn’t seem to be interested in.

Robert Acheritogaray