Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The geography of indepentism vs. unionism in the Southern Basque country

This is a very simple approximation exercise to the geography of independentism vs. unionism in the Southern Basque Country:

Basque-secessionist camp: Amaiur, EAJ-PNV, Geroa Bai!
Spanish-unionist camp: PP, PSOE, UPN-PP.
All other options (mostly amounting to very little) were ignored.
Light grey are unincorporated communal lands.
Castilian enclaves that have repeatedly shown their wish to join the Basque Country are in dark green (they could not vote to Basque Nationalist options in this election). 

Notice please that the scope of the election clearly favors the Spanish-unionist camp, which is therefore shown at its maximum possible influence. 

As I was drawing the map I came to repent to have chosen a too simple almost binary representation. Because what in some cases is almost 100% adherence to one camp, in others is barely above 50% of the vote and knowing this is also of interest. Still the B&W map allows for a very simplified peek to this Basque identitarian and political dualism - always under circumstances (all-Spain general election) that clearly favor the unionist camp.


  1. I think it is not far-fetched to analyze the results as following : once the Basque language is lost, ethnic consciousness vanishes and it is very uneasy to revert this phenomenon. The cases of "Rioja Alavesa" or the whole of modern Romance-speaking Navarre are obvious. But eventually, such model could be applied to study the whole history of "Vasconia" : romanization induces a loss of consciousness whenever it's happening.

    One exception are the Encartaciones which seem to have developed a strong Basque kinship, maybe because they feel attached to Bilbao, I cannot say, my knowledge is theoretical.

    In France, Basque independentism is strong where the Basque language was best preserved or where vernacular culture was less "contaminated" by the political sociology of neighbouring entities. For instance, Basque nationalism is low in Soule as this province has been influenced by Béarn and its unionist centre-left political tradition for centuries. Soule has developed a classical unionist political tradition that doesn't differ a bit from Béarn.

    Elsewhere in the French Basque Country, "patriotic" vote is not incompatible with a conservative vote à la PNV except that here Gaullist vote is the only way to express it. More recently, left-wing nationalist parties are gaining votes as they benefit from the disappearance of the Church.

    In the agglomeration of Bayonne, Basque nationalist vote is rather fashionable in a conservative way : Basque identity is used by Gaullists as a way to build a stronger identity which would help them get rid of the influence of Pau. In most local councils, UMP mayors are allied with rather left-wing Basque nationalists which is quite surprising but they feel like they've got a common enemy : we, Béarnais people. :D

    I lament this situation but there's nothing I can do, it's too late.

  2. There are several factors: one is indeed as you say the loss of language but would be just that, Basque Nationalism would be dead by now because only a minority of Basques speak Basque natively nowadays. There are others: it's clear that today you can almost fully feel ethnically (and hence politically) Basque without being fluent in the old language or even having Basque ancestors at all. It is largely a matter of chosen identity as well.

    However this is not so much an individual as a collective process - i.e. you decide "to be Basque" but the rest also accept you as such... and implicitly or even explicitly demand from you more or less strongly the corresponding socio-political loyalty, which translates eventually as votes (or other active supports).

    Being part of threatened nation comes with the urgency of a personal compromise of some sort. You can choose to be "neutral" or to be part of the invaders' ethnic identity (they also welcome you happily) but that comes with a price - you are less likely to be appreciated by others...

    And all that depends a lot of where exactly you live. In Tutera (or should I write Tudela?) the marginal is the one who feels Basque (stigmatized as "rebel" or even just "exotic"), while in Ondarroa it is the one who feels primarily Spaniard (labeled as "fascist" and "traitor").

    This does not need to be explicit or all-encompassing, not at all, but it is at some level anyhow. Of course there's a lot of "neutrals" who try to stay away from politics but these may be seen as dubious by both sides anyhow.

    It's not the language nor the blood (or not only): it is group loyalty, which in our reality is chosen freely, unlike in Bosnia.

    One of the elements is clearly the provinces (herrialdeak = regions). The provinces have been autonomous polities since many many centuries ago and have developed their own identities. And people with local roots, like those of Enkarterriak, who chose willingly to join Biscay long ago, will vote Biscay and Biscay is Basque (and in that area that means mostly EAJ-PNV). The same happens in Araba, with two exceptions: the capital and the Ebro banks (irregularly), where they feel more akin to La Rioja and riverine Navarre, of Spanish identity and language, pivoting more around Logroño and Miranda than around Vitoria-Gasteiz.

    But the key conflict has been developing since c. a century ago in Navarre. Tudela is clearly a non-Basque area (no memory of ever speaking Basque or being part of a Basque polity other than Navarre itself) and that Romance (now Spanish) South-Navarrese identity has spread like a cancer in northwards direction. The key moment probably happened in the 1930s, when the Navarrese voted for delegates who in theory supported joining the would-be Basque autonomous community, but some of these betrayed their commitment and voted against in the end in what was quite an scandal (but is now mostly forgotten). Since then a central pillar of Spanish nationalism has been to eradicate Basque language and identity in Navarre and to some extent they have achieved it.

    As for the North, you know better. But I do not think that there is animosity against "the Bearnais" as much as against the antidemocratic attitude of Paris, which once and again denies the Basque People any recognition in a clear act of genocide and war.


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