Basques - Sociopolitical Organization

The Basque country is a part of Spain and France, both constitutional democracies.

Social Organization. Basque society is suffused with an egalitarian ethos. The owner of a baserria is extolled as an etxekojaun (lord of the household) and his spouse as etxekoandria (lady of the household). Basque fishermen are similarly proud and independent. The Basque country was largely untouched by western European feudalism, and there is a common belief that every Basque is a noble. There is considerable social mobility, and wealth differences do not automatically determine social status. However, there is an urban Basque plutocracy of factory owners, bankers, and wealthy professionals who relate more to the Spanish and French national elites than to their fellow Basque peasants, shopkeepers, etc. There is a near castelike division between Basques and non-Basques, with the latter constituting much of the lower-class, urban proletariat. Non-Basques are the frequent targets of resentment and discrimination.

Political Organization. At the municipal level Communities are governed by an elected mayor and town council. The three regions in France form, with Bearn, the "Département des Pyrénées Atlantiques" with its seat of government in Pau. Each of the four provinces in Spain has its own popularly elected assembly or diputación. Nafarroa now constitutes its own autonomous region within the Spanish state. Gipuzkoa, Bizkaia, and Araba together form the Autonomous Community of Euskadi. This regional government is funded largely by the participating diputaciónes. With its capital in Vitoria (Gasteiz), it has its own popularly elected president, parliament, and ministries. It controls some mass media, the educational system, economic development, and cultural affairs. All foreign relations are handled by Madrid. Basques elect representatives to the Spanish and French parliaments as well.

Social Control. Social control at the local level is largely through peer pressure. The parish priest exercises moral influence beyond the strictly religious sphere.

Conflict. The Basque area is heavily policed, particularly on the Spanish side. The Spanish "Guardia Civil" is an Omnipresent, largely despised factor in local life. Even political moderates tend to regard their homeland as "occupied," and removal of this force is one of the main demands of Basque nationalists of all persuasions. Clashes between the guardias and the ETA have produced more than 600 deaths over the past three decades.

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