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Who Are the Basques?

Basque people are known as Euskalduna, which means the person who speaks Basque, or Euskaldunak the people who speak Basque. The Basque Country in its totality is known as Euskal Herria. It comprises seven provinces; Alava, Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa Navarra, Labourd, Basse Navarre and Soule.


The Basques and their language and culture are said to be more ancient than any other in Europe. The Basque language is unique, with its roots showing no connection to the family of Indo-European languages. The region of the Basque people could hold the secret of the oldest known origins of Homo sapiens in Europe. Basque forefathers created the Pyrenean cave paintings of the Stone Age period.


Medieval Basques were Europe’s first whalers. They were accomplished sailors and navigators and were the first people known to circumnavigate the world by ocean.· Many Basques were crew-members on the early European explorer ships. It was Basque sailors who, in 1492, set sail with Columbus to the New World. 


Although the precise source of the Basque culture is unknown, it is clear the sheepherding instinct and the crafts and practices that accompanied it, is ingrained at the deepest level of Basque culture. Agricultural processes and sheepherding are also known to have been practiced for centuries in the Basque region.


Basque immigrants to the Americas were explorers who part of an expansionist culture. They settled in many countries all over the world. The largest groupings are in the Americas, especially in the North American West in places such as  Nevada and California; and in Argentina. There are smaller groupings in Wyoming, Utah, Mexico and Central America. Basques have become very successful wherever they choose to settle and have proudly brought their culture to their new homes. 

Basque Symbols

The Lauburu (Basque Cross)

lauburu, basque cross

The Lauburu is a mythological symbol to denote the four elements of which everything is formed, water, earth, air and fire. Lauburu means "four heads" (Lau means four, Buru means Head). The vertical heads, represent female expression (emotional and perceptual) or the elements of fire and water. The horizontal heads, represent male energy (mental and physical) or the elements air and earth. This symbol was later to be considered as the Pre-Christian Basque Cross and symbol of prosperity.

The Eguzkilore (Sun Flower)

Eguzkilore, sun flower, flower of the sun, basque

The Sun is considered to be the eye of God and it is a very popular tradition to put the Eguzkilore (flower of the sun) on the doors or above the doorways of the houses to keep away the bad, evil spirits of the night. It is used to fool the evil night spirits into thinking the sun is shining and it is believed it will keep them, and bad fortune away, from the house and it’s occupants.

Camino de Santiago - The Way

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The Camino de Santiago, also known by the English name Way of St. James is the route to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. The Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James is a spiritual journey that pilgrims of all faiths and backgrounds have traversed for over a thousand years. Many take up this route as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. The first pilgrimages started in the 9th century. The Spanish consider the Pyrenees a starting point. Common starting points along the French border are Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees and Valcarlos and Roncesvalles on the Spanish side. This Camino route covers 800 kilometers that traverses an idyllic northern Spanish countryside. By following the yellow painted arrows marking the road, a pilgrim can expect to walk 12-15 miles a day to reach the next town for the night.


Most pilgrims carry a scalloped shell and also carry a document called the credencial, The credencial is a pass which gives access to inexpensive, sometimes free, overnight accommodations in refugios along the trail. Also known as the "pilgrim's passport", the credencial is stamped with the official St. James stamp of each town or refugio at which the pilgrim has stayed. It provides walking pilgrims with a record of where they ate or slept, but also serves as proof to the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago that the journey is accomplished according to an official route.


The scallop shell also acts as a metaphor. The grooves in the shell, which meet at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela.

Tarta de Santiago de Compostela

Recipe

The tarta de Santiago is an essential on every menú del peregrino. The top of the almond tart is decorated with the St. James Cross Santiago de Compostela, which you can buy here. 


The Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James is a spiritual journey that pilgrims of all faiths and backgrounds have traversed for over a thousand years. The cross and tarta are symbols of the journey.


Make the tarta de Santiago and transport yourself to Santiago de Compostela!


10 Tbsp butter, softened

12 oz. slivered amonds, toasted

2 cups sugar, divided

1-1/4 cup flou

4 eggs

1 lemon, juice and rind, optional

1/2 tsp almond extract

Powdered sugar (for decorating the top)


  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 10” springform pan or line the bottom with a greased round of parchment paper.
  • Toast the almonds until slightly brown. Grind the almonds in a food processor with 1 cup of the sugar as finely as possible.
  • Separate the eggs.
  • In a bowl beat the butter and ½ cup sugar until fluffy then add the egg yolks one by one and continue beating for about 5 minutes. Add the almond extract.
  • Combine flour and ground almonds and then add this slowly to the egg yolk and sugar mixture. Add lemon juice and rind.
  • Beat the egg whites with a bit of cream of tartar until they hold soft peaks. While gradually adding the last ½ cup sugar, continue beating until the whites hold medium stiff peaks.
  • Stir about ¼ of the egg whites into the batter and then carefully fold the batter into the remaining whites.
  • Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden and a toothpick come out clean when inserted in the middle.
  • After the tarta cools, remove from pan, invert and peel off the parchment paper. Then re-invert proper side up on the plate.
  • Use the stencil of the Cross of the Order of Santiago and dust the top with powdered sugar.

Enjoy!

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