Biarritz (AFP)

The Basque Country, where the G7 summit is settling in Biarritz from 24 to 26 August, is a special case in Europe: a territory straddling two countries, with an ancestral language but still alive and a cultural identity still very marked .

- Seven historical provinces:

Straddling France and Spain, the Basque Country (Euskal Herria) has some 3 million inhabitants, mostly Spanish, on about 20,000 km2. North of the border, the historical provinces of Labourd, Soule and Basse-Navarre form an agglomeration community in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques. In the south, Gipuzkoa, Alava and Bizkaia have been together since 1979 in a regional autonomous community and Navarre, partly Basque-speaking, is a separate regional community.

The American continent is sometimes called the "eighth province", because of the large number of descendants of Basques who immigrated there. They gave Argentina ten presidents between 1853 and 1943, others became farmers in the "Great West" American. There are "Basque houses" (cultural associations) from Chile to Canada.

- Between sea and mountain:

The typical landscape is hilly and mountainous (Pyrenees), the countryside is very green because the oceanic climate is particularly humid (it rains more in Biarritz than at the tip of Brittany) and the coast mainly rocky, with "conches", beaches sand in the bay, as in San Sebastián and Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

Tourism (Biarritz and its Grande Plage, Bilbao and its Guggenheim Museum, Pamplona and its festivals) holds an important place in the local economy on both sides of the Pyrenees, as well as fishing and agriculture, especially the breeding of sheep. The industrial sector is mainly present on the Spanish side (one-third of the GDP of the autonomous community).

- Millennium implantation:

The Basque people have been established in their region for millennia but their origins remain poorly known. The cement of its identity is Euskara, presented as "the oldest language still alive in Europe".

"Here, wrote Victor Hugo in 1843, a secret and deep link, and nothing could break, unites, even in spite of the treaties (...) and the Pyrenees (...), all the members of the mysterious Basque family ". Valid observations in the 21st century.

- Mutxiko, chistera or pintxos:

The oral tradition is an important marker of traditional culture, still very much alive, as in Soule with masquerades and pastoral, kinds of plays performed, danced and sung outdoors and in Basque.

In a circle like the "mutxiko", more solemn like the "aurresku", the Basque dances enliven the popular festivals of the villages.

Each village has its pediment where we practice pelota, a sport that is played with a small hard ball facing a wall and comes in several forms, the most noble being the "bare hand" and the most spectacular one played with a big "chistera" (long wicker glove).

Basque culture is also available on the plate: pintxos (small rations), axoa (minced) veal with Espelette pepper or sheep's cheese served with black cherry jam are some of the must-haves. To quench his thirst: Irouléguy (wine), patxaran (liqueur of sloes) or cider, which is pulled directly from a big barrel.

- Soon the Olympics?

Biarritz is a candidate to welcome the surf at the JO-2024. This is where the sport first landed in Europe in 1956, when the American screenwriter Peter Viertel, husband of the actress Deborah Kerr, came to Biarritz with a board for the shooting of the film "The sun rises too" . Local youth will catch the virus. Since then, surfing has become a major economic vector for Biarritz and the Basque-Landes coast, which offers a wide variety of waves over some thirty km of coastline.

© 2019 AFP