The Basque people are an indigenous group to the northern part of Spain and a small part of southern France near the western part of the Pyrenees range and the Bay of Biscay—known as the Basque Country. Basques speak the language known as Basque, which is unrelated to any Indo-European languages and is believed to predate Romance languages. Traditionally, Basques have mostly been Roman Catholic; in fact Francis Xavier and Ignatius Loyola, two famous Catholic missionaries, were Basque. However, today, only about 50% of Basques profess a belief in a God.
Their linguistic uniqueness is paralleled by what seems to be genetic uniqueness as well. Studies have shown that their genetic uniqueness predates the development of agriculture in Iberia, approximately 7,000 years ago. Basque groups were written about has having lived in the region during Roman times.
Today, the Basque country is spread amongst the Basque Autonomous Community and Navarre in Spain, and a few communes in France. This autonomy was given in 1978. About 1/3 of the population in the BAC speaks Basque, which is being revived currently. Not everyone who lives in these regions is ethnically Basque. Outside the region, there are over 2 million Basques living in Spain and 250,000 in France. The United States also has a significant Basque population especially in and around Boise, Idaho, Reno Nevada, and the Central Valley of California. Chile also has about 2.5 million descendants of Basque immigrants, who mostly came over in the 16 and 1700s.
Both Spain and France have histories of attempting to suppress Basque identity by limiting the usage of the language and culturally absorbing the Basque community with state nationalism. France has been much worse in this regard than Spain as the language is declining in France as it is not officially recognized or taught, as opposed to Spain where it is experiencing growth. Furthermore, Basque areas have almost no autonomy in France, whereas they enjoy a great deal of autonomy in Spain. Basque language and culture was suppressed under Franco, as Basques mostly fought against him in the Civil War.
Sabino Arana is considered the father of the Basque nationalist movement beginning in the 1800s, which has pushed for self-determination and even independence, mostly aligning with left-wing political ideologies. The Spanish-ETA conflict was a conflict between Spain, France and the Basque National Liberation Movement, specifically the ETA or Euskadi Ta Askatasuna that began in 1959 and was the longest armed conflict in modern western European history. The group was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people, mostly Spanish administrators, politicians, and others. Spain, France, and the US labeled the ETA as a terrorist organization. In response, the Spanish government created the Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL) in the 1970s to fight the ETA, an illegal death squad that carried out attacks in the death country, killing both ETA members and civilians. The ETA retaliated with more attacks like car bombs in Barcelona and Madrid that killed GAL members and civilians. Attacks continued in the early 2000s, and Basque nationalist political parties were banned. Only recently, in 2012, did the separatist movement decide to suspend operations. Today, the Basques in Spain have the highest degree of autonomy of any stateless nation in the EU.
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