This article was translated by John R. Bopp
In August of 1968, National Geographic published an outstanding 37-page article titled “Land of the Ancient Basques”. It was written by Basque-American author Robert Laxalt, with photographs by William Albert Allard.
We found this priceless jewel by accident. On December 29,. 2012, the National Geographic magazine’s website chose a photo of some Basque baserritarras, published in their August 1968 issue, as the Photo of the Day, and we talked about it here. As we’re curious by nature, we started digging into why this publication had this photo, and we found that the New York Society Library offers the possibility of looking at the pages of that publication.
This is where we began to be fascinated. The journalism is simply marvellous. The photographs are extraordinary, and show a Basque Country that no longer exists, that seems to be from another age, but in which many of those who’ve made this country advance so far in so little time lived.
The text by Robert Laxalt, an American of Basque descent who was also Basque in his heart, as his career proves, cannot be missed, and William Albert Allard’s photography is sublime.
We hope our readers will enjoy this little jewel that shows us a slice of our recent history as much as we have, feeling closer to those who came before to better understand ourselves today.
It’s a view that complements and broadens the view Orson Welles gave us in his 1950s documentary for the BBC.
An anecdote: we imagine the Francoist ambassador to the United States wouldn’t find this report at all funny, especially with a map of Basque lands represented as being distinct from Spanish. Let’s not forget that in 1968, if a Basque had this map in Francoist Spain and was caught, he’d be in big trouble with the Régime and its henchmen. And it just so happens that at that time, the Francoist ambassador to the US was Alfonso Merry del Val y de Alzola, born in Bilbao in 1902.
We’ll leave you with a .pdf copy of the images of this report, which can be found on the New York Society Library’s website (pp 240 on)
Well, it seems that link is now dead, but the document is still visible here