This article was translated by John R. Bopp
Today, we’re going to make one of those exceptions we so love and talk about an author who’s half-Basque. Why? Because we loved the article Felix Mugurutza has written in his blog, “El Arca de No Sé” (The Ark of I Don’t Know), which is part of the blogosphere at Deia, the newspaper.
We’re referring to his latest entry, in which he explains the special importance “agur” has among the Basques, discussing the word’s origins, and the symbolic value it has in our land.
It’s a value that still maintains its honorific treatment, and which can still be used as “hello” and “goodbye”. As he explains:
“Hence, in many places, the hymn “Agur Jaunak” (“jaunak”=”gentlemen”) is interpreted as receiving —and not saying goodbye to— those distinguished, honored, or authority figures you want to display the highest honors to. It was, so to speak, and has been recalled so many times, something similar to “salve” or “ave” to the Romans.
Nowadays, and especially in the Northern Basque Country, it’s still common to use “agur” as a greeting to distinguished guests, or as the greeting of a formal letter, or in prayers (“Agur Maria” for “Hail Mary”).
It’s a words Basques assimilated no less than two millennia ago from Latin, and have made it one of their “symbols”. We’re sure there’s someone out there who’s asking how a Latin word can be considered Basque.
Of course, no one asks how talo can be considered a fundamental part of traditional Basque cuisine when its main ingredient, corn, was unknown in Europe until the 16th century, nor how traditional “Spanish” dishes can be considered so when they use peppers, tomatoes, or corn, all originally from the Americas.
Languages, like gastronomy can take “foreign” influence in and, with time, make them their own. That happens in cooking around the world, and in all languages, and Basque neither is, nor can be, nor wants to be an exception.
The truth is that we really liked this article, and all the other ones we’ve had the opportunity to read on his blog. It’s an excellent collection of “bite-sized” bits of Basque culture, history, traditions, and feelings, which can help us get to know and understand our land better.
Many of these stories are based on an extremely interesting bit of our nation, which starts in the Arratia Valley in Biscay and goes through the Ayala area in Araba. It’s an area that combines the ability to preserve our traditions with the road that since the 17th century has connected Bilbao and the Interior Plateau of Spain, one of the routes that most helped the commercial and industrial development of this part of the Land of the Basques. It was a route that surprised John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers and eventual President of the US, on his eventful journey from Philadelphia to Paris.
An excellent and very necessary blog that we recommend everyone follow
El Arca de No Se – 1/2017 – Euskadi
El enigma de nuestra palabra “agur”
En el euskera no existe ni de lejos otra palabra tan grandiosa como nuestro AGUR. Se mire por donde se mire es sublime: en lo referente a su extensión geográfica ocupa todo el territorio del euskera, no tiene variantes dialectales de ningún tipo (inaudito en nuestro idioma) y, por otra parte, es el vocablo con mayor aceptación y uso social, incluso entre los que no saben euskera. Es la palabra-llave de la que primero se valen los extraños que desean integrarse en Euskal Herria, la que les abre la puerta a las mil y una maravillas de nuestra cultura, idioma y país. Es también la palabra de nuestra lengua que primero ofrecemos para que todos la compartan con nosotros. AGUR es, al fin y al cabo, el vocablo con el que los vascos abrazamos y besamos el universo que nos rodea…