This article was translated by John R. Bopp

Viewpoints: The Maskarada in Xiberoa (Soule) (Video)

We’ve spent the past three days fulfilling an ambition we’d had for a long time: visiting the northern- and easternmost part of the Basque Country, Soule, or Xiberua, with a modicum of calm.

A while back, we blogged: “If there’s a place in the world where Basques feel Basques, it’s Soule, or Zuberoa.  This Basque territory north of the Pyrenees is the smallest in size and population of the seven Basque provinces, with just 760km² / 293mi² and just over 15,000 inhabitants, but for many, it’s the heart of the Basque lands.

This is something we finally got to feel these past few days.  But this trip has also served to reaffirm some thoughts we had:

View of Zalgize-Doneztebe (Sauguis-Saint-Étienne)
View of Zalgize-Doneztebe (Sauguis-Saint-Étienne)

We are a nation made up of seven territories that have many ties that closely link them together, but we’re also very different.  On our trip from our starting point on the Left Bank of the Nervión outside Bilbao to our destination in Zalgize-Doneztebe, we saw five different types of popular architectre; we heard four different forms of Basque; and, above all, we were in two different countries with their own powerful languages, cultures, and political wills, which have all deeply influenced the Basques under their administration.

We are definitely part of a nation made up of territories with big personality.  As a good friend who understands these things well once told us, “We’re not ‘the Basque Country’, but rather ‘the Basque Countries’”.  

And this reinforces in us the idea that the construction of our nation would have to be similar to that of the Swiss Confederation.  We feel that the original idea set forth by Basque nationalism at the end of the 19th century that our nation should be a “confederation of fraternal territories, equal and free” is more valid than ever before.

We also felt that Basques on both sides of the Pyrenees understand each other poorly.  We often felt that we see each other more as strangers than brothers.  There’s a lot of work still to do in this area, and it won’t be easy.

But getting to the most important point: the Northern Basque Country is fascinating for “Southerners”.  Its people are charming, its gastronomy fantastic, its views are incredible, its Iroulegy wine is delicious, its cider is first-class…definitely a can’t-miss.

We also had the opportunity to enjoy a Souletin Mascarade in Barcus.

Souletin Mascarade in Barcus
Souletin Mascarade in Barcus

We came back with a camera full of photos we’ll be sharing with you.  But, above all, we came back with a clear idea: we have to get to know our northern brothers better!