The National Geographic website has just published an amazing article by Annelise Jolley on their Spanish -and English-language websites about the importance of cider in the cultural, social, and economic history of the Basques.

We’ve mentioned, on many occasions, the starring role the Basques from both sides of the Pyrenees have played in sailing, exploration, and fishing for centuries.  This reached a high point in the Age of Discovery.  The Basques really did contribute a lot, though most of it seems to have been forgotten, or at least is not appropriately touted, by our society.

Fishermen, whalers, explorers, sailors, and more created the great routes that would be sailed for centuries—the legacy of Basque sailors is enormous.  We here at the blog, over the more than ten years we’ve been writing it, have discovered bits of that history, which we’ve  been sharing with you.  We never cease to be amazed by the epic journeys the Basque have taken.

And it seems that one drink, cider, played an essential role in that history.  It was the “secret weapon” that allowed Basque sailors to embark on long transatlantic journeys after cod and whales without suffering that scourge of sailors worldwide, which, as the article points out, was the cause of more deaths than all the other ways a sailor could die combined: scurvy.

And the article covers this, as well as delving into just how rooted cider is in the culture of the Basque Country.  It goes over the history of the beverage, the recovery of the sagardotegi traditions, and the great overlap of cider, with everything that entails, with Basque culture, not only at home but wherever Basques have gone.  It also shares some clues about where to find “Basque cider” in the US, and about where to go to try cider when one comes to visit the Basque Country.

The map of the Basque Country in this 1968 issue of ‘National Geographic’.  Pay close attention to the text accompanying the map: it’s a must-read, especially bearing in mind when it was published.

We’ve shared many articles from all corners of the globe covering “cider matters.”  We’ve also shared articles about the Basques that have appeared in this prestigious US publication.  One we just have to highlight is a 1968 article titled Land of the Ancient Basques.  This extraordinary article was written by Basque-American author Robert Laxalt, with photos by William Albert Allard.  The text helped many Americans become aware of the existence of the Basque Country, and we’re sure it gave an ulcer to Franco’s ambassador to the US.

Mapa de ubicación de «Basque Country» en la versión en ingles del artículo sobre la sidra vasca, no recogido en la edición en castellano
Map of the location of the “Basque Country” in the English-language version of the article on Basque cider, curiously missing from the Spanish-language edition

Two of the causes of that ulcer were the map, labeled “The Basque Country” (including all the territories on both sides of the Pyrenees) and the text that went with it.  What’s more, it was simply the opening page to a massive 37-page article.

It would therefore seem that there are many things that don’t change, because this map showing the location of the Land of the Basques is included in the English-language edition, but, despite being a lot less explicit than the 1968 map, is nowhere to be found in the Spanish edition.  These things happen

In any case, beyond anecdotes, the article is doubly good, because of what it tells, and because it’s being told to millions of readers all over the world, allowing all to discover things about the Basques that are normally not told.

Eskerrik Asko Annelise Jolley and National Geographic.

We’ll leave you with the articles in Spanish and English.


National Geographic – 19/5/2021 – USA

Las sidrerías del País Vasco mantienen viva una historia antigua

Con más estrellas Michelín per cápita que cualquier otra ciudad del planeta, San Sebastián es el centro gastronómico de España y, posiblemente, del mundo. Y el mundo ha tomado nota. En los últimos años, los famosos bares de pintxos de la ciudad se han popularizado entre los turistas. Los recorridos gastronómicos locales alejan a los grupos de la Parte Vieja de la ciudad, un barrio hacinado que está hasta arriba durante la hora punta de la tarde. Pero el patrimonio culinario de San Sebastián incluye un reclamo potente y antiguo: la sidra.


National Geographic – 18/5/2021 – USA

Basque Country’s cider houses keep an ancient history alive

With more Michelin stars per capita than any city on Earth, San Sebastián is the gastronomic center of Spain, and possibly the world. And the world has taken notice. In recent years the city’s famous pintxo bars (a Basque spin on tapas) have grown increasingly popular with tourists. Local food tours steer groups away from Old Town, the cramped neighborhood that swells to bursting during the evening rush. But San Sebastián’s culinary heritage includes a potent, older attraction: cider.

(English) (Automatic translation)


Last Updated on Jul 20, 2021 by About Basque Country

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