Basque Fact of the Week: Today is Aberri Eguna, or Basque Fatherland Day

Aberri Eguna On! Happy Aberri Eguna!

Aberri Eguna, coinciding with Easter every year, is a celebration of the Basque Country. It has always had a political aspect, with events organized by the various Basque nationalist parties. However, it has also always had a cultural aspect, which has been more emphasized in Basque communities outside of the Basque Country. While it is not an official holiday, it has become the de facto Basque national holiday and, today, celebrations are often filled with sporting events, dancing, music, food, and drink.

A poster for Aberri Eguna in Vitoria-Gasteis in 1934. From Enciclopedia Auñamendi.
  • The word “aberri” was coined by Basque nationalist Sabino Arana, from his supposed linguistic element “aba”, meaning to him father, and “herri” meaning nation, land, people. While his etymology of the element “aba” is viewed as fanciful today, some of the words he made with it stuck and are used in Basque today.
  • The first Aberri Eguna was celebrated on March 27, 1932 in Bilbao. It was organized by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of their founding. The next three were held in Donostia, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and Pamplona.
  • During the time of Franco (1937-1977), and the corresponding exile of the Basque Government, official Aberri Eguna events within the Spanish side of the Basque Country (hegoalde) were rare. However, events were held on the French side (iparralde) and the Basque Government often took to the airwaves to send their messages to their countrymen in the south.
  • In 1964, the Basque Government organized Aberri Eguna in Gernika. This is the first of several in which Aberri Eguna is used as a means to push against the Franco regime. ETA also began to hold its own gatherings on Aberri Eguna, for example in Irún-Hendaia in 1966.
  • In 1975, during another Aberri Eguna event in Gernika, the Flemish deputies Luyten and Juippers hung an ikurriña in front of the Casa de Juntas (where the tree of Gernika stands). They were arrested by the Guardia Civil, prompting Belgium to issue a formal complaint.
  • In 1978, after Franco’s death, celebrations were held in all four Basque capitals in hegoalde: Bilbao, Donostia, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and Pamplona. Together, some 230,000 people participated.

Primary Source: Caballero Basáñez, Carlos. Aberri-Eguna. Enciclopedia Auñamendi, 2019. Found at: http://aunamendi.eusko-ikaskuntza.eus/es/aberri-eguna/ar-6047/

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