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Folklore and Traditions: Local Games and Sports
Taken from "Folklore and Traditions", one of the series of "The Basque Country, Come and then pass the word" 2nd edition, January 1993 Author: Angel Murua, Published by: Gobierno Vasco, Departamento de Comercio, Consuma, y Turismo. Viceconsejeria de Turismo.
Local Games and Sports
Strength and competitiveness feature very large in Basque mythology, and are qualities which are highly esteemed in the traditions of a people which has evolved in difficult circumstances and in an equally harsh physical environment. Local Basque games and sports, then, are tests of strength, based directly on the every day tasks of farmers and fishermen, a playful and competitive recreation of daily routine.
The sea tradition takes the form of estropadak, regatas of small rowing boats with fixed seats, which, depending on the number of oarsmen, go from small skiffs with four rowers and a cox, to the more common fishing boats, the crew of which is composed of three oarsmen and the cox. This particular, tricky discipline of rowing with fixed seats, reaches its high point in the regattas in the bay of La Concha, in Donostia-San Sebastian. Thousands of fans gather here on the first Sundays of September, keen to find out which of the best crews of the Cantabrian coast will take hold of the prestigious Flag of the Concha.
Most of Traditional Basque Country games are connected to work on to the land. The aizkolariak, who cut tree trunks, recall the woodcutters who had to fell whole expanses of woods to provide sufficient grazing. Weilding axes they race against the clock to split more beech trunks than their opponent. Brute force, such as that displayed by the jentiles who used to hurl boulders to give vent to their wrath, is displayed in the stone-lifting competitions. The harrijasotzaileak lift stones of different shapes and sizes which can be as heavy as 300 kg. Bigger still are the boulders dragged by oxen in the idi-proba, which can weigh as much as 1,500 kg.
The animal which has always been most closely associated to the work of a shepherd, artzai, is the sheepdog, which shows remarkable skill in rounding up and guiding the flocks. Logically, this task has brought about sheepdog trials.
Other games such as the sokatira, the Tug of War, or skittles, are essential to any country games event.
It is pelota, however, which of all the Basque Sports has found the greatest international support. Played with a bat, in a pelota court, with a long wicker raquet or with the hand alone: pelota games are arranged practically everywhere in the Basque Country and in every season.
And in the background an element indissociable from any local Basque games or sports are the bets, by means of which all the spectators take a part in the competition.
Local Sports and Games
1. Small Fishing Boats: July: "Bandera" (Flag) Race of Pasaia. August: Hondarribia "Bandera". Timed race of Urumea. Timed race of Zumaia. "Bandera" of Zarautz. "Bandera" of Orio. Finals of the "Banderas" at "La Concha" beach. September: 1st, 2nd Regattas of "La Concha". "Bandera Santurtzi" (Santurtzi Regatta). Last weekend in August.
2. Pelota: Cesta Punta type. Jai Alai of Gernika. See annual sports program.
3. Sheepdog Trials: International Championship, Onati, September.
4. Country Games, "Herri Kirolak": Various sports on the patron saints' days of villages and districts of towns. Many of them include:
Zakua: In imitation of smugglers, men sprint with an 80kg sack on their shoulders.
Arpana: Trunks are cut into logs with handsaws.