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Gipuzkoa : a province of Basque speakers
This area’s topographic conditions led large parts of the province to live for centuries in virtual isolation and with only the very occasional outside contact.
Gipuzkoa’s position at the heart of the Basque Country, surrounded by mountains and the sea, has contributed to the fact that it is this province, and particularly its inland rural areas, which has best maintained the Basque culture and folklore; we mustn’t forget that this is the province with the highest number of Basque speakers. Visitors will often run into people who speak the language, especially in the inland villages where Basque is in everyday use.
Romanization in Gipuzkoa was late in arriving and only had a superficial effect on its eastern extreme, leaving remains in Irun (the Roman necropolis of Santa Elena hermitage), Hondarribia and Oiartzun. But Gipuzkoa, to which neither the Celts nor the Muslims arrived, did have a certain amount of communication with the exterior in the Middle Ages thanks to the two alternative Roads to Santiago, one along the coast and another via the interior although contacts were limited to the areas near these roads.
Definitively annexed to Castile in the 8th century, the Castilian kings founded in Gipuzkoa numerous municipalities from which to control the ways of communication and the borders with the Kingdom of Navarre. These municipalities, which went on to further expand in later centuries, contain the highest concentration of artistic and architectural heritage.
Ever since the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of Gipuzkoa have devoted themselves to agriculture, coastal fishing (then including whales) and ironwork to which they would, in time, add trade. During the 19th century industrial revolution, while Bizkaia tended to work at heavy industry, Gipuzkoa preferred to specialise in the light industry sectors, such as paper or machine tools.
Industrial concerns established themselves fairly evenly throughout the province, thus contributing to a balanced distribution of the population. But despite the fact that Donostia-San Sebastián and its area have important demographic weight, the capital of Gipuzkoa still has the lowest population ratios in the Basque Country.
This decentralisation means that each region has, to a greater or lesser extent, its own monuments, industrial areas and natural spaces, not to mention an excellent selection of leisure activities, and gastronomy, thanks to the unforgettable fact that this is a land of great chefs. These are just some of the characteristics of today’s Gipuzkoa, rich in attractions
and economic diversification.
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