Monday, November 10, 2008

Basque-phobe of the Week : Ronald Holden

Here you have a gastronomic review at the Seattle Global Gourmet Examiner by a Basque-phobe visiting the heart of the Basque Country, Navarre:

Language Lessons: Northern Spain

November 8, 10:05 AM
by Ronald Holden, Seattle Global Gourmet Examiner

Only three weeks ago, it was Italian. Now, another country and two new languages. Talking about Navarra here, in the north of Spain. My hosts for this trip. A province the size of Los Angeles County, shaped like a trapezoid, sharing its northern border with southern France, then dropping like a diamond from the crest of the Pyrenees. Called Nafarroa in Basque, but resolutely unsympathetic to the Basque separatist movement. Navarra is a kingdom, they will tell you, even as the street signs are bilingual and the capital, Pamplona, has been known as Iruña since time immemorial. Basque influences abound in the daily language, notably the tx spelling for the Spanish ch.

Pintxos, for a start. Known as tapas elsewhere in Spain, it's how you start the night. (Txori, in Seattle, is a Basque-style pintxos bar.) The other evening, four of us stopped in Bilbao (which is Basque Country) for three small bites and two glasses each; the bill was under $40. So we went to two more places.

Rabo, the tail. Rabo de buey is oxtail, rabo de cochinillo asado is the tail of a suckling pig. Kinda tough, actually, though the rest is indescribably juicy and delicious.

Caña, copa, vaso, Vasco: the first is a glass of beer, specifically. The next two are glasses or tumblers or wine glasses. And the last one is, you guessed it, Basque. Pais Vasco is the Basque Country. Which, we remind you, is not Navarra.

Boina: the traditional Basque head covering, a beret. Bought mine at a souvenir shop for $10.

Barquito. A little boat. The piece of bread you use to mop up the last of the sauce on your plate.

Txupito: a sip. By extension, the little straight-sided glass from which you drink a shot of orujo. We'd call it a brandy or a grappa, except that the orujos we've been drinking (sorry, sipping) are much milder and sweeter than the Italian version.

Echar una siestacita: your afternoon cat nap.

Sad thing to see an individual so obsessed with misleading the readers into thinking that Navarre has nothing to do with the Basque Country when in fact Navarre is THE historical Basque state.

He himself mentions that the street signs are in two languages, which happen to be Euskara (Basque language) and Spanish, but he insists Navarre wants nothing to do with the Basque Country. If so, ¿why do they have this urge to name their streets both in Basque and Spanish?

Does he know that Euskara was called Lingua Navarrorum by the Romans? And that the Basques call their nation by the name of Euskal Herria which means "land of the Euskara speakers"?

Gladly enough, two people have already taken the time to set the record straight:

jane: While you may think Nafarroa (Navarra) has no sympathy for the Basque separatist movement, you would have a hard time convincing the people I know in the northern part of Navarra. These people congregate in the tiny "Basque Basque" bars, where Basque is spoken and banners supporting bringing the Basque prisoners back to Basque country adorn the walls. Be careful to make blanket political statements based on an inadequate sampling of opinions.

tfd: Because I am am Seattleite as well as a Basque, and because I happened to catch the last post on the Basque cuisine. My gentle advise to you is that you stick to the gastronimic aspects, as you have 0 understanding of the political ones. btw its called San Fermin, grammar is important.

Because he did not care to do some research about the history of Navarre before publishing his article and because of his more than obvious bias against the right of the Basque people to its self determination, Ronald Holden is out Basquephobe of the week.

.... ... .


  1. I am honored that you found my blog entries about traveling in Navarra. My pleasure is diminished only by the harshness with which you condemn my reporting.

    We asked everyone about this, from official Tourist Office guides, to spokesmen for the Government of Navarra, to wine makers and restaurateurs we met along the way. Unanimously, they said Navarra was the origin of the Basque Country but that they did not consider themselves Basque today.

    I have sent your comments to our hosts, and will let you know their replies.

    Cheers from Seattle,
    Ronald Holden

  2. Ronald,

    Navarrese people do not need to feel Basque to be Basque, all they need to do is to identify themselves as Navarrese, that's it. For Navarre is the Basque Country.

    I'll tell you what, try asking them if they identify themselves as Navarrese or as Spaniards.

    You'll be surprised.

    In the mean time, due to your insistence in downplaying the Basqueness of the Navarrese people, you get to keep your hard earned label as Basque-phobe of the Week, someone that is clearly against the will of the Basque people to regain their independence and their state, Navarre.