When Nations Break Up: The Case of Spain
Many states are breaking up in different ways. Some, such as India,
Indonesia and China may do. Canada, Chile, and Great Britain have been
mentioned. My great concern is the United States, which has often been
compared with Russia.. Both countries expanded across a continent, the one
to the east, the other to the west, and both to the south. The Soviet Union
and the United States both denounced imperialism, although they are the
prime examples of it. Loyalty to the constitution is supposed to unite
Americans of different ethnicity, while in a similar effort the Soviet
Union tried to create a Soviet man. This plan failed, and now Russia itself
is threatened by ethnicity.
I invite you to consider the case of a country in which you are especially
interested. I myself will consider Spain, which I have had a special
opportunity to study. The Iberian Peninsula, united by Philip II, broke up
when Portugal reasserted its independence. To appease regional discontent,
the first Republic (1870-73) tried a federal system, but it ended in chaos
when some regions and cities proclaimed their independence. Fearing that
Spain would disintegrate, the Army restored the monarchy.
I lived in Spain in 1936, when chaos threatened the country. General
Franco proclaimed that Spain must be "one and great," but the brutal
suppression of the regions, especially the Basque provinces and Catalonia,
simply increased resentment. My comments will concentrate on these regions,
with which I am especially familiar. They are the wealthiest in Spain and
resent rule from distant Madrid. Apart from the terrorist ETA, all parties
are walking on eggs, since the last thing they want is another Civil War.
In Oxford I studied Basque with William J. Entwistle, whose method of
studying odd languages was through the Lord's Prayer. Basque as a language
had been losing ground for centuries. Toward the end of the nineteenth
century, Prince Louis Bonaparte carefully traced the shrinking of the
Basque-speaking area. Actually, Castilian, which originated in the region
of La Bureba, was Latin spoken by Basques. The Basque language is an
oddity; suggestions that it is related to the languages of the Caucasus
have been dropped.
When I was in the Basque country in 1931, none of the people I met knew
Basque, which was restricted to some mountain areas. Franco's brutality
toward the Basques, especially the bombing of Guernica, made the Basque
language a symbol of the region's identity. ETA terrorists demand that
their trials be conducted in Basque.
During this academic year (1987-8) we have had staying with us a National
Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, an economist
originally from Bilbao We have had a most pleasant relationship, and I
shall be sorry when he leaves in the Fall for Brown University. His
presence has given me an excellent opportunity to study the present state
of Basque identity. Ignacio (Ignati in Basque) is of course a Basque saint.
The two familiy names, Palacios and Huerta, are both Castilian, but Ignacio
says he is seven-eights Basque. The family name, originally Jauregui,
meaning palace, was translated into Palacios, its Castilian counterpart,
proof that in those days Spanish names were preferred.
What is the Basque country? Ignacio insists that it is not only the three
provinces so labelled (Alava, Bizcaya, and Guipuzcoa) but also Navarre and
the three Basque regions of France.. Who is a Basque? A Basque is someone
born in Basque territory, or elsewhere of Basque parents. Ignacio knows
only a few words of Basque, which he regrets. Although Spanish-speaking, he
affirms his Basque identity. Is he Spanish? Well yes, but in a fuzzy way.
What does he think of the Basque independence movement? Well, let the
Catalonia is a different problem, although its proximity to France and its
historic claim to Roussillon parallel the Basque situation. Catalan is a
major Mediterranean language, although silly local pride leads Valencia and
the Baleares to assert that their languages are different on the basis of
minor peculiarities. I studied Catalan language and culture in Barcelona in
1932, when Catalonia, in the first flush of the 1931 Spanish republic, was
reasserting its culture. The famous Catalan linguist Pompeu Fabre was proud
to have me in his class as evidence that the world was paying attention to
the Catalan language. The Catalan family with which I stayed spoke Catalan,
but when I returned to Barcelona under Franco they spoke Spanish. After the
fall of Franco, Catalan again became the family language.
Ignacio Palacios-Huerta is about to leave, but next year (1998-99) we
shall have at Stanford as a Knight Fellow Joan Ubeda, who teaches at the
Pompeu Fabre University in Barcelona. He was delighted to learn that I had
studied under the man after whom his university is named. He wrote me a
long letter in Catalan, and asserts without hesitation that he is Catalan.
Yet his name is Spanish, and his great grandfather came from a small town
near Almeria in southern Spain. The wealth and industry of both the Basque
provinces and Catalonia have attracted many immigrants from the poorer
regions of Spain. They adapt to Catalonia quite well since both Catalan and
Spanish are Romance languages. Basque, however, is a different story, and
the number of immigrants who learn it is miniscule. We will welcome Joan
Ubeda to Stanford, and through him I shall get a better feel for the
present Catalan sense of identity.
Ronald Hilton - 06/13/98