A Basque man from Vizcaya named Sabino Arana is said to be the father of Basque nationalism. Arana's father was a passionate Carlist. Growing up, Arana felt intese patriotic feelings for the Basques. When both his father and brother died in 1883, Arana was able to rise out of his deep depression the deaths caused by studying Euskera. Before pursuing further Basque studies, he studied law in Barcelona to please his mother. When she died in 1888, he left law school to study Basque language and traditions more intensely.

Arana believed that the Basque language was the key to Basque identity. He invented the word Euzkadi, meaning "Euskera speaking," to replace Euskal Herria, which means "land of Euskera speakers." He intended this new name to be the name of a country, not just a place. He even wrote a mythology of the national origin of Euskadi. Arana also invented other words such as aberri, meaning "fatherland," abertzale, meaning "patriot," and axkatasuna, meaning "liberty."

In 1890, Arana wrote what is considered to be the founding act of modern Basque nationalism. His work was first published as Cuatro Glorias Patrias, but later changed to Bizkaya por su Independencia. Arana's book was actually an extreme embellishment, and to some it is considered a complete lie. Nevertheless, it successfully rallied Basques together under a history and a cause. The book was about four battles between the Basques and Leon and Castile which he argued were the founding of the Basque nation. He left much truth out of other Basque struggles that did not favor the nation.

Sabino Arana


Arana organized the first public demonstration that openly declared Basque nationalism on June 3, 1893. The Basque Nationalist Party was officially founded by Arana on July 31, 1895. Arana wrote Gora ta Gora, which was later set to music after his death and became the Basque national anthem. Arana's slogan for the Basque Nationalist Party is still used today: Jaungoikua eta Lagizarra, which means "God and the Old Laws." Arana and his brother Luis designed the Euskadi flag, establishing the Basque national colors of red, green, and white. These colors represent the Basque land in two ways: Arana intended the red background as a symbol of the people, the green X as a symbol of the ancient laws, and the white cross as a symbol of the purity of Christ. The colors also symbolize one of the major symbols of the Basque country; The traditional red trimming on a white Basque House surrounded by green mountains.

Within establishing Basque nationalism, Arana tried to establish a new meaning of who a Basque is. Many people living in the Basque country were not Basque descendents. Partly because of this, Arana's definition was a racist one; he declared that, for a person to be Basque, all four grandparents must have been born in Euskadi or have Euskera names, and that they must marry a Basque of similar "purity." Laws were even established that banned outsiders from settling in Vizcaya.



Arana died in his home in Vizcaya on November 25, 1903. Today, even extreme Basque nationalists admit that Arana was an unpleasant man who stretched the truth quite a bit. They also claim that, even without him, Basque nationalism was bound to develop at that time. He did, however, give the movement an identity and a cause for which to fight.

Jose Antonio Aguirre would become the next great leader of the Basque Nationalist party in 1921. He became known as one of Basque's greatest orators. Aguirre preached for gentle Basque nationalism and never spoke poorly of Spain. Aguirre also stood for a gentler kind of Catholicism. He supported the eventual shift of the definition of a Basque from race to language.

Jose Antonio Aguirre


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