Basque ethnography at a glance


Source: Labayru Fundazioa Photographic Archive.

Hidden on one of the hills that span the eastern slopes of Mount Jata, the chapel of St. Michael of Zumetzaga stands in an isolated and mysterious setting. Ancient oaks, chestnut trees and the odd age-old holm oak provide the shade protecting this simple, but historically important chapel; it is believed to date back to the end of the 12th century and is in the late Romanesque style. The Zumetzaga farmstead, the guardian of this gem, can be found beside it.

The chapel faces east and is a modest building, consisting of a single rectangular nave, ending in a almost square apse. This is shored up by sturdy buttresses outside that give a peculiar look to the building. All the walls, along with the vaults, are in stone masonry and there is only an opening on each façade. Three of them are entrances, and there is a small window in the chevet which lets in the little light to the dimly lit chapel. That, and the south-facing door, are the most interesting features of the building. (more…)

Charanga dance band during the Feast of the Cross in Lezo. Photo: E. X. Dueñas (15/09/2019).

We may not be aware due to the current inertia of daily life, but music is something that is usually at the centre of entertainment and, particularly, at festivities, weekends and different celebration.

Even though the need to play melodies, for different reasons, can be traced far back in time, we can basically differentiate between two uses for music performed in the street: entertainment or leisure and enjoyment; and ritual (religious and/or secular). Furthermore, whether travelling or mobile, on the one hand, and fixed or static, on the other, it coincides with the presence of the people in the spotlight, the musicians: who can be literate and illiterate; enthusiasts, professionals and beggars; instrumental or with voice accompaniment; locals or incomers.



Leire Ibarrola. Izoria (Álava), 2023-04-03. Photo credit: Fernando Hualde.

Talking about traditional cheesemaking from an ethnographic standpoint subliminally brings to mind the picture of a shepherd in his hut pressing the curd into a wooden mould to extract as much whey as possible; that was at least the typical image mentioned in Gorbea, Aralar, Urbasa, Irati… and with good reason.

However, it should be noted that that was not the same everywhere. If our land is noted for something – and which makes us clearly stand out from other regions and other geographical areas – is that when it comes to analysing the methods and tools that our forebears used to make cheese, we discover that we here boasted a variety and wealth ethnographically speaking that was not found to such a diverse extent elsewhere. We just have to look at the moulds for draining the curd that were used in the past; they were made from wood (with and without a bottom, with a fixed or adjustable rim, made out of chestnut, beech, birch, etc.), ceramic, tin, wicker… (more…)

Source: Pedra stone design projects.

Time was marked by the sun in the rural world. Country folk had no need for a clock and hardly ever used one. Religious festivities marked the work calendar on the land, in the fields.  The festivities were related to the harvests, the end of tasks such as threshing, harvesting grapes and other produce…

Some festivities celebrated the universal saints (John, Peter, Michael, Mark) and the origin of others dated back to specific points in time (St. Anthony the Abbot, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Ignatius of Loyola); there were also the major festivities celebrated by everyone (Easter Sunday, Assumption of Mary, St. Joseph’s Day, All Saints) or local saint’s days (Bartholomew, Blaise, Marina). Some of them set the rhythm of the agriculture work.