The Basque Country, as an autonomous community within Spain, is called officially Euskadi, and has three provinces (also called Historic Territories) Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, in their Basque spelling. BUT the Basque Country, in a wider sense and referring to Basque heritage and culture, is called Euskal Herria (Basque People) and includes Nafarroa, on the Spanish side, and Lapurdi, Zuberoa and Behenafarroa on the French side. This is not easy to understand. Let´s leave it there for now, but when saying “basque” I will try to refer to the cultural concept.
The capital of Euskadi is Vitoria-Gasteiz (I´ll write first the Spanish name and then the Basque one), a political decision taken in 1980 when the Estatuto (Basque Constitution, more or less) was approved. Number of Basques: around three million. One of the highests standards of life in Europe (high income, good public health system, good schools, good roads, high industrialization,…, well, all this may not be that objective, but it´s widely accepted). We have our own President (Lehendakari, “the first”), Parliament, Police, Health system, Education system, Taxes, Laws,…, as an autonomous community within Spain. Vote is more or less divided 50% for the independentists and 50% for the non-independentists (Spanishtists?¿?¿?), with several parties on both sides that divide the vote in several options.
Plenty of industries, located everywhere but mainly near the capitals. Machine-tool, iron and steel factories, automotive suppliers and manufacturers (Mercedes, Volkswagen), aeronautics…and many small and medium size companies with a high level of technical expertise. Several universities. The biggest cooperative group in the world, Mondragón Corporation, an important part of the wealth of this country.
The rural world plays a very important role in our culture, but farms are quickly disappearing, and turning beautiful farm houses into rural lodgings. The landscape is very mountainous, with scattered farms on green land and forests (70% of the Basque surface is covered with trees). The coast is rugged, beaches (over 100) are surrounded by trees and are of small to medium size. The coastline is not ruined (yet) as in many parts of the Mediterranean, because of the strict enforcement of the Coast Protection Act (roughly translated).