National Geographic : 1922 Jan
THE LAND OF THE BASQUES Enthusiasm is at high pitch, however, during the last quarter-hour. The com petitor who is seen to be losing is jeered by the adherents of his winning opponent, while his own villagers, whose combined wagers on his victory may aggregate sixty thousand duros (dollars), hurl vile epi thets at their now disgraced hero. "More force, you pig !" "May the thief die!" The contest usually ends in a debacle. High words, and sometimes a free-for all fight ensues. The winner is borne away on his friends' shoulders to a nearby tavern, where wine will flow freely. The poor defeated barrenador slinks off alone, anx ious to avoid the eye of man; in all prob ability he will never return to the village where yesterday he was the most popular inhabitant. THE ARRESKU, THE FAMOUS BASQUE DANCE In the early evening, after a festival of any kind, dancing generally takes place, in open air, of course, as often as not in the village plaza. The students and other youths from the cities love to attend the village fetes. Most interest is taken in the arresku, the great dance of the Bas ques. I have many times been instinc tively fascinated in watching this spec tacle, which slightly resembles a Polish mazurka. The sound of the pipe and tabor are heard in the lively cadences of the ar resku. An expert dancer, master of cere monies, as it were, advances in the space set aside for the dancing. Throwing his boina on the ground, he moves with a series of minute, rapid and intricate steps toward the woman he has chosen to be the "queen of the ball." And no Basque woman, no matter how high her social standing, will refuse this honor. Sefioras of noble rank have been seen taking part in this ceremonious dance opposite to peasant and sailor. The arresku is all a mass of intricate movements of feet, body, and arms, even the fingers playing their part, the partic ipants advancing and retreating. Always the man is in the foreground, and he sim ply seems to talk with his feet, while scarcely the finger tips of the partners touch during the whole dance. SAN SEBASTIAN LACKS BASQUE ATMOSPHERE In a description of the "New England of Spain" some mention must be made of San Sebastian, the second city in the Basque provinces, but the least Basque in characteristics. It is a modern town on the Bay of Biscay only a few miles from the French frontier, the summer residence of the royal family, and the most popular of Spanish resorts. It has a fine casino and an unrivaled bathing beach. Indeed, in many ways, San Se bastian is a serious rival of Monte Carlo. The last night of my last visit to Spain was spent at this famous watering place. It was in winter; hence many shops and most hotels were closed. The casino of fered the only amusement, and there were two friends playing at "trente et quar ente" who attracted my attention-one a Castilian from Madrid, the other a Cata lan from Barcelona. Even in the excitement of gambling, the marked regionalism of Spain could not be forgotten. They would play a while, then retire to the "bar Americano" to quench their thirst and to enter into a loud discussion as to why or why not the government should grant "autonomia" to the provinces of Catalonia. Their dis cussion was much more heated than their cognac. Then they would lock arms and return to the gambling tables. INDEX FOR JULY-DECEMBER, 1921, VOLUME READY Index for Volume XL (July-December, 1921) will be mailed to members upon request.