BOOKS - The Center for Basque Studies Reader's Club

The Selected Essays of Julio Caro Baroja

Julio Caro Baroja, as he saw himself, with a bust of his beloved uncle, Pío Baroja, in the background.

Julio Caro Baroja was one of the defining figures of Basque anthropology and ethnography. In his view, Basque material culture and the spiritual and social world of Basque culture and society were intertwined. He eschewed simple or simplistic notions of cultural identity, as can be seen in his discussion in chapter 13, “The Feeling of Belonging in the Basque Diaspora,” on the sense of kinships that Basques in the diaspora (in this case in the seventeenth century):

The Bizkaians, Gipuzkoans, and Arabans set out for the Indies—these great soldiers and sailors . . . great merchants and everything else one can imagine, and they don’t come back home because their lands are so very wretched.

But didn’t this individual just say that the Basques are so attached to their land that they don’t believe there is any better place? (pages 259–60). He later writes of his own Baztan Valley:

The valley itself was ungenerous to its inhabitants; within its borders one had to live a severe and restricted existence. One had to escape its confines to seek one’s fortune, either by land or by sea. In terms of our present subject, we know that some fortunes gained by those in the Atlantic region of Navarre came from a combination of seafaring, military, and commercial activities; and (3) royal service, which in the Basque-Navarrese world played a crucial role.

The Basque farmstead or baserri occupies a central place in Basque culture and was a favorite subject of Barojas. Visit this site at to see some of the background on baserri construction in Gipuzkoa. Here are some of images drawn by Caro Baroja of farmhouses from chapter 9, “The Structure and Functions of the House.”

Houses in the Basque Country are usually named, and families were often known as much or more by the name of their home than their own surname.

Food for Thought
1. If your family has emigrated, what is their idealized or nonidealized version of the home country? How do you think this differs from reality?

2. The Basque baserri plays a central role in Basque culture. Do you think homes in your culture have so much weight? Note also that many Basques were known by the name of their house, if you were to take your name from your house, what would it be?