The Basques Of Santazi

Transmission date: June 1987

The Basque village of Santazi lies in a secluded valley in the French Pyrenees, a few miles from the Spanish border. Here communities have survived for hundreds of years through sheep farming, cheese production and some agriculture. Milk from the combined flocks of the syndicates, or olha, is distributed equally as is the famed mountain cheese which each shepherd takes a turn making during his stay in the summer pastures. The result will be a symbol of his status as a shepherd and family provider and even of his sexual prowess.

Young people were turning away from this traditional farming life.

Some people blamed this on the local schools which tought in French instead of Basque, a language which is fundamentally different from any other European language.

Not only the farming tradition is dying out in Santazi. In the past the entire community would congregate in the village church for Mass.

The recording was made on one of the few days that the church was full those days—Palm Sunday.

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