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Basque History with Pirritx & Porrotx

By November 20, 2014 Culture, Exploring

Living in the Basque Country, I’m often surprised when people haven’t heard of this land–a beautiful mini-Switzerland with a picturesque coastline, green mountains, hospitable people, and fascinating history.  So, in case you don’t know them, allow me to introduce you to the real stars of the Basque Country.  Sure, there are the poets and the singers, but then there are Pirritx & Porrotx.  Clowns delighting audiences for over 25 years!

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The world needs more laughter.  And these guys touch the hearts of not only kids, but us grown-up kids as well.  These guys are my three-year-old’s heros, and she wasn’t even born in the Basque Country.  Our friends Uxue and Eñaut have collaborated with Pirritz & Porrotx through their books, music and shows that help children discover their emotions, learn about the world around them, and about themselves, too.

And in their newest show, Pirritx and Porrotx explore the Basque history of exploration–centuries of sailing the high seas as far as Newfoundland, Canada.  They made an appearance at a whaling museum where crews work daily on constructing likenesses of the ships used by the Basque fishermen in the 15th-17th centuries.  There I chatted to the president of the Albaola Basque Maritime Heritage Society, Xabier Agote, who, while living in my home country of Australia, read in National Geographic about the remains of the 16th century Basque whaling ship San Juan discovered just off the coast of Canada and immediately ventured out to work on the project.  The ships would go across the Atlantic for whales and cod, and the fishermen would stay on Canada’s shores, trading and preparing for their home journey, until the early winter and the ice came.  If they didn’t leave soon enough, they would winter there in another land, living peaceably among the locals.

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These are the Basque people.  Explorers and navigators of life and laughter.  Thanks Pirritx and Porrotx for broadening my Basque horizons.

Learn more about Basque maritime history at http://www.albaola.com/en.

Photos & Words by Jonathan McCallum

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