Blood-typing and other genetic studies show the Basques to be a people distinct from any other in Europe, rooted in the region of the Pyrenees and Cantabrian Mountains before Indo-European tribes arrived. As a saying goes, "Before God was God and boulders were boulders, Basques were already Basques."

The Basque Country or Euskal Herria (land of the basque language), as the three million Basques call their nation straddles the French-Spanish border along the western Pyrenees. Through the centuries, waves of Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, French and Spanish overran their country. But the Basques endured, often taking their traditions to the hills and forests for safekeeping. The same Pyrenees that separate Spain from the rest of Europe united the Basques.

In 1980 the three Spanish provinces of Bizkaia, Araba and Gipuzkoa were officially joined as the Basque Autonomous Community.

But the Basque Country spills beyond the official borders. Basques call their nation Euskal Herria, or "land of the Basque language". And it is their ancient mother tongue that truly unites them. It was spoken here 5.000 years ago, before the Indo-Europeans arrived and spread out across the continent. And it is spoken today in cities and among the shepherds in the hills.

                                         National Geographic, Nov. 1995
The provinces of Lapurdi, Behe-Nafarroa and Zuberoa north of the Spanish border and under the political scope of France make up the Northern Basque Country while the provinces of Gipuzkoa, Bizkaia, Araba and Nafarroa are further divided with the first three provinces conforming the Basque Autonomous Community and the latter being itself an autonomous community on its own. See also