During our stay we visited the town of St-Pée-sur-Nivelle, in the French Basque Country, to attend the Herri Urrats festival. This fundraising event is organised by Seaska, the organization responsible for establishing and managing Ikastolas in the French Basque Country. Ikastolas are schools where education is delivered mainly in Basque language.

Basque language education is available both in the Spanish and French Basque Country, but the reality is different depending on which side of the border one stand. In Spain, ikastolas are funded by the governments of the Autonomos Basque Community (Euskadi). In France, the State provides partial funding to cover costs associated with teaching, but parents must cover all other costs to run the schools. Herri Urrats is the main fundraising event for that purpose. It has been taking place at the same spot for over 20 years and brings together close to 100 000 people. We went to St-Pée (Senpere in Basque language) and discovered this very special happenning. A large crowd spreads around the big St-Pée lake. Participants walk from one sector of the lake to the other, each of which represents a Basque region. There are many artistic performances such as bertsolaris competition or music concerts going from classical, rock or heavy metal music, all in Basque language. There is plenty of food and alchool, and it is a great place to taste some basque specialities, such as the “talot”.

It is a great event that showcases Basque identity and culture, and makes one forget that it is in France.