The French Basque Country generally presents a pristine scenery compared to some of the Spanish Basque Country ‘s valleys. In the Biscaya and Guipuzcoa provinces, some valleys have suffered from excessive industrialization. That being said, the surrounding hills often hide nice surprises and is just a matter of leaving the highway to find them.
For centuries, the Spanish Basque Country economy has been driven by the exploitation of iron. The iron industry has developed around a network of small mines and forges dedicated to the mineral’s transformation. The port of Bilbao was the hub for exporting iron to foreign markets such as Britain. The Basque iron industry reached its peak during the 20th century but has since been through a steep decline. Most mines are now inactive but some industrial blast furnace still operate using mineral imported from Eastern Europe.
The Lenbur Foundation, established in the small industrial town of Legazpi, is dedicated to the vitalization of the industrial heritage left behind by an industry that played a key role in the development of the Basque Country. Lenbur introduced us to the history of iron in the Basque Country. It is taking great pride in featuring various facilities that were left abandoned following the decline of the iron industry. Visitors in the Legazpi region can follow the Iron Route and discover various sites illustrating the realities of the industry and its workers. One of the highlight is a 16th century forge that showcases reinstatement, performed by former iron-industry workers, of iron work as it used to be done the time. We had the opportunity to capture this demonstration on camera.
The Lenbur Foundation also promotes the work of famous Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida who has acquired a worldwide reputation for his massive iron-made pieces. Many of these pieces where created in Legazpi’s factories in collaboration with local iron workers. His most famous work, the Peine del Viento, is located on coastline of the Bay of Biscaya, in San Sebastiàn.
Learn more in the film THE BASQUE COUNTRY: A NATION WITHOUT BORDERS.