The Basque political dilemma reflected in a festival

The Basque political dilemma reflected in a festival

Figure 1. The festival 40MinutuRock, Durango, Basque Country (Spain). Photo by Paula Herreros.

Under the name of 40MinutuRock, the experience of solidarity, denunciation, and celebration for the rights of the prisoners of the Basque former terrorist organization ETA kicked off last Saturday in Durango, Basque Country (Spain). However, many Basques remain unsympathetic to it, thus causing a dilemma in the Basque cultural scene.

The Basque Country carries with it a historical period marked by both Francoism and the organization which arose in the face of General Francisco Franco’s remarkable oppression in Basque lands (north of Spain) during his dictatorship from 1939 to 1975: ETA. 

Due to the criminal actions of the organization, many of its members have been exiled and imprisoned far away from their homelands over the years. Owing to the policy of dispersal, the relatives of the convicts travel to these prisons every month for a 40-minute visit, which is the main reason for the name of the festival and for what it entails: enjoying the concerts for only 40 minutes just to be able to understand the suffering of the relatives. Therefore, it has become part of Basque culture although it has clear political connotations as it’s intended to raise funds.  

“The economic benefits obtained from the tickets which are around 8.000€ goes to the infrastructures and the material that permit future charity festivals and concerts”, said Jone Urizarbarrena, festival volunteer. “Nevertheless, the money acquired from all the drinks and merchandising goes to the Etxerat platform, which is the association of ETA prisoners’ relatives”.

However, sympathizers of this former organization coexist with those who see it as a failed rebellion that has tarnished the name of the Basque people. ETA laid down its weapons 13 years ago and for many Basques and Spaniards who lived through the horrors of the 1980s, paying homage and praising the actions of the past makes it difficult to heal the wound inflicted on an entire generation. 

Figure 2. The start of 40 minutes, Utrecht. Own photo.

“There’s been a very broad social consensus on this aspect in Basque society for decades: the vast majority rejects violence”, stated Miren G.B. Argoitia, lecturer at the University of the Basque Country. “But the environment in which someone grows up greatly influences its moral interpretation of situations”. 

Now that the powers over prisons have passed from the central government to the Basque government, the latter is now working on moving those convicts to nearby prisons. For that reason, in the face of this progress, the need for the festival has been called into question. In fact, Mireia Elkoroiribe, a politician from the nationalist Basque party (PNV) demonstrated against the event in 2020. Therefore, the course of the Basque cultural-political dilemma remains to be seen. 


  1. 40MinutuRock: Stands for “40 Minutes of Rock”. 
  2. Basque Country:  An autonomous community of Spain. It has its own culture and language: Euskera. 
  3. ETA: Stands for “Basque Country and Freedom”.
  4. Etxerat: The association of relatives of ETA prisoners. It belongs to a group of social and political groupings of the Abertzale Left (Basque nationalist/separatist left wing that supported ETA back then).

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