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The Inheritance of the Tree of Gernika in Basque Culture

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The Tree of Gernika, more than a simple vegetable, is a powerful symbol that encapsulates the history, politics and culture of the Basque Country. This oak tree is an emblem that represents the traditional freedoms of Biscay and the identity of Euskal Herria.

History and Symbolism of the Tree of Gernika

Since medieval times, the Tree of Gernika has witnessed critical moments and has been intertwined with Basque history. It is located in the town of Gernika-Lumo, in the province of Bizkaia, and has served as a place of oaths for the Lords of Bizkaia, who pledged their honor to respect the Fueros de Bizkaia, ancient laws that governed the life and social organization of the region.

The “Father Tree”, the oldest known, is presumed to have been planted in the 14th century, starting a tradition that continues to this day. Although the original tree has been replaced by successive offshoots over the centuries, each has maintained the symbolism and importance of the first.

Tonco del arbol de Gernika viejo
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The current Tree of Gernika, planted in 2015, is a direct descendant of the “Father Tree” and remains a silent witness to Basque history. Its survivability is remarkable, especially remembering that it withstood the bombing of Gernika in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, an event that put the Basque people and their tree in the international spotlight.

Guernica Casa de Juntas%2C Arbol Nuevo 1
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The Role of the Tree in Basque Tradition and Politics

The Casa de Juntas of Gernika, close to the tree, has been the political heart of Bizkaia.It was here that the tradition of swearing respect for Basque laws under the oak tree was established. This practice was not only maintained over the centuries but also adapted to the new times. Today, the lehendakari, or president of the Basque Government, as well as the General Deputy of Bizkaia, take office under the branches of the Tree of Gernika, reaffirming their commitment to the Basque people and their traditions.

The tree and the Casa de Juntas are symbols of Basque autonomy and democracy and represent the old foral regime, a series of rights and privileges that maintained a special relationship between this region and the Spanish crown.

Gernika and its Importance in the Basque Identity

The Tree of Gernika goes beyond politics; it is a cultural element that has been integrated into Basque identity. It is common to find its figure on coats of arms and emblems, and its image has been disseminated in art and literature.

The bombing of Guernica, immortalized by Picasso in his famous painting, increased the symbolic charge of the tree, turning it into a symbol of peace and resistance in the face of adversity. Today, saplings of the Tree of Guernica have been distributed around the world, spreading its message of freedom and international brotherhood.

The Tree of Gernika remains a powerful reminder that even in the darkest of times, the identity and culture of a people can prevail and flourish for future generations. It is a living symbol of Basque heritage, a heritage that thrives on respect, freedom and democracy.

People also asked…

What is the meaning of the Tree of Gernika?

The Tree of Gernika symbolizes the traditional freedoms of Biscay and the identity of the Basque people.

What happened to the Guernica tree?

The Guernica tree has been successively replaced by offshoots of the original, surviving events such as the bombing of Guernica in 1937.

How old is the Tree of Guernica?

The current tree, planted in 2015, is an offshoot of the lineage of the original “Father Tree,” which dates back to the 14th century.

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Irene was born and raised in Bilbao. She has a deep rooted passion for her country and culture. She has a Bachelors degree in education and has traveled to over 85 countries throughout the world.
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Zachary was born in Michigan, USA. He has lived in the Basque Country for over 10 years, and fell in love with the natural beauty and quality of life found here. He earned a Bachelors degree in economics from DePaul University in Chicago.