Jose Inazio Lopez de Luzuriaga Fernandez.

Book: El iceberg navarro. Euskera y castellano en la Navarra del siglo XVI (The navarrese iceberg. Basque and Castilian in 16th century Navarre)

Author: Pello J. Monteano Sorbet

Publishing house: Pamiela Argitaletxea, 2017



This book by Monteano provides an enlightening description on the extent of Basque language during the 16th century, the discrimination undergone by the Navarre Basques, their low social status and constraints in political terms, as well as the linguistic suppression undergone. The book offers ample historic evidence of the Basque language’s extent relying on the activity of judges and royal officials, the need for interpreters, as well as the linguistic situations transpired in the judicial records. Monteano scrutinizes the data of approximately one hundred judicial cases taking place from 1575 to 1595 in order to put together the statistics that inform of Basque’s extent. As opposed to those who claim that Basque has never existed in Pamplona (Iruñea) or the midlands of Navarre, Monteano discloses that 16th century Pamplona was Basque, showing lavish documentation attesting to Basque having significant use in the midlands of Navarre to varying degrees, also showing data referring to the use of Romance or Castilian. Two thirds of the territory of Navarre was Basque, according the author. The book is written in Spanish, like most of the records and texts in the tribunals used as a reference.

Monteano closes his work with a number of appendices: 1) Population of Navarre as attested by the 1553 census called “hearth registry”; 2) limits of Romance or Castilian following the data shed by the preaching of the “bull for the captives” in 1527; 3) the statistic sample on Basque monolinguals for the period 1575-1595; 4) the professional nature of tribunal officials and their Basque competence during the period 1570-1590; and 5) statistic sample on the population’s literacy for the period 1578-1588.


Percentage of Basque monolingual speakers in Navarre (1575-1595)


The historic data exposed by Monteano’s work offer subject matters enough to produce a feature film. The victims of repression and “justice” depicted in these accounts merit full public recognition and national honours, as much as the victims of the 1936 war. For instance, the women who became inadvertent protagonists of our dark history were condemned with death penalty for petty things from our present-day views, and their names deserve to be written in gold on our Basque history’s memory.