Decades ago, my father-in-law had been the village notario, or official processor of legal documents. This made him, like the local priest or doctor, privy to many of Lesaka' s secrets. He told me the villagers were so straight and honorable that they' d rather have a cerebral hemorrhage than not pay a bill. He loved the ease and the intimacy of village life and the superb cooking of the region—the best in Spain, by general agreement. Then, in the late 1970s, history intervened when the ETA, the militant Basque separatist group, extended its list of legitimate targets to notarios, and he was forced out. The people of the village came to say goodbye and gave him presents, such as a pig and handmade pieces of furniture. He could come back now, though, were he not retired, for after years of bombings, assassinations and reprisals, and despite the ETA' s decision in June to call off a cease-fire, the region is in a peace that seems to have grown less precarious.
Driving back, I wondered, as I had in 2000, why we were living by the Mediterranean, such is the freshness, beauty and authenticity of the Basque country.