Skip to main content


Log in

Taking Murals Seriously: Basque Murals and Mobilisation

  • Published:
International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society Aims and scope Submit manuscript


The purpose of this article is to take the admonition of taking the visual seriously into the realms of murals. It will present empirical data on contemporary murals in the Basque Country with a view to examining why murals are important to the abertzale-left, the broad left-wing nationalist movement in the Basque Country which includes but ranges far beyond the armed group ETA. The struggle for Basque autonomy from Spain has its roots in a nationalist awakening in the late twentieth century. It has developed through the struggle with fascism; the prolonged authoritarian, centralist state; and the transition to democracy after the death of Franco. Central to this development has been the definition of Basque identity in terms of culture rather than birth. Language has been key, but there has also been a visual strand to the struggle. The article will examine the state of that visual strand currently by examining murals on a range of themes: language and culture, independence and socialism, armed struggle, political prisoners, torture and repression, martyrs and heroes, women and environmental issues.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Ley 4/2008, de 19 de Junio, de Reconocimiento y Reparación a las Víctimas del Terrorismo, Comunidad Autonoma del Pais Vasco, Boletin Oficial del Estado, Num. 212. / Law 4/2008, 19th June, of Recognition and Reparation of Victims of terrorism, Basque Autonomous Community, The Congressional Record, No. 212. 1st Title, Article 4.

  2. Ley 29/2011, de 22 de septiembre, de Reconocimiento y Protección Integral a las Víctimas del Terrorismo. Boletin Oficial del Estado Num. 229. / Law 29/2011, 22 September, of Recognition and Integral Protection to the Victims of Terrorism, The Congressional Record, No. 229. 7th Title, 1st Section, Article 61.

  3. In October 2013, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found against Spain under articles 5 and 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights over the failure to release a Basque prisoner, Inés del Río Prada (see Del Rio Prada v. Spain no. 42750/09; The decision rested on the fact that, because of subsequent changes in Spanish law, the prisoner had served a longer term of imprisonment than she should have done under the law as it existed at the time of her conviction (see

  4. The cases are Affaire Otamendi Egiguren v. Spain, Requete no. 47303/08, Affaire San Argimiro Isasa v. Spain, Requete no. 2507/07; Asunto Beristain Ukar v. Spain, Demanda no. 40351/05; Affaire Etxebarrria Caballero v. Spain (Requête no. 74016/12); Affaire Ataun Rojo v. Spain (Requête no. 3344/13); Affaire Arratibel Garcaindia v. Spain(Requête no. 58488/13).

  5. Galindo was released in 2005 and Elgorriaga in 2001, both on health grounds.

  6. The creation of cartoonist Naji Salim al-Ali, Handala is perpetually 10 years of age, the age his creator was when he became a refugee.


  • Abushagur, S. (2011) The art of uprising: the Libyan revolution in graffiti. Author.

  • Adams, J. (2001). The makings of political art. Qualitative Sociology 24(3), 311–348.

  • Alonso, R. (2004). Pathways out of terrorism in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country: the misrepresentation of the Irish model. Terrorism and Political Violence, 16(4), 695–713.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Amnesty International. (2009). Spain: adding insult to injury. Police impunity two years on. London: Amnesty International.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anderson, B. (2006). Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bartolomé-Gutiérrez, R., & Rechea-Alberola, C. (2006). Violent youth groups in Spain. Young: Nordic Journal of Youth Research, 14(4), 323–342.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bassets, L. (1983). Clandestine communications: notes on the press and propaganda of the anti-Franco resistance, 1939–1975. In A. Mattelart & S. Siegelaub (Eds.), Communication and class struggle, vol. 2. Liberation, socialism (pp. 192–200). New York/Bagnelot: International General/International Mass Media Research Center.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beck, J. (2006). Geopolitical Imaginations of the Basque Homeland. Geopolitics, 11, 507–528.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Benford, R., & Snow, D. (2000). Framing processes and social movements: an overview and assessment. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 611–639.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bengoetxea, J. R. (2013). Transitional justice versus traditional justice: the Basque case. Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, 12(2), 30–58.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bew, J., Frampton, M., & Gurruchaga, I. (2009). Talking to terrorists: making peace in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country. London: Hurst and Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blasi, P. (2009) Patxi López promete acabar con el 'muro de la vergüenza' en Mondragón, 8 March, El Mundo.

  • Bray, Z. (2006). Basque militant youths in France: new experiences of ethnonational identity in the European context. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 12, 533–553.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bullain, I. (2011). Revolucionarismo Patriótico: El Movimiento De Liberación Nacional Vasco (MLNV). Tecnos.

  • Calvente, L., & García, G. (2014). The city speaks. Cultural Studies 28(3), 438–462.

  • Carmena, M., Landa, J. M., Múgica, R., & Uriarte, J. (2013). Base report on human rights violations in the Basque country case (1960–2013). Vitoria Gasteiz: Office of the Secretariat General for Peace and Social Harmony.

    Google Scholar 

  • Casquete, J. (2003). From imagination to visualization: protest rituals in the Basque Country. Berlin: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chaffee, L. (1988). Social conflict and alternative mass communications: public art and politics in the service of Spanish-Basque nationalism. European Journal of Political Research, 16(5), 545–572.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chaffee, L. (1993). Political protest and street art: popular tools for democratization in Hispanic countries. Westport: Greenwood Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chehabi, H. E., & Christia, F. (2008). The art of state persuasion: Iran’s post-revolutionary murals. Persica, 22, 1–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chesters, G., & Welsh, I. (2004). Rebel colours: ‘framing’ in global social movements. Sociological Review, 52(3), 314–335.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chiumbu, S. (2012). Exploring mobile phone practices in social movements in South Africa: the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign. African Identities, 10(2), 193–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davant, J. L. (1997). Lore Jokoeningurumenaz, Soziolinguistikaaldizkaria, 25.

  • Doerr, N., Mattoni, A., & Teune, S. (2013). Toward a visual analysis of social movements, conflict and political mobilization. In N. Doerr, A. Mattoni, & S. Teune (Eds.), Advances in the visual analysis of social movements. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing. xi–xxvi.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Doerr, N. and Teune, S. (2008) Visual codes in movement: when the protest imagery hits the establishment.

  • Dorfman, A. (1978). The invisible Chile: three years of cultural resistance. Praxis, 4, 191–197.

    Google Scholar 

  • Douglass, W., & Zulaika, J. (1990). On the interpretation of terrorist violence: ETA and the Basque political process. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 32(2), 238–257.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • El País. (1987) Un disparo atravesó la cabeza de Lucía Urigoitia, según la Guardia Civil., 27 July.

  • Emmison, M., Smith, P., & Mayall, M. (2012). Preface. In M. Emmison et al. (Eds.), Researching the visual. London: Sage.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Entman, R. M. (1993). Framing: toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication, 43(4), 51–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eyerman, R., & Jamison, A. (1998). Music and social movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Espinosa, P. and Lopez, E. (2013). Hertzainak. La Confesion Radical. Pepitas De Calabaza Editorial.

  • Franco, J. (1970). The modern culture of Latin America, society and the artist. Baltimore: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gibbons, S. (2004). The costs of urban property crime. The Economic Journal, 114(499), F441–F463.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gröndahl, M. (2013). Revolution graffiti: street art of the new Egypt. London: Thames and Hudson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goicoechea, E. (1984). Cuadrillas en el Pais Vasco: Identidad Local y Revitalizacion etnica. Reis, 25, 213–220.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodnow, T. (2006). On black panthers, blue ribbons and peace signs: the function of symbols in social campaigns. Visual Communication Quarterly 13(3), 166–179.

  • Hamilton, C. (2007a). The gender politics of political violence: women armed activists in ETA. Feminist Review, 86, 132–148.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hamilton, C. (2007). Women and ETA: the gender politics of radical Basque nationalism. Manchester University Press.

  • Hobsbawm, E., & Ranger, T. (Eds.). (1983). The invention of tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Howard, P., & Hussain, M. (2013). Democracy’s fourth wave? Digital media and the Arab Spring. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Kasmir, S. (2002). ‘More Basque than you!’ Class, youth and identity in an industrial Basque town. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 9(1), 39–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Khatib, L. (2013). Image politics in the Middle East: the role of the visual in political struggle. London: I.B. Tauris.

  • Kopper, A. (2014). Why guernica became a globally used icon of political protest? Analysis of its visual rhetoric and capacity to link distinct events of protests into a grand narrative. International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, 27, 443–457.

  • Kunzle, D. (1973). Art in Chile’s revolutionary process: guerrilla muralist brigades. New World Review, 41(3), 42–53.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kunzle, D. (1975). Public graphics in Cuba. Latin American Perspectives 2, 1975: 100.

  • Lahusen, C. (1993). The aesthetic of radicalism: the relationship between punk and the patriotic nationalist movement of the Basque country. Popular Music, 12(3), 263–280.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leone, S. (2008). Euskal Herri Imaginario Baten Alde. Donostia: Elkar.

  • Mac Gall, C. (2013), Treatment of Basque political prisoners and their families—a catalogue of abuse of human and civil rights,

  • Martínez-Herrara, E. (2002). Nationalist extremism and outcomes of state policies in the Basque Country, 1979–2001. International Journal on Multicultural Societies, 4(1), 16–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mattoni, A., & Teune, S. (2014). Visions of protest: a media-historic perspective on images in social movements. Sociology Compass 8(6), 876–887.

  • Matusitz, J. (2014). Symbolism in terrorism: motivation, communication, and behavior. Lanham: Rowan and Littlefield.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mohl, E. (2011). Zapatista signs of the times—Chiapas, Mexico.

  • Musleh, M. (2010). Taking back Palestine’s streets: exclusive interview with underground Jerusalem graffiti artist. The Electronic Intifada 29 August.

  • Olesen, T. (2013). 'We are all Khaled Said': visual injustice symbols in the Egyptian revolution. In N. Doerr et al. (Eds.), Advances in the visual analysis of social movements (pp. 3–25). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Philipps, A. (2012). Visual protest material as empirical data. Visual Communication, 11(1), 3–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prieto, J. (1993). El Imaginario vasco: representaciones de una conciencia histórica, nacional y política en el escenario europeo, 1833–1876. Ediciones Internacionales Universitarias.

  • Ransome, A. (2004). The crisis in Russia. Charleston, South Carolina: Booksurge Classics (originally published 1920).

  • Rolston, B. (1991). Politics and painting: murals and conflict in Northern Ireland. Cranbury: Associated University Presses

  • Sánchez, M. (2006). Los Murales Efímeros de la Guerra Civil Española y su Relación con México. Crónicas: El muralismo, producto de la revolución mexicana, en América, México, UNAM-IIE, No. 12.

  • Sánchez-Cuenca, I. (2008). The persistence of nationalist terrorism: the case of ETA, chapter prepared for Mulaj, K. (ed) Violent non-state actors in contemporary world politics.

  • Sawer, M. (2007). Wearing your politics on your sleeve: the role of political colours in social movements. Social Movement Studies, 6(1), 39–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Siqueiros, D. (1975). Art and revolution (pp. 123–129). London: Lawrence and Wishart.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stermer, D. (1970). The art of revolution. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schmitt, P. (2009). Advertised to death: Lebanese poster boys. Lebanon: Author.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tejerina, B. (2001). Protest cycle, political violence and social movements in the Basque Country. Nations and Nationalism, 7(1), 39–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Urla, J. (1995). Outlaw language: creating alternative public spheres in Basque free radio. Pragmatics, 5(2), 245–261.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Whitfield, T. (2014). Endgame for ETA: elusive peace in the Basque Country. London: Hurst.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woodworth, P. (2001). Dirty war, clean hands. Cork: Cork University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woodworth, P. (2005). Using terror against terrorists: the Spanish experience. In S. Balfour (Ed.), The politics of contemporary Spain (pp. 61–80). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woodworth, P. (2007). Basque Country: a cultural history. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wright, H. K. (2003). Cultural studies as Praxis: (making) an autobiographical case. Cultural Studies 17(6), 805–822.

  • Zarraibeitia, P. (1986). Expresion mural. Ikuspen.

  • Zirakzadeh, C. (2002). From revolutionary dreams to organizational fragmentation: disputes over violence within ETA and Sendero Luminoso. Terrorism and Political Violence, 14(4), 66–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bill Rolston.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rolston, B., Alvarez Berastegi, A. Taking Murals Seriously: Basque Murals and Mobilisation. Int J Polit Cult Soc 29, 33–56 (2016).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: