Iceland recently discovered a bylaw that allowed Icelanders to kill anyone from the Basque country on sight, and have decided to overturn it. País Vasco is a region of Spain on the north coast.
The law dates from 1615, when a Basque whaling ship foundered in the waters off Iceland and 32 Basque crew members struggled ashore. They set up camp on the beach in Hólmavik, and quickly got into a series of fights with locals over limited resources. They so infuriated the local commissionaire that he enacted a law allowing any Basque to be killed on sight, before getting a mob together to massacre the Basques and throw their bodies back into the sea.
This gruesome little episode remained on the statue books until local historians found out about it, and commissionaire Jónas Guðmundsson officially overturned the law on the 22nd of April this year.
“It’s mainly a bit of fun” explained Jónas to Spanish media, “we have plenty of national laws forbidding the killing of Basques in Iceland”. When asked if he was expecting more Basques to come to Iceland now, he happily said that “at least they know they are safe here now!”.
A commemorative plaque has been installed outside the Museum of Witchcraft of Hólmavik, at an act attended by several representatives from the País Vasco. The scenic picture at the top is the town of Hólmavik.
The País Vasco representatives reminded us that the 1615 massacre didn’t put off links between the two regions and that Basque whalers continued to trade with the island for centuries afterwards.