The so-called ‘montes bocineros’, or ‘horn mountains’ (in Basque, Deiadar-mendiak), are five peaks in Bizkaia that were used to announce General Assemblies in the region of Bizkaia with horns and lights. These peaks – Kolitza, Ganekogorta, Gorbea, Oiz and Sollube – are visible everywhere in Bizkaia, each belonging to a different merindad (administrative division).
The first mount where the horn was sounded was the Gorbea. Then, all other four echoed the warning. When villagers heard the call for citizen participation, they knew that, in the next moon phase, a General Assembly would take place.
Origins of this tradition
This tradition dates back to the Middle Ages, when the General Assemblies were held at the Assembly House in Gernika. They were meetings with normative power over the Basque territory of Bizkaia and their main tasks were legislative, law being to a great extent customary.
Since the villages were scattered across the territory, the horn mountains played a key role as an effective means to call for a new General Assembly.
Gradually, the horn mountains fell into disuse, as the bells in chapels and parish churches began to be used for the same purpose. Later, representatives were elected to attend the meetings and the calls were written documents. In the seventeenth century, the sound and light signals in the mountains were no more than a past tradition.
In 2004, on the 25th anniversary of the restoration of the General Assemblies in Bizkaia, the five horn mountains came back to life. Every year, one of the peaks is chosen to announce the Day of the Horn Mountains, an event gathering mountaineering enthusiasts and people interested in Basque customs and traditions.