Galicia (Spain)

Comunidad Autónoma de
Comunidade Autónoma de
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Image:Locator map of Galicia.png

Capital Santiago de Compostela
Official languages Galician and Castilian
 – Total
 – % of Spain
Ranked 7th
 29 574 km²
 – Total (2003)
 – % of Spain
 – Density
Ranked 5th
 2 737 370
 – English
 – Galician
 – Spanish
 – Portuguese

Statute of Autonomy April 28, 1981
Anthem Os Pinos

 – Congress seats
 – Senate seats
President Manuel Fraga Iribarne (PPdeG)
Xunta de Galicia (

Galicia (Galician: Galicia or Galiza, Spanish: Galicia, Portuguese: Galiza) is an autonomous community in the northwest of Spain.



The spoken languages are Galician (Galego) (the local language derived from Latin) and Spanish (castellano or español) (in common with the rest of Spain).

Spanish was imposed as the only official language for several centuries. Since the end of the 20th century, the Galician language has also an official status, and both languages are taught in Galician schools. There is a strong social movement to preserve the Galician language.

The Galician and Portuguese languages are derived from the early Portuguese-Galician (Galego-Português) language. In the Middle Ages, the Galician and Portuguese languages began to diverge because of the political separation of Galicia from Portugal. Today, they constitute different languages with different grammatical rules and official academies and institutions. There remain many similarities between Portuguese and Galician. Orally, these differences are about as much as between Flemish — a form of Dutch spoken in Belgium — and standard Dutch.

A distinct Galician Literature emerged after the Middle Ages. In the 13th century, important contributions were made to the romance canon in Galego-Português. The most notable was by the troubador Martín Codax and King Alfonso X El Sabio (The Wise). During this period, Galego-Português was considered the language of love poetry in the Iberian proto-romance linguistic culture.

Provinces and Cities

Since 1833, Galicia has been divided in four administrative provinces:

The main cities are Vigo, A Coruña, Pontevedra, Lugo, Ferrol, Ourense, and Santiago de Compostela, the capital and seat of the archbishop, and the endpoint of medieval Europe's most famous pilgrimage route.


Geographically, one of the most important features of Galicia is the presence of many fjord-like indentations on the coast, estuaries that were drowned with rising sea levels after the ice age. These are called rías and are divided into the Rias Altas and the Rias Baixas. Most of the population live near the Rias Baixas, where several large urban centres including Vigo and Pontevedra are located. The rias are important for fishing, and make the coast of Galicia one of the most important fishing areas of the world. The spectacular landscapes and wildness of the coast attract great numbers of tourists even though the weather is mostly rainy, even in the summer.

The weather is Atlantic, with mild temperatures all over the year. Santiago de Compostela has as average 321 days of rain a year. The interior, specifically the more mountainous parts of Ourense and Lugo, receive significant freezes and snowfall during the winter months.

Galicia has preserved much of its dense Atlantic forests where wildlife is commonly found. It is scarcely polluted, and its landscape composed of green hills, cliffs and rias is very different to what is commonly understood as Spanish landscape.

Inland, the region is less populated and suffers from migration to the coast and the major cities of Spain. There are few towns (Ourense, Lugo, Verín, Monforte de Lemos, A Rua), and there are many small villages. The terrain is made up of several low mountain ranges crossed by many small rivers that are not navigable but have provided hydroelectric power from the many dams. Galicia has so many small rivers that it has been called the "land of the thousand rivers." The most important of the rivers are the Miño and the Sil, which has a spectacular canyon.

The mountains in Galicia are not high but have served to isolate the rural population and discourage development in the interior. There is a ski resort in Manzaneda in Ourense Province. The highest mountain is Trevinca (2 000 m) near the eastern border with León.

Although the region is filled with extensive natural areas, Galicia has had environmental problems in the modern age. Deforestation is an issue in many areas, as is the continual spread of the invasive eucalyptus tree, imported for the paper industry, which is causing imbalances in the indigenous ecosystem. Fauna, most notably the European wolf, have suffered from livestock owners and farmers. The native deer species have declined because of hunting and development. Recently, oil spills have become a major issue, especially with the Mar Egeo disaster in A Coruña and the infamous Prestige spill in 2002, a crude oil spill larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska. Other environmental issues include gas flushing by maritime traffic, pollution from fish hatcheries on the coast, overfishing.


Galicia is a land of economic contrast. While the western coast, with its major population centres, and its fishing and manufacturing industries is prosperous and increasing in population, the rural hinterland—the provinces of Ourense and Lugo—base mostly their economy on traditional agriculture, based on small landholdings called minifundios. However, the rise of tourism, sustainable forestry and organic and traditional agriculture are bringing other possibilities to the Galician economy without compromising the preservation of the natural resources and the local culture.


Galicia's inhabitants are called "Galicians" (in Portuguese & Galician galegos; in Spanish gallegos). There was significant Galician emigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries to other parts of Spain and to Latin America. In fact, the city with the greatest number of Galician people is Buenos Aires (Argentina).

In most of Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America, Spaniards of all origins are sometimes called gallegos. In Brazil, anyone who is blond and light-skinned is often called a galego, but this is mainly due to Northern Portuguese, who are also called galegos by southern Portuguese and Brazilians.


The name Galicia (Galiza) comes from Latin name Gallaecia, associated to the name of the ancient Celtic tribe that resided above the Douro river, the Gallaeci or Callaeci in Latin and Kallaikoi in Greek (these tribes were mentioned by Herodotus).

Before the Roman invasion, a series of tribes lived on the region, having — according to Strabo, Pliny, Herodotus and others — a similar culture and customs. These tribes appear to have Celtic culture — there is evidence that the last Galician Celtic speaker died in the 15th century.

The region was first entered by the Roman legions under Decius Junius Brutus in 137 BC/136 BC. (Livy lv., lvi., Epitome); but the province was only superficially Romanized in the time of Augustus.

In the 5th century AD invasions, Galicia fell to the Suevi in 411, who formed there the Kingdom of Galicia. In 584, the Visigothic King Leovigild invaded the Suebic kingdom of Galicia and defeated it, bringing it under Visigoth control. During the Moorish invasion of Spain, the Moors briefly occupied Galicia until they were driven out in 739 by Alphonso I of Asturias.

During the 9th and 10th centuries, the counts of Galicia owed fluctuating obedience to their nominal sovereign, and Normands/Vikings occasionally raided the coasts. The Towers of Catoira (Pontevedra) were built as a system of fortifications to stop Viking raids of Santiago de Compostela.

In 1063, Ferdinand I of Castile and Leon divided his kingdom among his sons. Galicia was allotted to Garcia II of Galicia. In 1072, it was forcibly reannexed by Garcia's brother Alphonso VI of Castile, and from that time Galicia remained part of the kingdom of Castile and Leon, although under differing degrees of self-government.

Galician nationalist and federalist movements arose in the nineteenth century, and after the Spanish Republic was declared in 1931, Galicia approved in referendum an Autonomy Statute for becoming as an autonomous region. In 1936, Francisco Franco came to power in Spain and removed Galicia's such autonomy. He also tried to suppress the Galician language and culture. During the last decade of Franco's rule, renewed nationalist sentiment built up in Galicia.

In 1975, Franco died and democracy was restored to Spain soon after. Galicia became an autonomous region within Spain. There remains, however, a strong autonomist movement, the Bloque Nacionalista Galego, that seeks greater autonomy from the Spanish state, the preservation of Galician heritage and culture. Some factions advocate total independence from Spain and other smaller groups hope to be reintegrated within Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking world.

Presently, Galicia is an autonomous community inside the Spanish State, with its own parliament and health service.

Galician Artists and Writers

Outstanding contemporary musicians and groups

  • O Fiadeiro ( traditional dancing, singing and tunes, from Vigo
  • SonDeSeu  ( modern orchestra with traditional instruments (harps, hurdy-gurdies, tambourines, flutes, violins and bagpipes) and repertoire
  • Mercedes Peón ( singer and musician who draws heavily upon tradition to produce very modern music
  • Xosé Manuel Budiño ( bagpiper who plays modern music with a traditional stroke
  • Xistra de Coruxo ( traditional group and association
  • Xacarandaina ( traditional dancing, singing and tunes, from A Coruña
  • Berrogüetto ( group which manages a perfect, balanced, virtuoso combination of tradition and modernity
  • Os Compés ( traditional quintet from Trasancos with spicy and joyful lyrics and rhythm
  • Quempallou ( traditional music full of joy and energy from O Morrazo e O Incio
  • Xiradela ( female singers and players of tambourine and traditional percussion from Arteixo
  • Susana Seivane ( possible the bes female bagpiper from Cambre


Political Parties

External links


bg:Галисия ca:Galícia cs:Galicie de:Galicien et:Galicia es:Galicia eo:Galegio fi:Galicia fr:Galice gl:Galiza it:Galizia hu:Galícia tartomány mi:Karihia nl:Galicië (Spanje) ja:ガリシア pl:Galicia pt:Galiza ro:Galicia sv:Galicien


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