CAB's response to our pages about Galicia and the Celts

This was a very long email, so we have edited it down to include what we hope CAB will feel are the most pertinent sections.

As for the point discussed in the text, that is, whether we Galicians can be considered Celts or not, well, I'll have to agree with the author on his conclusion: it is a controversial topic. What I strongly disagree with is with the sloppy logic he/she uses to support his/her opinions.

In one paragraph he uses the fact that our language "Gallego" is not Celtic, but closely related to Portuguese, as an argument against our supposed or "claimed" Celtic identity. If that argument were taken seriously, it would amount to telling someone from Dublin or Glasgow that they are not Celts because they speak English and not Gaelic.

It is a recognised fact, that "Celtiberian" and "Lusitanian," spoken respectively in large parts of Spain and in Portugal before the arrival of the Romans were Celtic languages. Galician, Portuguese, Catalan and Castillian Spanish (the last one strangely denominated as "traditional Spanish," in your page, as if the rest the languages spoken in Spain -Catalan, Basque and Galician- were not "traditional") derive from the popular or "vulgar" version of Latin brought by Rome's soldiers, coloners and traders. But, as I have said above, other languages (some of them Celtic) were spoken in Iberia before Roman rule. They succumbed to the pressure of the Lingua Franca of the time, i.e. Latin. Then again, can it be claimed that old Galicians were Celts because they spoke a Celtic language? The answer is "no," in the same way as it cannot be claimed that Jamaicans are English.

With reference to the paragraph

Perhaps most discrediting of all is the simple fact that Galicia's claim to a Celtic heritage is a recent event. It started some time between the 12th and 14th centuries and up to that time the Galicians were happy to be seen as Spanish

Spain as such did not exist until the end of the 15th century? How could Galicians feel "Spanish" in the 12th and 14th centuries if, for a start, we had our own kingdom for a while and, most importantly, Spain did not exist back then? At most we could feel "Leonese" or "Castillian," as eventually we were taken over by Leon and, later, by Castile. Moreover, if that were true, would feel "Spanish" amount to not feeling Celtic? Don't many Scottish Celts feel part of Britain? As for the start of our "Celtic awareness" arising some time between the 12th and 14 centuries well, I'm no expert on the matter, but I have read widely on it and this is the first claim I hear in this sense. Most Galician historians place the start of the "Celtic identity claim" at the mid 19th century, when Romanticism gave rise to nationalistic feelings in many European regions.

With reference to the paragraph

First of all, visit any festival in Galicia and you will witness a sight very different to that of southern Spain. In fact you could well be excused for thinking you were in Scotland. Firstly you will hear the bagpipes or "galleta galleo" and this will be followed by the appearance of the pipers in outfits not un-similar to that of their counterparts in Britains Celtic strongholds. Listen to the music and watch the dancing and still more similarities start to appear - and these are unique to Galicia, no where else in Spain has similar rituals

Galician costumes similar to Scottish ones? I lived in Edinburgh for 3 years and can safely claim that that is ABSOLUTELY not true. OK, Galician bagpipes look and sound similar to Scottish ones, although they are tuned in a different key. And so what? They also play the bag-pipe in Turkey: it was an instrument widely used across Europe and the Near East in the Middle Ages and has continued to be used in some areas. As for the dancing, yes, there are some similarities with Scottish dancing: hopping with the arms held up, but to claim that "no where (sic) else in Spain has similar rituals" is so falsely stereotypical and superficial that it hurts. I dread to think what the page about Spain says about "flamenco" or "sevillanas." Clearly, the knowledge of the huge cultural diversity of Spain has fallen victim to "sangria-drinking" and the simplistic tourist promotion done of the country in the past.

With reference to the paragraph

The Galicians are also a small race, which again ties in with the physical stature of the Celts.

Yes, as was practically everyone before the Industrial Revolution, and with a very low life expectancy. And yes, we Galicians are on average shorter than the rest of Spaniards, and certainly than most other Europeans. But has anyone told this guy/woman about the differences existing between genotype and phenotype? Nutrition and environment have a lot to do with this

With reference to the paragraph

Furthermore, the facial features of Galicians are generally different to Spaniards from any other regions. There is however an explanation for this and whether it helps or hinders the argument is hard to determine. Unlike much of central and southern Spain, Galicia resisted countless invasion from the "Moors", and other invaders and their bloodline is consequently cleaner. Perhaps this shows their true Celtic character, or perhaps they represent the only true Hispanics..

I have travelled across Spain and we, Galicians, are more or less the same physically as the rest of Spaniards as regards hair and eye colour, skin pigmentation etc (blondism, for example, being at 10-17% in the hole country). And yes, I have also lived in Ireland and, in comparison, some Galician faces do look "typically Celtic" (whatever that may mean), without that being enough to support the claim made by the author . Moreover, the notion of Spaniards having a strong mixture of "moorish" blood has been refuted by many recent genetic studies (5% of mixture on average, if I remember rightly.) The genotype of Spaniards is typically European (including that of Galicians) according to whatever studies you might care to read, not that it would matter if it was otherwise.

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