A few facts about Galicia Spain
The Macmillan Encyclopedia describes Galicia as follows: "A medieval kingdom in NW Spain, now an autonomous region. Colonized by the Visigoths from the 6th century, it became a sub-kingdom of Castile in the late 11th century. It has retained its own flourishing language and culture." It also list another Galicia located in Poland and the Ukraine, the two are unconnected.
Galicia has a relatively low population of around three million inhabitants spread across four provinces and an area of about 11, 500 square miles. These provinces are: Lugo, Ourense, A Coruna and Pontevedra. In addition to the regional capitol of Galicia, each of these provinces has its own provincial capitol city.
Historically, Galicia was one of the poorer regions in Spain with an economy focussed on fishing and agriculture as opposed to manufacturing. Galicia is also sometimes perceived as being under developed and less cosmopolitan than some of Spains southern and central regions. It also has an unusually low non Spanish popoluation which, as an example, includes less than 800 native English speakers.
After the arrival of General Franco, much of the autonomy of Galicia, including its language Gallego, was removed and outlawed in schools. The Galicians resented this denial of their history and it still sits uneasily with them today. Since a more democratic government was returned to Spain, Galicians have embraced every aspect of their regional and cultural heritage.
Despite a view of Galicia as one of the poorer provincial Spanish cousins, the region is rich in both agriculture, fisheries and more recently tourism, the latter illustrated vividly by the escalation of property values in this region. Don't be fooled by other Galician sites who suggest otherwise e.g. A four bed roomed house in any large town will cost you upwards of 300K Euros, and that will probably be for a "casa" requiring extensive renovation if not complete internal refurbishment.
Galicia has a temperate, four seasoned climate enabling it to grow a wide range of vegetables, some of which would otherwise be unavailable in the Iberian Peninsula. Farming and fishing sit hand in hand as the primary revenue sources for this part of Spain, but tourism is catching up.
Galicians also claim to be of Celtic origin, but I will stay away from that discussion.
If you want to offend a Galician, suggest that their provinces were once in the hands of the Moors and under Islamic rule. Many British and Americans assume this and the Muslim Council of Great Britain claim it to be the case, but it is none-the-less total rubbish. The Galicians fought off the Moors when they attacked Santiago de Compostela, killing many of them and taking even more into slavery. The remainder ran off, never to be seen again. It was the north eastern region of Spain that succumbed to the Moorish invaders and, for a brief period in history, was under Islamic rule.
Some Galician history, geography and fiction
- It was from the port town of La Coruña that the Spanish Armada departed during the attempted invasion of England in 1588. In 1589, a combination of the attack by Sir Francis Drake's fleet and confused navigation, resulted in the almost total destruction of the Armada. Many of the ships did in fact survive the English onslaught, but were lost or destroyed as they headed unintentionally hundreds of miles off course into the North sea. Drake did of course take credit.
- Galicia's most popular regional wines are Albarino and Ribeiro.
- The famous Spanish crooner, Julio Iglesias, although born in Madrid, is in fact of Galician heritage and this has been reflected in some of his recordings including, "A Song to Galicia" and "Homesickness". In the USA and UK he is perhaps best known for his duet with country music star Willie Nelson ("to all the girls I've loved before").
- The Hymn of Galicia is "Os Pinos" (The Pine Trees).
- Galicia has five cathedrals, the most famous of which is in Santiago de Compostela.
- Galicia has many rivers, most of them quite small, and is known throughout the rest of Spain as "the land of a thousand rivers".
- There are only seven cities in Galicia with a population of more than 50.000 people. Six of those cities are described in this guide. The one that is not is called "Ferrol", and lies just north of the city of "A Coruna".
- The autonomous government of Galicia (established in April 1981) is called the "Xunta de Galicia". The Galician flag has in fact only existed since the 17th century, the original flag of Galicia was similar to that of Portugal. The coat of arms in the center of the flag is required for all state functions.
- Argentina's capitol city, Buenos Aires, has the largest single city population of Galicians anywhere in the world.
- The Galicians consider themselves Celts and varying stories exist as to how this colonisation occured.
- Despite his efforts to destroy the concepts of regional identity, language and culture, General Franco was in fact from Galicia and spoke Gallego. My wife's father actually served on his Yacht and spoke to him on many occasions. His reasons for regional intolerance were, in his mind, justified by the strengthening of nationalism as a whole and the removal of segregation across the country. He is not however well thought of in Galicia.