Wha's like us? Quite a lot of folk: 1. the Galicians by Paul Kavanagh
This is an old article written by Paul Kavanagh that was published in @NewsnetScotland to years ago (more or less); and now published again in this blog with the kind permission of Paul. Thank you very much Paul for such a great article and also thank you to NewsnetScotland for showing Galiza in Scotland..
Este é un artigo antigo escrito por Paul Kavanagh que foi publicado por @NewsnetScotland hai mais ou menos dous anos; e agora o publico eu neste blog co permiso de Paul. Moitas grazas Paul por este estupendo artigo e grazas tamén a NewsnetScotland por mostrar Galiza en Scotland.
by Paul Kavanagh
is the first in an occasional series looking at other nations around
Europe and elsewhere in the world which, like Scotland, are not
Galicia nestles in the corner of Spain immediately
north of Portugal. The wild and beautiful landscape of Galicia has
little in common with the parched Mediterranean coasts which provide
most Scottish people with their image of Iberia. Galicia is green and
lush and closely resembles the extreme southwest of Ireland in climate.
The resemblances with Ireland go further than landscape and climate
and the Galicians are proud of their Celtic roots. The country takes
its name from the Celtic Gallaeci tribe who lived in the region in
pre-Roman times. The Gallaeci maintained close links with the Celtic
tribes of Ireland and Britain. Many modern archaelogists believe that
Galicia was the southernmost end of a maritime-orientated culture which
also encompassed Brittany, Ireland and the western coasts of Britain,
reaching as far north as Orkney.
These ancient links are
preserved in Galician culture and legend. Galicians still tell of a
king called Breogan who built a high tower in his capital, Brigantium.
The tower was so high that in the far distance an island could be seen.
Breogan's sons Mile and Ith took sail in a fleet of ships and conquered
and settled on the island, which is known today as Ireland. The best
preserved account of this legend is in the old Irish text the Lebor Gabála 'the Book of Invasions', a semi-mythical telling of Irish history, but versions of the story are still told by Galicians.
regard Breogan as the father of their nation, and as such claim that
they are also the mother country of Ireland and Scotland. Irrespective
of whether there is any truth in the legends, Galicians still feel a
strong affinity to the Irish and the Scots. Modern visitors from Celtic
nations are guaranteed a warm welcome in the country, and are received
like long-lost cousins.
The Galician language is called Galego.
Despite the name it is not a variety of Gaelic. Galego descends from
the Latin language introduced by the Roman conquerors and is closely
related to Portuguese. Portuguese descends from those dialects of
Galego spoken in districts which avoided coming under the political
control of the Castilian monarchy. Many linguists classify Portuguese
and Galician as twin standard varieties of a single Galician-Portuguese
language. Galego remains widely spoken by the Galician people and is
now official alongside Spanish throughout Galicia.
links with the Celtic nations of the British Isles remained strong even
after the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. During the Anglosaxon
invasions, thousands of Romano-British Celts fled the pagan Germanic
tribes who were attacking southern Wales, south west England and the
Cornish peninsula. The bulk of these settled
in Brittany, where their Celtic language still survives until today,
but another large group fled further south to Galicia. Here they
founded the semi-independent bishopric of Bretoña where they continued
to speak their Brittonic Celtic language for many generations. The
Celtic Britons of Bretoña finally disappear from history in the 9th
century, but their legacy lives on in the strong links in culture and
traditional music which remain to this day between Galicia and the
Bagpipes, called gaitas, are still widely played
by traditional musicians and Celtic music is popular. Some Galician
musicians have become internationally famous in the Celtic music scene,
such as Carlos Nuñez and the band Luar na Luibre 'Moon in the Pond'.
mediaeval kingdom of Galicia was founded in the wake of the Arabic
conquest of Iberia. Only the extreme north of the peninsula remained
independent of the Islamic kingdom of Al Andalus. This strip of
territory remained under the control of Christian rulers who fought
amongst themselves for political dominance. For brief periods during
this time Galicia established itself as an independent kingdom, and it
was during one of these periods of independence that the southernmost
portion of the kingdom broke away to become Portugal. The lands that
would become Galicia eventually fell under the influence of the
neighbouring kingdoms of León and Castile and in time were absorbed into
From the 9th century the cult of St James the Apostle
became established in Galicia, following the 'miraculous discovery' of
the bones of the saint in the Galician town of Santiago de Compostela.
Santiago became a centre for pilgrimage endowed with a magnificent
cathedral. Pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela are still popular
amongst Catholics even today. Although not the largest city in modern
Galicia in terms of population, Santiago de Compostela remains the
traditional capital and the seat of the Galician government.
many centuries, Galicia was isolated from the remainder of Spain. Land
connections with the rest of Iberia relied upon dangerous mountain
passes through dense forests inhabited by wolves and bears. Journeys by
sea meant voyaging along the treacherous and unpredictable coast. For
good reason sailors came to call the north coast of Galicia A Costa da Morte 'the coast of death'.
Spain entered upon its Golden Age when the discovery of the New World
allowed Spaniards to exploit the wealth of the Americas, Galicia became
even more of a backwater. Although possessing fine Atlantic ports, the
country was marginalised in trade with the New World, all of which was
controlled by the southern cities of Seville and Cádiz. During this
period Galego fell out of use as a written language, and the country
became an impoverished province of Spain. Galicians call this period Os séculos oscuros 'the dark centuries'.
power declined as France and England became the new colonial giants to
dominate the globe. Galicia fell even deeper into poverty and
obscurity. Emigration rates were high, tens of thousands of Galicians
emigrated to the Spanish colonies in the same way that Scots and Irish
migrated to British colonies. Just like Ireland and the Scottish
Highlands, during the 19th century Galicia was struck by a series of
severe famines which caused untold thousands to cross the oceans in
search of a better life. Cuba and Argentina were favourite destinations
for the Galician exiles. Cuba's Fidel Castro bears a typically
During the 19th century the currents of
European liberalism shook the creaking Spanish state to its
foundations. With the weakening of control from Madrid came a
resurgence in regional sentiments in the diverse provinces of Spain. In
Galicia this took the form of the Galicianism movement, a term which
was coined by members of As Irmandades da Fala 'the Brotherhoods of the Speech'. The Irmandades were
literary clubs and societies which began to spring up in the larger
towns and cities of Galicia with the intention of restoring Galego to
its former status as a language of serious writing and literature. The
language organisations received support from the left wing political
parties and the federalists who dominated the regionalist party O Partido Galeguista 'the Galicianist Party'.
the fall of the Spanish monarchy and the establishing of the Second
Spanish Republic in 1931, the regionalist aspirations of the Partido
Galeguista were met when the new republic announced it would support the
creation of an autonomous regional government in Galicia. This
culminated in the overwhelming approval in a popular referendum of the
1936 Galician Statute of Autonomy, which stated in its preamble that
Galicia was a free state within the Spanish federal republic.
it was not to last. The 1936 statute was never put into effect.
Tensions were rising in Spain as the republicans and their allies faced
off against their traditional opponents in the landed aristocracy, the
army and the church. Within weeks of the referendum full scale civil
war broke out as the reactionary generals who headed the Spanish army
launched their self-described holy crusade to rid Spain of leftists and
separatists. The opponents of democracy were led by one General
Francisco Franco, himself born into a military family in the Galician
town of Ferrol, close to the important naval base in the city of A
Coruña. Galicia was one of the first parts of Spain to fall to his
During Franco's dictatorship, any expression of
regional or non-Spanish national sentiment was banned. Central control
from Madrid was strictly enforced. Even so, small groups of activists
and intellectuals kept the dream of a Galician parliament and a Galician
The economy slowly began to modernise, although
Galicia continued in its traditional role as an exporter of raw
materials and people to the rest of Spain. Hydroelectric power plants
were constructed in Galicia in the 1960s and 70s, wreaking havoc on the
natural ecology, but creating opportunities for European manufacturers
to establish themselves in the country. However, the economy remains
based largely in agriculture and fisheries. By far the largest segment
of the Spanish fishing fleet is based in Galicia. Proportionately,
fisheries occupy a much larger segment of the Galician economy than the
Scottish economy, given the massive Spanish appetite for seafood.
the death of Franco and the restoration of democracy to Spain, one of
the most pressing issues was the demand of various parts of the country
for autonomy. The new Spanish constitution attempted to address these
needs in part by acknowledging that the Galicians, along with the
Basques and the Catalans, are 'historic nationalities' within the
Spanish state, and as such had a right to the recognition of their
traditional languages and culture. The new constitution allowed for the
creation of a Galician parliament and the recognition of the Galego
language as an official language of Galicia.
However the framers
of the new constitution also needed to ensure that Franco's generals
remained in their barracks, and so the constitution also included the
statement that Spain was one indivisible nation. The Galicians are all
too aware that they lack the legal right to self-determination and in
this respect look enviously to Scotland, whose constitutional status is
The main Galician nationalist party is the Bloque
Nacionalista Galego (BNG) an alliance of left wing, ecological and
other groups. The BNG does not officially support independence although
many of its members are strongly sympathetic to the idea, but rather is
in favour of maximising the political powers and control which rest
with the Galician parliament.
In large part this stance is a
pragmatic reflection of the reality that Galician nationalism is weaker
as a political force than its equivalents in the Basque Country or
Catalunya. The BNG typically receives around 20% of votes cast in
elections in Galicia. The party achieved its best ever result in the
elections to the Galician Parliament in 1997 when it obtained almost 25%
of the votes cast. However, Galicia is an electoral stronghold of the
Spanish Partido Popular, who can be thought of as roughly equivalent to
the British Conservatives in politics and in their attitude the unity of
the state. Following the elections of 2009, the Partido Popular made
up the largest bloc in the Galician parliament with 38 deputies out of a
total of 75. The second largest bloc is formed by the Spanish
socialists with 25 deputies (roughly equivalent to the British Labour
party). The remaining 12 deputies are representatives of the BNG.
number of smaller nationalist parties are not members of the BNG
alliance and do officially support independence. Some of these parties,
such the centrist nationalist party Terra Galega 'Galician Land', have
local councillors but none have parliamentary deputies either in the
Galician Parliament or the Spanish Cortes.
It is unlikely that
Galicia will become independent any time soon. Popular demand for
independence is lower than in the Basque Country, Catalunya, or
Scotland, and most people appear contented to retain ties with Spain.
Even so, the Galician identity is strong and vital, and firmly based in
the Galician view of themselves as Atlantic Celts like their Irish and
Scottish cousins. Although the Galicians are on the whole willing to
remain a part of Spain, they are also determined to remain distinctly
and proudly Galego.
For information and news about Galicia and other stateless nations in Europe and beyond, visit the Nationalia website.
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