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The Catalans are the people from, or with origins in the Principality of Cataloniamarker, a historic territory in the northeastern Iberian Peninsulamarker, including the Autonomous Community of Cataloniamarker in Spainmarker and an adjoining portion in southern Francemarker –known in Catalonia proper as Catalunya Nord, and in France as the Pays Catalan.

The Catalan people share the Catalan language and a common history, which has created an own culture and a strong feeling of Catalan identity. The Catalan people together with the people from the rest of the Catalan Countriesmarker have formed a culturally independent region in Western Europe, which difference them from other Spanish peoples, Occitan, French or Italian people.

Extended concept

The other Catalan-speaking peoples, namely Andorrans, Valenciansmarker, Balearicsmarker and some Aragonese are mentioned by some sources as being part of a so-called Catalan ethnic group. These sources are sometimes related to Catalan nationalism, including reference works such as a widespread Catalan encyclopedia.

In the mentioned territories (often designed as Països Catalansmarker or "Catalan Countries" by Catalan nationalism), this extended concept is unpopular. Even within Catalan nationalism, or within Catalonia in general, the usage of such extended concept is marginal; even those associations working for closing ties between the various Catalan speakers often do not support or even refuse explicitly that the Catalan speakers from outside Catalonia proper should be called Catalans.

Historical background

The earliest reference to Catalans (Catalanenses), treated as a people group, is found in the Latin Liber maiolichinus, an Italian epic poem of c.1120. This also contains the earliest reference to Catalonia (Catalania) as the name for their homeland.

The area that is now Catalonia was invaded in 1500 BCE by Proto-Celtic Urnfield people who brought the rite of burning the dead. These Indo-European people were replaced by the Iberians beginning in 600 BCE in a process that would not complete until the fourth century BCE. These groups came under the rule of various invading groups starting with the Phoeniciansmarker and Carthaginiansmarker, who set up colonies along the coast, including Barcinomarker (present-day Barcelona) itself. Following the Punic Wars, the Romans replaced the Carthaginians as the dominant power in Catalonia by 206 BCE. Rome established Latin as the official language and imparted a distinctly Roman culture upon the local population, which merged with Roman colonists from the Italian peninsula. An early precursor to the Catalan language began to develop from a local form of popular Latin before and during the collapse of the Roman Empire. Various Germanic tribes arrived following nearly six centuries of Roman rule, which had completely transformed the area into the Roman province of Tarraconensis. The Visigoths established themselves in the 5th century CE and would rule the area until 718 when Muslim Arabs and Berbers conquered the region and held it for close to a century. The Franks held back small Muslim raiding parties which had penetrated virtually unchallenged as far as central France; Frankish suzerainty extended over much of present-day Catalonia. Larger wars with the Muslims began with the Spanish March which led to the beginnings of the reconquista (reconquest) by Catalonian forces over most of Catalonia by the year 801. It was during this period that a Catalan national identity fully emerged as Barcelona became an important center for Christian forces in the Iberian peninsula.

Catalonia emerged from the conflicts in Muslim Spainmarker as a regional power, as Christian rulers entrenched themselves in the region during the Carolingian period. Rulers such as Wilfred the Hairy became masters of a larger territory encompassing Catalonia. The Crown of Aragon included Catalonia, Aragonmarker, Valencia and the Balearic Islandsmarker. The marriage of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon and the conquest of the last Muslim kingdom of Granadamarker in 1492 tied Catalonia politically to the fate of the new Spanish kingdom, while a regional culture continued to survive and thrive.

Some sporadic regional unrest led to conflicts such as the Revolt of the Germanies in Valencia and Majorca, and the 1640 revolt in Catalonia known as the Reapers' War. This latter conflict embroiled Spain in a larger war with France as many Catalan nobles allied themselves with Louis XIII. The war continued until 1659 and ended with the Peace of the Pyrenees which effectively partitioned Catalonia as the northern strip of the March came under French rule, while the rest remained under Spanish hegemony. Still restive under Spanish rule, most Catalans took sides for the Habsburg pretender against the Bourbon one during the War of the Spanish Succession that started in 1705 and ended in 1714. The Catalan failure to defend the perpetuation of Habsburg dynasty in Spain culminated in the surrender of Barcelona on September 11, 1714, which came to be commemorated as Catalonia's national day.

During the Napoleonic Wars, much of Catalonia was seized by French forces by 1808 as France ruled the entire region briefly until Napoleon's surrender to Allied Armies. In France, strong assimilationist policies integrated many Catalans into French society, while in Spain a Catalan identity was increasingly suppressed in favor of a national identity. The Catalans regained autonomy during the Spanish Second Republic from 1932 until Francisco Franco's nationalist forces retook Catalonia by 1939. It was not until 1975 and the death of Franco that the Catalans began to fully regain their right to their cultural expression, which was established by the Spanish Constitution of 1978. Since this period, a balance between a sense of local identity versus the broader Spanish one has emerged as the dominant political force in Catalonia. The former tends to advocate for even greater autonomy and/or independence; the latter tends to argue for maintaining the status quo. As a result, there tends to be much fluctuation depending on regional and national politics during a given election cycle. Given the stronger centralist tendencies in France, however, French Catalans display a much less dynamic sense of uniqueness, having been integrated more consistently into the unitary French national identity.


The vast majority of Catalans reside in the autonomous community of Catalonia, within Spain. At least 100,000 Catalan speakers live in the pays catalan in France. An indeterminate number of Catalans emigrated to the Americas during the Spanish colonial period and in the years following the Spanish Civil War. The largest concentration of Catalans established themselves in Argentinamarker, Chilemarker, Cubamarker and Puerto Rico, as well as pockets of settlements throughout Latin America.

Culture and society

Described by author Walter Starkie in The Road to Santiago as a subtle people, he sums up their national character with a local term seny (pronounced ) meaning common sense or a pragmatic attitude towards life. The masia or mas is a defining characteristic of the Catalonian countryside and includes a large house, land, cattle, and an extended family, but this tradition is in decline as the nuclear family has largely replaced the extended family, as in the rest of western Europe. Catalans in Spain are recognised as a "nationality" and enjoy a high degree of political autonomy, leading to reinforcement of a Catalan identity.


The Catalan language is a Romance language of the Gallo-Iberian group. It is the language closest to Occitan, as well as sharing many features with other Italo-Western languages such as Spanish, French, Portuguese and Aragonese. There are a number of linguistic varieties that are considered dialects of Catalan; among them, the dialect group with more speakers is the one called Central Catalan.

The number of Catalan speakers is over 7 million, but very few Catalan monoglots exist; basically, virtually all of the Catalan speakers in Spain are bilingual speakers of Catalan and Spanish, with a sizeable population of Spanish-only speakers of immigrant origin (typically born outside Catalonia or with both parents born outside Catalonia) existing in the major Catalan urban areas as well. In the Roussillon, nowadays only a minority of the French Catalans do speak Catalan, being French the majority language after a continued process of language shift.

The inhabitants of the Aran valleymarker count Aranese –an Occitan dialect– rather than Catalan as their own language. These Catalans are also bilingual in Spanish.

In September 2005, the .cat TLD, the first Internet language-based top-level domain, was approved for all webpages intending to serve the needs of the Catalan linguistic and cultural community on the Internet. This community is made up of those who use the Catalan language for their online communications or promote the different aspects of Catalan culture online.

Traditional clothes

The traditional clothes (now, practically only used in folkloric celebrations) included the barretina and the faixa among men and ret among women. The traditional footwear was the espardenya.


Traditional diet

The Catalan diet is part of the Mediterranean diet. They fry with olive oil, and milk is widely consumed. Catalan people eat more poultry than red meat, and like to eat veal (vedella) and mutton (xai).

There are three main daily meals:
  • In the morning: a very light breakfast, consisting of fruit or fruit juice, milk, coffee, or pa amb tomàquet "bread with tomato". Catalans tend to divide their breakfast into two parts: one early in the morning before going to work or study (first breakfast), and the other one between 10:00 and 12:00 (second breakfast).
  • In the afternoon (roughly from 13:00 to 14:30): the main meal of the day, usually comprising three dishes. The first consists of pasta or vegetables, the second of meat or fish and the third of fruit or yogurt. It is common to drink moderate quantities of wine.
  • In the evening (roughly from 21:00 to 22:30): more food than in the morning but less than at lunch. Very often only a single big dish and fruit.

In Catalan gastronomy, embotits (a wide variety of Catalan sausages) are very important; these are pork sausages such as botifarra or fuet. In the past, bread (similar to French bread) figured heavily in the Catalan diet; now it is used mainly in the morning (second breakfast, especially among young students and some workers) and supplements the noon meal, at home and in restaurants. Bread is still popular among Catalans; some Catalan fast-food restaurants don't serve hamburgers but offer a wide variety of sandwiches.

In the past, the poor ate soup every day and rice on Thursday and Sunday.

The discipline of abstinence, not eating meat during Lent, was once very strong but has practically disappeared in the 20th century.

Spicy food is rare in the Catalan diet, but there are quite spicy sauces such as allioli or romesco.

Traditional dishes

One type of Catalan dish is escudella soup which contains chick peas, potatoes, and vegetables such as green cabbage, celery, carrots, turnips, and meats like botifarra (a Catalan sausage), pork feet, salted ham, chicken, and veal. In Northern Catalonia, it's sometimes called ollada.

Other Catalan dishes are calçots (similar to leeks and often eaten with a romesco sauce) and escalivada.


Catalan music has one of the oldest documented musical traditions in Europe.


The majority of Catalans are of the Roman Catholic tradition, while significant numbers of Catalans profess either no religion or appear to be atheists or agnostics.

Social conditions

Catalonia is one of the richest and most well developed regions in Southern Europe. Barcelonamarker is among the most industrialized metropolises and is both a regional capital and a magnet for various migrants from other regions in Spain as well as from foreign countries.

Catalan people have made numerous cultural contributions, from art and architecture to film and science.

Identity and nationalism

Due to the continued identification with a distinct identity, many Catalans support Catalan nationalism or Catalan independentism in Spain. This is only seen to a much lesser extent in France.

Still, for a majority of Catalans, Catalan identity is not viewed as necessarily being mutually exclusive with the Spanish one; a large majority of people feel both Catalan and Spanish. Comparable examples exist in other large European states with strong regional identities, such as Bavariamarker within Germanymarker or Sicily within Italymarker. In contrast, the situation in France has been sharply different as French policies have completed a more through assimilation of the French Catalans into de French Republic. This has reduced the number of citizens who identify themselves as Catalans within France.

Famous Catalans

See also


  • Balcells, Albert et al. Catalan Nationalism : Past and Present (Palgrave Macmillan, 1995).
  • Collier, Basil. Catalan France (J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1939).
  • Conversi, Daniele. The Basques, the Catalans and Spain: Alternative Routes to Nationalist Mobilization (University of Nevada Press, 1997). ISBN 1850652686.
  • Guibernau, Montserrat. Catalan Nationalism: Francoism, Transition and Democracy (Routledge, 2004).
  • Hargreaves, John. Freedom for Catalonia?: Catalan Nationalism, Spanish Identity and the Barcelona Olympic Games (Cambridge University Press, 2000).
  • Simonis, Damien. Lonely Planet Catalunya & the Costa Brava (Lonely Planet Publications, 2003).
  • Starkie, Walter. The Road to Santiago (John Murray, 2003).
  • Michelin THE GREEN GUIDE France (Michelin Travel Publications, 2000).


  1. "[1]Présentation Perpinyà 2008"
  2. Culture et catalanité Conseil Général des Pyrénées-Orientales
  3. " Definition of "Catalan people" in GREC". Accessed: 29 April 2009
  4. Latin text of the Liber maiolichinus with Spanish introduction.

Online references

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