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Catalonia ( ; ; Aranese; Catalonha) is one of the seventeen Autonomous Communities of the Kingdom of Spainmarker. Its capital city is Barcelonamarker. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an official population of 7,364,078. It borders Francemarker and Andorramarker to the north, Aragonmarker to the west, the Valencian Communitymarker to the south, and the Mediterranean Seamarker to the east (580 km coastline). The official languages are Catalan, Spanish and Aranese.


The name Catalunya (Catalonia) began to be used in the 12th century in reference to the group of counties that comprised the Marca Hispanica, which gradually became independent from the French. The origin of the term is subject to diverse interpretations. A theory suggests that Catalunya derives from the term "Land of Castles", having evolved from the term castlà, the ruler of a castle (see castellan). This theory, therefore, suggests that the term castellà ("Castilian") would have been synonymous. Though critics usually consider it rather limited.

Another theory suggests that Catalunya derives from Gothia, "Land of the Goths", since the Spanish March was one of the places known as Gothia, whence Gothland and Gothlandia theoretically derived,

Yet another theory less accepted, points to the Lacetani, an Iberian tribe that lived in the area, and whose name, due to the Roman influence, could have evolved to Katelans and then Catalans.


The climate of Catalonia is diverse. The populated areas lying by the coast in Tarragonamarker, Barcelonamarker and Gironamarker feature a Mediterranean climate. The inland part (including the Lleida provincemarker and the inner part of Barcelona) show a mostly continental Mediterranean climate. The Pyreneeanmarker peaks have a mountain or even Alpine climate at the highest summits.

In the Mediterranean area, summers are dry and hot with sea breezes, and the maximum temperature is around 25-30 °C. Winter is cool or cold depending on the location. It snows frequently in the Pyrenees, and it occasionally snows at lower altitudes, even by the coastline. Spring and autumn are typically the rainiest seasons, except for the Pyrenean valleys, where summer is typically stormy.

The inland part of Catalonia is hotter and drier in summer. Temperature may reach 35 °C, some days even 40 °C. Nights are cooler there than at the coast with the temperature of around 14° to 16 °C. Fog is not uncommon in valleys and plains, it can be especially resilient and with freezing drizzle episodes during winter by the Segremarker and other river valleys.

Legal status within Spain

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 declares that Spain is an indissoluble nation that recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions that constitute it. Catalonia, alongside Basque Countrymarker and Galiciamarker was set apart from the rest of Spain as a Historical nationality and given the ability to accede to autonomy automatically, which resulted in the 1979 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. The rest of Spain, in a process spearheaded by Andalusiamarker and completed by 1985, carved itself into 14 additional Autonomous Communities by drafting their own Statutes of Autonomy. After 2003 there has been a round of amendments to the various Statutes of Autonomy (notably, alongside Catalonia's, those of Aragonmarker, the Valencian Communitymarker, the Balearic Islandsmarker and the Canary Islandsmarker)

Both the 1979 Statute of Autonomy and the current one, approved in 2006, state that Catalonia, as a nationality, exercises its self-government constituted as an autonomous community in accordance with the Constitution and with the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, which is its basic institutional law.

The Preamble of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia states the Parliament of Cataloniamarker defined Catalonia as a nation, but that the Spanish Constitution recognizes Catalonia's national reality as a nationality. The Preamble of the Statute lacks legal value, thus the constitutional status is the same as it was in 1979, which is an Autonomous Community. While this Statute was approved by and sanctioned by both the Catalan and the Spanish parliaments, and later by referendum in Catalonia, it has been legally contested by the surrounding Autonomous Communities of Aragon, Balearic Islands and the Valencian Community, as well as by the Partido Popular. The objections are based on various issues such as disputed cultural heritage but, especially, on the Statute's alleged breaches of the principle of "solidarity between regions" enshrined by the Constitution in fiscal and educational matters. As of November 2008, the Constitutional Court of Spain is assessing the constitutionality of the challenged articles; its binding conclusion is expected in 2009.


Catalan Court.

Like some other parts in the rest of the Mediterraneanmarker coast of the Iberian Peninsulamarker, Catalonia was colonised by Ancient Greeks, who settled around the Rosesmarker area. Both Greeks and Carthaginiansmarker (who, in the course of the Second Punic War, briefly ruled the territory) interacted with the main Iberian substratum. After the Carthaginian defeat, it became, along with the rest of Hispania, a part of the Roman Empire, Tarraco being one of the main Roman posts in the Iberian Peninsula

It then came under Visigothic rule for four centuries after Rome's collapse. In the eighth century, it came under Moorish al-Andalusmarker control. Still, after the defeat of Emir Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi's troops at Tours in 732, the Franks conquered former Visigoth states which had been captured by the Muslims or had become allied with them in what today is the northernmost part of Catalonia. Charlemagne created in 795 what came to be known as the Marca Hispanica, a buffer zone beyond the province of Septimaniamarker made up of locally administered separate petty kingdoms which served as a defensive barrier between the Umayyad Moors of Al-Andalusmarker and the Frankish Kingdom.

The Catalan culture started to develop in the Middle Ages stemming from a number of these petty kingdoms organised as small counties throughout the northernmost part of Catalonia. The counts of Barcelona were Frankish vassals nominated by the emperor then the king of France, to whom they were feudatories (801–987).

In 987 the count of Barcelona did not recognize the French king Hugh Capet and his new dynasty which put it effectively out of the Frankish rule. Two years later, in 989, Catalonia declared its independence. Then, in 1137, Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona married Queen Petronila of Aragon establishing the dynastic union of the County of Barcelona with the Kingdom of Aragonmarker which was to create the Crown of Aragon.

It was not until 1258, by means of the Treaty of Corbeil, that the king of France formally relinquished his feudal lordship over the counties of the Principality of Cataloniamarker to the king of Aragon James I, descendant of Ramon Berenguer IV. This Treaty transformed the region's de facto independence into a de jure direct transition from French to Aragonese rule. It also solved a historic incongruence. As part of the Crown of Aragon, Catalonia became a maritime power, helping expand the Crown by trade and conquest into the Kingdom of Valencia, the Balearic Islandsmarker, and even Sardinia, Sicily, Corsicamarker, Naplesmarker, Athensmarker, Canary Islandsmarker and America.

In 1410, King Martin I died without surviving descendants. As a result, by the Pact of Caspe, Ferdinand of Antequera from the Castilian dynasty of Trastamara, received the Crown of Aragon as Ferdinand I of Aragon.

His grandson, King Ferdinand II of Aragon married Queen Isabella I of Castile in 1469; retrospectively, this is seen as the dawn of the Kingdom of Spainmarker. At that point both Castile and Aragon remained distinct territories, each keeping its own traditional institutions, Parliaments and laws. Political power began to shift away from Aragon toward Castile and, subsequently, from Castile to the Spanish Empire.

For an extended period, Catalonia, as part of the former Crown of Aragon, continued to retain its own usages and laws, but these gradually eroded in the course of the transition from feudalism to a modern state, fueled by the kings' struggle to have more centralized territories. Over the next few centuries, Catalonia was generally on the losing side of a series of local conflicts that led steadily to more centralization of power in Spain, like the Reapers' War (1640–1652).

The most significant conflict was the War of the Spanish Succession, which began when Charles II of Spain (the last Spanish Habsburg) died without a successor in 1700. Catalonia, as the other territories which used to form the Crown of Aragon in the Middle Ages, mostly rose up in support of the Habsburg pretender Charles of Austria, while the rest of Spain mostly adhered to the French Bourbon claimant, Philip V. Following the fall of Barcelona on 11 September 1714, the 'special status' of the territories belonging to the former Crown of Aragon and its institutions were abolished by the Nueva Planta decrees, under which all its lands were incorporated to Crown of Castile, as provinces, into a united Spanish administration, as Spainmarker moved towards a centralised government under the new Bourbon dynasty.

In the latter half of the 19th century Catalonia became an industrial center; to this day it remains one of the most industrialised parts of Spain. In the first third of the 20th century, Catalonia gained and lost varying degrees of autonomy several times, receiving its first statute of autonomy during the Second Spanish Republic (1931). This period was marked by political unrest and the preeminence of the Anarchists during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). They were also active throughout the early 20th century, achieving the first eight-hour workday in the world in 1919. After the defeat of the Republic in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) which brought General Francisco Franco to power, his regime suppressed any kind of public activities associated with Catalan nationalism, Anarchism, Socialism, Democracy or Communism, such as publishing books on the matter or simply discussing them in open meetings. As part of this suppression the use of Catalan in government-run institutions and in public events was banned. During later stages of the Francoistmarker régime certain folkloric and religious celebrations in Catalan resumed and were tolerated. Use of Catalan in the mass media was forbidden, but was permitted from the early 1950s in the theatre. Publishing in Catalan continued throughout the dictatorship.

After Franco's death (1975) and with the adoption of a democratic Spanish constitution (1978), Catalonia recovered political and cultural autonomy. Today, Catalonia is one of the most economically dynamic regions of Spain. The Catalan capital and largest city, Barcelonamarker, is a major international cultural centre and a major tourist destination.


Originating in the historic territory of Catalonia, Catalan is one of the three official languages and has enjoyed special status since the approval of the Statute of Autonomy of 1979 which declares it to be the language "proper to Catalonia". The other languages with official status are Spanish, which has official status throughout Spain, and Aranese, a dialect of Gascon Occitan spoken in the Aran Valleymarker.

Under the Franco dictatorship Catalan was, until the 1970s, excluded from the state education system and all other official and public use, including the prohibition of giving children Catalan names . Rural-urban migration originating in other parts of Spain also reduced the social use of the language in urban areas, while increasing the use of Spanish. Lately, a similar sociolinguistic phenomenon has occurred with foreign immigration.

After the Franco dictatorship, in an attempt to reverse this, the re-established self-government democratic institutions of Catalonia embarked on a long term language policy to increase the use of Catalan and has, since 1983, enforced laws which attempt to protect, and extend, the use of Catalan. Some groups consider these efforts a way to discourage the use of Spanish, while some others, including the Catalan government and the European Union consider the policies respectful, or even as an example which "should be disseminated throughout the Union".

Today, Catalan is the main language of the Catalan autonomous government and the other public institutions that fall under its jurisdiction. Basic public education is given in Catalan except for two hours per week of Spanish medium instruction. Businesses are required to display all information (e.g. menus, posters) at least in Catalan under penalty of fines; there is no obligation to display this information in either Aranese or Spanish, although there is no restriction on doing so in these or other languages and this is often done, in particular in Spanish. The use of fines was introduced in a 1997 linguistic law that aims to increase the use of Catalan. The law ensures that both Catalan and Spanish – being official languages – can be used by the citizens without prejudice in all public and private activities, but primary education can only be taken in Catalan language. The Generalitat uses Catalan in its communications and notifications addressed to the general population, but citizens can also receive information from the Generalitat in Spanish if they so desire.

According to the most recent linguistic census held by the Government of Catalonia , a plurality claims Spanish as "their own language" (37.26% Catalan compared to 46.53% Spanish), and in most everyday uses people who use exclusively Spanish or both languages equally are in the majority. 57.83% of citizens declared Spanish as a native language, either exclusively or along with Catalan.

Also, starting with the Statute of Autonomy of 1979, Aranese (a dialect of Gascon) has been official and subject to special protection in the Aran Valleymarker. This small area of 7,000 inhabitants was the only place where a dialect of Occitan has received full official status. Then, on 9 August 2006, when the new Statute came into force, Occitan became official throughout Catalonia.

Due to the intense immigration which Spain in general and Catalonia in particular experienced in the first decade of the twentyfirst century, many foreign languages are spoken in various cultural communities in Catalonia, of which Arabic and Urdu are the more common.


The Catalonia is more industrialised than other parts of Spain. The distribution of sectors is the following one:

In 2007 the regional GDP of Catalonia was € 202,509 million and per capita GDP was € 24,445 in 2007. In this year, the GDP growth was 3.7%,. In the context of the 2008 financial crisis, Catalonia is expected to suffer a recession amounting to almost a 2% contraction of its regional GDP in 2009

The main tourist destinations in Catalonia are the city of Barcelonamarker, the beaches of the Costa Brava at Gironamarker and the Costa Dauradamarker at Tarragonamarker. In the Pyreneesmarker there are several ski resorts.

Many savings banks are based in Catalonia: 10 of the 46 Spanish savings banks are Catalan and "La Caixa" is Europe's premier savings bank The first private bank in Catalonia is Banc Sabadell, now fourth of the Spanish private banks.

The stock market of Barcelona, which in 2004 traded almost 205,000 million € ., is the second largest of Spain after Madrid, and Fira de Barcelona organizes international exhibitions and congresses to do with different sectors of the economy.

The main economic cost for the Catalan families is the purchase of a house. According to daof ta the Society of Appraisal on the 31 December 2005 Catalonia is, after Madrid, the second most expensive region in Spain for housing: 3,397 €/m² on average(See Spanish property bubble).


After Franco's death in 1975 and the adoption of a democratic constitution in Spain in 1978, Catalonia recovered, and extended, the powers that it had gained in the statute of autonomy of 1932 but lost with the fall of the Second Spanish Republic at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.

The region has gradually achieved more autonomy since 1979. The Generalitat holds exclusive jurisdiction in culture, environment, communications, transportation, commerce, public safety and local government, and shares jurisdiction with the Spanish government in education, health and justice.

There is some nationalist sentiment present in a part of the population of Catalonia, which ranges from the desire for independence from Spain expressed by Catalan separatists, to a more generic demand for further autonomy.Some non-binding referendums with local character, asking the population whether or not do they want to achieve the independence, have been undertaken[690].

Law and government of Catalonia

The Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia is the fundamental organic law, second only to the Spanish Constitution from which the Statute originates. The Catalan Statute of Autonomy establishes that Catalonia is organized politically through the Generalitat de Catalunya, conformed by the Parliamentmarker, the Presidency of the Generalitat, the Government or Executive Council and the other institutions created by the Parliament.

The seat of the Executive Council is the city of Barcelonamarker. Since the restoration of the Generalitat on the return of democracy in Spainmarker, the presidents of Catalonia have been Jordi Pujol (1980-2003), Pasqual Maragall (2003-2006) and José Montilla Aguilera, incumbent .

Catalonia is divided into four provinces: Barcelonamarker, Gironamarker, Lleidamarker, and Tarragonamarker, which are subdivided into comarques (roughly equivalent to counties), and further into local municipalities.

Security forces

Catalonia has its own police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, whose origins date back to the eighteenth century. Since 1980 they have been under the command of the Generalitat, and since 1994 they have expanded in number in order to replace the national Guardia Civil and Policía Nacional, which report directly to the Homeland Department of Spain. The national bodies retain personnel within Catalonia to exercise functions of national scope such as overseeing ports, airports, coasts, international borders, custom offices, the identification of documents and arms control amongst others.

Most of the justice system is administered by national judicial institutions. The criminal justice system is uniform throughout Spain, while "civil law" is administered separately within Catalonia.

After Navarremarker and the Basque Countrymarker, Catalonia is the Spanish region with the highest degree of autonomy.


The autonomous community of Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² with an official population of 7,354,411 (2008) from which immigrants represent an estimated 12.3%.

The Urban Region of Barcelona includes 3,327,872 people and covers an area of 2.268 km² and about 1.7 million people live in a radius of 15 km from Barcelonamarker. The metropolitan area of the Urban Region includes cities like l'Hospitalet de Llobregatmarker, Badalonamarker, Santa Coloma de Gramenetmarker and Cornellàmarker.

In 1900 the population of Catalonia was 1,984,115 people and in 1970 it was 5,107,606. That increase was produced due to the demographic boom produced in Spain during the 60s and early 70s and also due to the large-scale internal migration produced from the rural interior of Spainmarker to its industrial cities. In Catalonia that wave of internal migration arrived from several regions of Spain, especially Andalusiamarker, Murciamarker and Extremaduramarker.



Commercial and passenger ports


see also List of autopistes and autovies in Catalonia

There are 12,000 km of roads throughout Catalonia.

The principal highway is AP-7 known also as Autopista del Mediterrani. It follows the coast from the French Border to Valenciamarker, located south of Tarragona. The main roads generally radiate from Barcelona. The A-2 and AP-2 connect inland and onward to Madrid.

Other major roads are:


Catalonia saw the first railway construction in Iberian Peninsulamarker in 1848, linking Barcelonamarker with Matarómarker. Given the topography most lines radiate from Barcelonamarker. The city has both suburban and inter-city services. The main east coast line runs through the province connecting with the SNCF (French Railways) at Portboumarker on the coast.

There are two publicly owned railway companies operating in Catalonia: the Catalan FGC and the Spanish national RENFE.

High speed AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) services from Madrid currently reach Lleidamarker, Tarragonamarker and Barcelonamarker. The official opening between Barcelonamarker and Madridmarker took place 20 February 2008. The journey between Barcelonamarker and Madridmarker now takes about 2 and a half hours. Construction has commenced to extend the high speed line northwards to connect with the French high speed TGV network. This new line passes through Gironamarker and there is a tunnel through the Pyrenees.

Some symbols of Catalonia

Catalonia has its own representative and distinctive symbols such as:
The flag of Catalonia

  • One of the most famous international symbols of Catalonia is FC Barcelona. The area's footballing branch is supported with a passion by the 'cules'. Each season they engage in one of Spanish football's most famous rivalries, the El Clásico with La Liga powerhouse and long-time rivals Real Madrid.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Catalonia

There are several UNESCOmarker World Heritage Sites in Catalonia:

Popular culture

Castellers are one of the main manifestations of Catalan popular culture. The activity consists in constructing human towers by competing colles castelleres (teams). This practice originated in the southern part of Catalonia during the 18th century.

The sardana is the most characteristic Catalan popular dance, other groups also practice Ball de bastons, moixiganga or jota in the southern part. Musically the Havaneres are also characteristic in the marine localities of the Costa Brava specially during the summer months when these songs are sung outdoors accompanied by a cremat of burned rum. As opposed to other parts of Spain, flamenco is not popularly performed, but rather the rumba is a more prevalent dance style.

In the greater celebrations other elements of the Catalan popular culture are usually present: the parades of gegants (giants) and correfocs of devils and firecrackers. Another traditional celebration in Catalonia is La Patum de Berga declared oral and immaterial patrimony of the Humanity by UNESCO in the 25 November 2005.

In addition to the traditional local Catalan culture, people can enjoy traditions from other parts of Spain as a result of sizeable migration from other regions.

See also


  1. [1] (catalan)
  2. Enciclopèdia Catalana online: Catalunya ("Geral de Cataluign, Raimundi Catalan and Arnal Catalan appear in 1107/1112") in Catalan
  3. La formació de Catalunya
  4. Curiositats sobre Catalunya i el català
  5. La Catalogne : son nom et ses limites historiques. Histoire de Rousillon.
  7. Bulke, Ulrich. (1900). A History of Spain from the Earliest Times to the Death of Ferdinand the Catholic. Longman, Greens and Co. London, UK
  8. El Misteri de la Paraula Cathalunya
  9. Constitución Española, Título Preliminar
  10. First article of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalunya
  11. Admitidos los recursos de Aragón, Valencia y Baleares contra el Estatuto catalán.
  12. Marc Howard Ross, " Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict", page 139. Cambridge University Press, 2007
  13. The Resurgence of Catalan Earl W. Thomas Hispania, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Mar., 1962), pp. 43-48 doi:10.2307/337523
  14. Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia (Article 6)
  15. Multilingualism in Spain: Sociolinguistic and Psycholinguistic Aspects of Linguistic Minority Groups
  16. Diario El Mundo, Spanish Only
  17. Diario El Imparcial, Spanish Only
  18. Diario Periodista Digital, Spanish Only
  19. Diario Periodista Digital, Spanish Only
  20. Page 13: Catalan Deputy of Education Ernest Maragall declares respect from the Catalan Government to Spanish language and to everyone's rights. Catalan only
  21. EU takes Basque Country, Galicia, Catalonia and Valencia as examples of bilingualism.
  22. The President Montilla promises to look after the use and respect both for Spanish and Catalan languages.
  23. Report from the European Union in which Catalan immersion is taken as an example which "should be disseminated throughout the Union" (page 18)
  24. Catalonia's linguistic law
  25. Second article of Catalonia's linguistic law
  26. Ninth article of Catalonia's Linguistic Law
  29. European Structural Funds in Spain (2000-2006)
  30. [2] CIDEM
  31. [3] CIDEM
  33. Ranking of Savings Banks
  34. [4] Profile of "Banc Sabadell" in Euroinvestor]
  35. Beginnings of the autonomous regime, 1918-1932
  36. The republican Government of Catalonia, 1931-1939
  37. Title IV. Powers (articles 110-173)of the 2006 Statute
  38. CIS Poll covering, among others, nationalist opinions.
  39. Legislació civil catalana
  40. "Catalunya arriba a set milions d'habitants", Diari El Punt.
  41. " Catalans grapple with migrant influx", BBC News. 3 January 2007
  43. Statute of Catalonia (Article 8)
  44. Law 1/1980 where the Parlamient of Catalonia declares that 11th of September is the National Day of Catalonia
  45. Law 1/1993 National Anthem of Catalonia
  46. Law 1/1993 in the BOE
  47. Patum de Berga

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