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Galicia or Galiza is a historical autonomous community in northwest Spainmarker, with the status of a historical nationality, and was one of the first kingdoms of Europe (Kingdom of Galicia). Its component provinces are A Coruña, Lugomarker, Ourensemarker and Pontevedramarker. It borders Portugalmarker to the south, the Spanish regions of Castile and Leónmarker and Asturiasmarker to the east, the Atlantic Oceanmarker to the west, and the Bay of Biscaymarker to the north.


Geographically, a remarkable feature of Galicia is the presence of many fjord-like inlets along the coast, estuaries that were drowned with rising sea levels after the ice age. These are called rías and are divided into the Rías Altas, and the Rías Baixas. The rias are important for fishing, and make the coast an important fishing area. The spectacular landscapes and wildness of the coast attract great numbers of tourists.

Finisterre on the Atlantic coast of Galicia
The coast of this green corner of the Iberian Peninsulamarker is also known as the "A Costa do Marisco" (i.e., "The Seafood Coast" in Galician).

Galicia has preserved few of its dense Atlantic forests where wildlife is commonly found. It is relatively unpolluted, and its landscape composed of green hills, cliffs and rias is very different from what is commonly understood as Spanish landscape.

Inland, the region is less-populated and suffers from migration to the coast and the major cities of Spain. The terrain is made up of several low mountain ranges crossed by many small rivers that are not navigable but have provided hydroelectric power from the many dams. Galicia has so many small rivers that it has been called the "land of the thousand rivers". The most important of the rivers are the Miño and the Sil, which has a spectacular canyon.

The mountains in Galicia are not high but have served to isolate the rural population and discourage development of the interior. There is a ski resort in Cabeza de Manzaneda (1778 m) in Ourense Provincemarker. The highest mountain is Trevincamarker (2127 m) on the Ourense eastern border with Leónmarker and Zamoramarker provinces (Castilla y Leónmarker).

Galicia has no extensive natural areas and has had several environmental problems in the modern age. Deforestation is a problem in many areas, as is the continual spread of the eucalyptus tree, imported for the paper industry. Fauna, most notably the European Wolf, have suffered because of the actions of livestock owners and farmers. The native deer species have declined because of hunting and development. Recently, oil spills have become a major issue, especially with the Mar Egeo disaster in A Coruñamarker and the infamous Prestige oil spill in 2002, a crude oil spill larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaskamarker. Other environmental issues include gas flushing by maritime traffic, pollution from fish hatcheries on the coast, overfishing, and the highest incidence of forest fires in Spain, in spite of the wetter Galician climate.

Administrative divisions

Image:Situacion Provincia da Coruña.PNG|Province of A CoruñaImage:Situacion Provincia de Lugo.PNG|Province of LugoImage:Situacion Provincia de Ourense.PNG|Province of OurenseImage:Situacion Provincia de Pontevedra.PNG|Province of Pontevedra

Galicia was divided into seven administrative provinces until 1833:

From 1833, the seven original provinces of the 15th century were consolidated into four:

The main cities are Vigomarker, A Coruñamarker, Ourensemarker, Lugomarker, Pontevedramarker, Ferrolmarker and Santiago de Compostelamarker, the capital and archiepiscopal seat, and home of the shrine which gave rise to medieval Europe's most famous pilgrimage route, The Way of St Jamesmarker.


The weather is dominated by the proximity of Galicia to the Atlantic, with mild temperatures throughout the year. Santiago de Compostela has an average of 100 days of rain a year. The interior, specifically the more mountainous parts of Ourense and Lugo, receive significant freezes and snowfall during the winter months.

In the summer the hot temperatures and dense forests lead to forest fires. The forest fires of summer 2006 were particularly bad, burning tens of thousands of hectares, blackening the skies with thick smoke that resulted in plumes extending for hundreds of kilometres over the Atlantic. Many believe that those responsible tend to be livestock farmers who want to clear the land for livestock grazing or others who wish to build on rural land. Some also suspect that some firefighters themselves, seeking to earn extra money, also play a significant part as arsonists.


The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

The name Galicia comes from the Latin name Gallaecia, associated with the name of the ancient Celtic tribe that resided above the Douromarker river, the Gallaeci or Callaeci in Latin, and Kallaikoi in Greek (these tribes were mentioned by Herodotus).

Before the Roman invasion, a series of tribes lived in the region, and according to Strabo, Pliny, Herodotus and others, they shared similar Celtic customs.

This area was first entered by the Roman legions under Decimus Junius Brutus in 137–136 BC. (Livy lv., lvi., Epitome); but the province was only superficially Romanized by the time of Augustus.

In the 5th century AD invasions, Galicia fell to the Suevi in 411, who formed the first medieval kingdom to be created in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. In 584, the Visigothic King Leovigild invaded the Suebic kingdom of Galicia and defeated it, bringing it under Visigoth control. During this period a British colony-bishopric was established in Northern Galicia (Britonia) populated by Briton immigrants escaping the Anglo-Saxon invasion (see Mailoc). During the Moorish invasion of Spain (711-718), the Moors never managed to have any real control over Galicia, and this situation remained unchanged up until 739 when Alfonso I of Asturias successfully drove them out and Galicia was finally assimilated for good to the Kingdom of Asturias.

During the 9th and 10th centuries, the counts of Galicia gave fluctuating obedience to their nominal sovereign, and Normans/Vikings occasionally raided the coasts. The Towers of Catoiramarker (Pontevedra) were built as a system of fortifications to stop the Viking raids on Santiago de Compostelamarker.

In 1063, Ferdinand I of Castile divided his kingdom among his sons. Galicia was allotted to Garcia II of Galicia. In 1072, it was forcibly reannexed by Garcia's brother Alfonso VI of Castile, and from that time Galicia remained part of the Kingdom of Castile and Leon, although under varying degrees of self-government.

The final episode of Galician independence was the dynastic conflict between Isabella I of Castile and Joanna La Beltraneja ("Daughter of Beltrán", and not to be confused with Joanna the Mad). It was believed that Joanna was the bastard daughter of Beltrán and the former queen (hence the name Beltraneja). A political struggle ensued, and the Joanna-supporting nobles (most of the Galician aristocracy) lost. This gave Isabella free rein to initiate the process she called "Doma y Castración del Reino de Galicia", that is, the "Taming and Castration of the Kingdom of Galicia" (sic)(Court Historian, Zurita).Galician regionalist and federalist movements arose in the nineteenth century. From 1916 through the 1920s these developed into a full nationalist movement. After the second Spanish Republic was declared in 1931, Galicia became an autonomous region following a referendum. During the 1936–75 dictatorship of General Francisco Franco — himself a Galician from Ferrolmarker — Galicia's statute of autonomy was annulled (as were those of Cataloniamarker and the Basquemarker provinces). Franco's regime also suppressed any official promotion of the Galician language, although its everyday use was never proscribed. During the last decade of Franco's rule, there was a renewal of nationalist feeling in Galicia.

Following the transition to democracy upon the death of Gen. Franco in 1975, Galicia regained its status as an autonomous region within Spain with the Statute of Autonomy of 1981, which starts: "Galicia, historical nationality, is constituted as an Autonomous Community to access to its self-government, in agreement with the Spanish Constitution and with the present Statute (...)". Varying degrees of nationalist or separatist sentiment are evident at the political level. The only nationalist party of any electoral significance, the Bloque Nacionalista Galego or BNG, is a conglomerate of left-wing parties and individuals that claims the Galician political status as a nation.

From 1990 to 2005, the region's government and parliament, the Xunta de Galicia, was presided over by the Partido Popular ('People's Party', Spain's main national conservative party) under Manuel Fraga, a former minister and ambassador in the Franco regime. In 2002, when the oil tanker Prestige sank and covered the Galician coast in oil, Fraga was accused by the socialist-nationalist movement 'Nunca Mais' to have been unwilling to react. In the 2005 Galician elections, the 'People's Party' lost its absolute majority, while just remaining the largest party in the parliament with 43% of the total votes. As a result, power passed to a coalition of the Partido dos Socialistas de Galicia (PSdeG) ('Galician Socialists' Party'), a regional sister-party of Spain's main social-democratic party, the Partido Socialista Obrero Español ('Spanish Socialist Workers Party') and the nationalist Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG). As the senior partner in the new coalition, the PSdeG nominated its leader, Emilio Perez Touriño, to serve as Galicia's new president, with Anxo Quintana, the leader of BNG, as its vice-president.

In 2009 the PSdG-BNG coalition lost the elections and the government went back to the People's Party which will enjoy a comfortable majority until 2013. Alberto Núñez Feijóo (PP) is now Galicia's president.


Galicia is a land of economic contrast. While the western coast, with its major population centers and its fishing and manufacturing industries, is prosperous and increasing in population, the rural hinterland—the provinces of Ourensemarker and Lugomarker—are economically dependent on traditional agriculture, based on small landholdings called minifundios. However, the rise of tourism, sustainable forestry and organic and traditional agriculture are bringing other possibilities to the Galician economy without compromising the preservation of the natural resources and the local culture.


The spoken languages are Galician (Galician: Galego), the local language derived from Latin, closely related to Portuguese, both being Galician-Portuguese languages, and Spanish, the only official language for more than four centuries (XVI - XIX). Since the end of the 20th century, the Galician language also has an official status, and both languages are taught in Galician schools. There is a broad consensus of support within the region for efforts to preserve the Galician language .

The Galician and Portuguese languages are derived from the early Galician-Portuguese (Galego-Português or Middle Ages Portuguese) language spoken in Galicia and north-of-Douro regions in Portugal, and are considered by some philologist to be two dialects of the same language (Galician-Portuguese). The Galician and Portuguese languages began to diverge in the Middle Ages, a development hastened by political separation. Furthermore, there remain many similarities between Portuguese and Galician. Mutual intelligibility is very good between Galicians and Portuguese speakers. In fact there is a public debate in Galicia about their own language and its relationship to the Portuguese language. Nowadays, some people hold that the Galician language is an autonomous and separate language, while others maintain that Galician is a variant of the Portuguese language, such as Brazilian Portuguese.

A distinct Galician Literature emerged after the Middle Ages. In the 13th century, important contributions were made to the romance canon in Galician-Portuguese. The most notable was by the troubadour Martín Codax, by King Denis of Portugal and by King Alfonso X of Castile, called O Sábio (The Wise One). During this period, Galician-Portuguese was considered the language of love poetry in the Iberian Romance linguistic culture. The names and memories of Codax and other popular cultural figures are well preserved in modern Galicia and are often encountered in daily circulation of information.


Galicia's inhabitants are called "Galicians" (in Portuguese & Galician galegos; in Spanish gallegos).

Note: The population of the City of A Coruñamarker in 1900 was 43,971. The population of the rest of the province including the City and Naval Station of nearby Ferrolmarker and Santiago de Compostelamarker was 653,556. A Coruña's growth occurred after the Spanish Civil War at the same speed as other major Galician cities, but it was the arrival of democracy in Spain after the death of Francisco Franco when A Coruña left all the other Galician cities behind.

The rapid increase of population of Vigomarker, A Coruñamarker, and to a lesser degree Santiago de Compostelamarker and other major Galician cities, during the years that followed the Spanish Civil War during the mid 20th century occurred as the rural population declined -- many villages and hamlets of the four provinces of Galicia disappeared or nearly disappeared during the same period. Economic development and mechanization of agriculture resulted in the fields being abandoned, and most of the population has moving to find jobs in the main cities. The number of people working in the Tertiary and Quaternary sectors of the economy has increased significantly.(Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911).


Like most of Western Europe, Galicia's history has been defined by mass emigration. There was significant Galician emigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries to industrialized parts of Spain and to Latin America - mostly to Brazilmarker (where the language was similar) but also Argentinamarker, Uruguaymarker, Venezuelamarker, and Cubamarker. One example is Fidel Castro, whose father was Galician, and mother was of Galician descent. The two cities with the greatest number of people of Galician descent outside of Galicia itself are Buenos Airesmarker, Argentinamarker, and nearby Montevideomarker, Uruguaymarker where immigration from Galicia was so significant that Argentines and Uruguayans now commonly refer to all Spaniards as gallegos (Galicians).

During the Franco years there was a new wave of emigration out of Galicia to other European countries, most notably to Francemarker, Switzerlandmarker, and the United Kingdommarker. There are many expatriate communities throughout the world, and many have their own groups or clubs. Galician immigration is so widespread that websites such as Fillos de Galicia were created in order to organize and inform Galicians throughout the world.



Galician cuisine often uses fish and shellfish. The Empanada is a meat or fish pie, with a bread-like base, top and crust with the meat or fish filling usually being in a tomato sauce including onions and garlic. It has Celtic influence. Caldo Galego is a hearty soup whose main ingredients are potatoes and a local vegetable named grelo . The latter is also employed in Lacón con grelos, a typical Carnival dish, consisting of pork shoulder boiled with grelos, potatoes and Chorizo (paprika sausage). Centolla is the equivalent of King Crab. It is prepared by being boiled alive, having its main body opened like a shell, and then having its innards mixed vigorously. Another popular dish is Octopus, boiled (traditionally in a copper pot) and served in a wooden plate, cut into small pieces and laced with olive oil, sea salt and Pimentón (Spanish paprika). This dish is called Pulpo à galega, which roughly translates as Octopus the Galician way. There are several regional varieties of cheese. The best known one is the so-called Tetilla cheese, named after its shape, which is similar to a woman's breast. Other highly regarded varieties include the San Simón cheese from Vilalbamarker and the creamy cheese produced in the Arzúamarker-Curtis area. The latter area produces also high-quality beef. A classical dessert is filloas, crêpe-like pancakes made with flour, broth and eggs. When cooked at a pig slaughter festival, they may also contain the animal's blood. A famous almond cake called Tarta de Santiago (cake of St. James) is a Galician sweet speciality and is mainly produced in Santiago de Compostela.

Galicia produces a number of high-quality wines, including Albariño, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras. The grape varieties used are local and rarely found outside Galicia and Northern Portugal. Just as notably from Galicia comes the spirit Augardente, which means burning water, often referred to as Orujo in Spain and internationally or caña in Galicia. This spirit is made from the distillation of the pomace of grapes.

The most important day for the Galician culture was November 17, 2009.


As in the rest of Spain, football is the most popular sport in Galicia. Deportivo de La Coruña, from the city of A Coruñamarker, is the region's most successful club and is currently (2009–10 season) Galicia's only representative in the top flight of the national championship, La Liga. Celta de Vigo from Vigomarker are also a major club and are Deportivo's principal regional rivals. When the two sides play, it is normally dubbed the Galician derby. SD Compostela from Santiago de Compostela and Racing de Ferrol from Ferrol are two other notable club sides. Similarly to Cataloniamarker and the Basque Countrymarker, Galicia also periodically fields a regional team against international opposition (see Galicia autonomous football team).

Other popular sports in Galicia include futsal, a variety of indoor football), and basketball. Because the Atlantic Ocean is to Galicia's north and west, naval sports such as rowing and yachting are common.

Public Holidays

  • Día de San Xosé (St. Joseph's Day) on 19 March (strictly religious)
  • Día do Traballo (May Day) on 1 May
  • Día das Letras Galegas (Galician Literature Day) on 17 May
  • Día da Patria Galega (Galicia's National Day) also known as St. James the Apostle Day on 25 July
  • Día da Nosa Señora (Day of Our Lady) on 15 August (strictly religious)
  • Día de Jorge Cubela (Day of Xurxo Cubillas) 6 November (strictly Cotobade's party)


There are three universities in Galicia:


The current government of Galicia was established on 16 March 1978, and is reinforced by the Galician Statute of Autonomy, ratified on 28 April 1981. It is run by the Xunta de Galicia, headed by a president and run by a parliament.

Presidents of Galicia

Parliament of Galicia

The Parliament it is composed of 75 deputies or Members of Parliament. The election of 2 May 2009 resulted in the following distribution:
  • Partido Popular de Galicia (PPdeG): 38 deputies (47,11%)
  • Partido Socialista de Galicia (PSdeG-PSOE): 25 deputies (29,92%)
  • Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG): 12 deputies (16,58%)
  • Total: 75 deputies (100%)

Image gallery

Image:Santiago GDFL catedral 30.JPG|Pórtico da Gloria, Cathedral of Santiago de CompostelaImage:Lugo 060420.jpg|Roman wall of LugoImage:Ribeira Sacra. Río Sil. Lugo. Galiza.jpg|River SilImage:Spain LaCoruna tower.jpg|Torre de Hércules, A Coruña

Famous Galicians

Contemporary music


Political parties

See also


  1. Historia Francorum, Gregorio de Tours
  2. A guide to the climate, geography, nature and wildlife of Galicia
  3. Viking Festival webpage
  6. Los Limones del Caribe

External links

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