Galicia Overview

Galicia’s relative isolation, a consequence of its geographical location and historical circumstances that separated it from the rest of Spain, preserved the Galician language, which has close links with Portuguese, and the traditions of its inhabitants almost intact.

According to RELATIONSHIPSPLUS, Galicia is one of the 17 autonomous communities in Spain and covers the provinces of Lugo, La Coruña, Pontevedra and Orense. Its mountainous territory is limited to the north by the Cantabrian Sea, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the east by the Spanish regions of Asturias, Castile and Leon and, to the south, by Portugal. The capital is Santiago de Compostela.

The territory of Galicia rests on the massive Galaico massif, strongly eroded, and has a relatively uniform altitude: more than half between 200 and 600m in altitude. In the natural vegetation, oak predominated originally, later replaced by pine, eucalyptus and chestnut trees. With the exception of Minho, on the border with Portugal, and its tributary Sil, the rivers have a short course.

The first known inhabitants of Galicia were the Celts. The region was called Gallaecia by the Romans, who conquered it around 137 BC. From the year 410, it became an independent kingdom under the Suebi, who were defeated and expelled by the Visigoths in 585. The Arabs who invaded the Iberian peninsula in eighth century they arrived in Galicia, but after thirty years of occupation they were expelled by King Alfonso I of Asturias.

In the 12th century, southern Galicia separated and became part of the kingdom of Portugal. During the low Middle Ages, the region was controlled by few noble families and the clergy, who exercised despotic rule over rural and city populations. At the end of the 15th century, the Galicians sided with Joana de Portugal against Isabel a Católica. Victorious, the Spanish sovereign stripped Galicia of its privileges and prohibited the use of Galician in official documents. Excluded from overseas ventures, Galicia remained immersed in a stagnation that would only end three centuries later and suffered the effects of an accelerated migration of its inhabitants to other Spanish regions.

In the early 19th century, when the Madrid government proved unable to lead the resistance to Napoleon’s army, Galicia was forced to confront the invader. The struggle for independence led to the strengthening of regionalist consciousness, with a new cultural flourishing and the revival of Galician as a literary language.

The economic backwardness, aggravated by the oppression of the powerful over the rural population, motivated popular revolts in the 19th century and reinforced the regionalist sentiment. The autonomy status, granted to the region in 1936, did not come into force, due to the Spanish civil war. As of 1978, Galicia won an autonomous government body called the government board, legitimized by a plebiscite in 1981.

The provincial villages are small and dispersed and livestock, agriculture and fishing are the main economic activities of the population. Among rural properties, smallholdings, dedicated to subsistence agriculture, prevail. The main agricultural products are cereals and tubers, to which, in the Minho valley, apples and grapes are added. Galicia is Spain’s main fishing region and produces mainly seafood, hake and sardines. The poorly developed industry is focused on canning and shipbuilding. The main source of energy is hydroelectric. Ores, especially tin, are abundant and were already mined in Roman times.

Galician and Portuguese were part of the same linguistic complex until the 12th century, when the south of the province was linked to the kingdom of Portugal. From then on, the Galician began to acquire his own characteristics, under the influence of Castilian. The literary use of the language reached its peak in the 13th century, when its metric, of Provençal origin, revealed greater refinement and versatility than the Castilian.

The most important cultural and university center is Santiago de Compostela. Galicia has numerous monuments representative of different periods of its history, mainly from the Romanesque period, whose main work is the cathedral of Santiago. Among the oldest stands out the lighthouse of La Coruña, called Torre de Hércules, from the time of the Romans. The tomb of the apostle James converted the capital of the province, during the Middle Ages, into the largest center of Christian pilgrimage after Rome and Jerusalem.

Galicia Overview

You may also like...