Galicia (; , , or ; ; Galician and Portuguese: Galiza, or ), is an autonomous community in northwest Spain, with the official status of a historic nationality. It comprises the provinces of A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra, being bordered by Portugal to the south, the Spanish autonomous communities of Castile and León and Asturias to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the north. It had a population of 2,765,940 in 2013 and has a total area of . Galicia has over of coastline, including its offshore islands and islets, among them Cíes Islands, Ons, Sálvora, Cortegada, and—the largest and most populated—A Illa de Arousa.
The area now called Galicia was first inhabited by humans during the Middle Paleolithic period, and it takes its name from the Gallaeci, the Celtic peoples living north of the Douro river during the last millennium BC, in a region largely coincidental with that of the Iron Age local Castro culture. Galicia was incorporated into the Roman Empire at the end of the Cantabrian Wars in 19 BC, being turned into a Roman province in the 3rd century AD. In 410 the Germanic Suebi established a kingdom with its capital in Braga (Portugal) which was incorporated into that of the Visigoths in 585. In 711 the Arabs invaded the Iberian Peninsula, taking the Visigoth kingdom, but soon in 740 Galicia was incorporated into the Christian kingdom of Asturias. During the Middle Ages, the kingdom of Galicia was occasionally ruled by its own kings, but most of the time it was leagued to the kingdom of Leon and later to that of Castile, while maintaining its own legal and customary practices and personality. From the 13th century on, the kings of Castile, as kings of Galicia, appointed an Adelantado Maior, whose attributions passed to the Governor and Captain General of the Kingdom of Galiza from the last years of the 15th century. The Governor also presided the Real Audiencia del Reino de Galicia, a royal tribunal and government body. From the 16th century, the representation and voice of the kingdom was held by an assembly of deputies and representatives of the cities of the kingdom, the Cortes or Junta of the Kingdom of Galicia, an institution which was forcibly discontinued in 1833 when the kingdom was divided into four administrative provinces with no legal mutual links. During the 19th and 20th centuries, demand grew for self-government and for the recognition of the personality of Galicia, a demand which led to the frustrated Statute of Autonomy of 1936, and to the Statute of Autonomy of 1981, currently in force.
The interior of Galicia is characterized by its hilly landscape, although mountain ranges rise to in the east and south. The coastal areas are mostly an alternate series of rías (submerged valleys where the sea penetrates tens of kilometres inland) and cliffs. The climate of Galicia is temperate and rainy, but it is also markedly drier in the summer, being usually classified as Oceanic in the west and north, and Mediterranean in the southeast. Its topographic and climatic conditions have made animal husbandry and farming the primary source of Galicia's wealth for most of its history. With the exception of shipbuilding and food processing, Galicia was largely a semi-subsistence farming and fishing economy and did not experience significant industrialization until after the mid-twentieth century. In 2012 the gross domestic product at purchasing power parity was €56,000 million, with a nominal GDP per capita of €20,700. The population is largely concentrated in two coastal areas: from Ferrol to A Coruña in the northwest and from Pontevedra to Vigo in the southwest. To a lesser extent there are smaller populations around the interior cities of Lugo, Ourense and Santiago de Compostela. The political capital is Santiago de Compostela, in the province of A Coruña. Vigo, in the province of Pontevedra, is the most populous municipality with 294,997 (2014), while A Coruña is the most populous city with 215.227 (2014).
Two languages are official and widely used today in Galicia: the native Galician, a Romance language closely related to Portuguese with which it shares Galician-Portuguese medieval literature, and the Spanish language, usually known locally as Castilian. 56% of the Galician population speak more in Galician than in Castilian, while 43% speak more in Castilian.
Prehistory and antiquity
The oldest attestation of human presence in Galicia has been found in the Eirós Cave, in the municipality of Triacastela, which has preserved animal remains and Neanderthal stone objects from the Middle Paleolithic. The earliest culture to have left significant architectural traces is the Megalithic culture which expanded along the western European coasts during the Neolithic and Calcolithic eras. Thousands of Megalithic tumuli are distributed throughout the country, but mostly along the coastal areas. Within each tumulus is a stone burial chamber known locally as anta (dolmen), frequently preceded by a corridor. Galicia was later fully affected by the Bell Beaker culture. While its rich mineral deposits - tin and gold - led to the development of Bronze Age metallurgy, and to the commerce of bronze and gold items all along the Atlantic façade of Western Europe, where a common elite's culture evolved during the Atlantic Bronze Age.
Dating from the end of the Megalithic era, and up to the Bronze Age, there are numerous stone carvings (petroglyphs) in open air. They usually represent cup and ring marks, labyrinths, deer, Bronze Age weapons, and equitation and hunting scenes. Large number of these stone carvings can be found in the Rías Baixas regions, at places such as Tourón and Campo Lameiro.
The Roman legions first entered the area under Decimus Junius Brutus in 137–136 BC, but the country was only incorporated into the Roman Empire by the time of Augustus (29 BC – 19 BC). The Romans were interested in Galicia mainly for its mineral resources, most notably gold. Under Roman rule, most Galician hillforts began to be – sometimes forcibly – abandoned, and Gallaeci served frequently in the Roman army as auxiliary troops. Romans brought new technologies, new travel routes, new forms of organizing property, and a new language; latin. The Roman Empire established its control over Galicia through camps (castra) as Aquis Querquennis, Ciadella camp or Lucus Augusti (Lugo), roads (viae) and monuments as the lighthouse known as Torre de Hércules, in A Coruña, but the remoteness and lesser interest of the country since the 2nd century of our era, when the gold mines stopped being productive, led to a lesser degree of Romanization. In the 3rd century it was made a province, under the name Gallaecia, which included also northern Portugal, Asturias, and a large section of what today is known as Castile and León.
Early Middle Ages
In the early 5th century, the deep crisis suffered by the Roman Empire allowed different tribes of Central Europe (Suebi, Vandals and Alani) to cross the Rhine and penetrate into the rule on 31 December 406. Its progress towards the Iberian Peninsula forced the Roman authorities to establish a treaty (foedus) by which the Suebi would settle peacefully and govern Galicia as imperial allies. So, from 409 Galicia was taken by the Suebi, forming the first medieval kingdom to be created in Europe, in 411, even before the fall of the Roman Empire, being also the first Germanic kingdom to mint coinage in Roman lands. During this period a Briton colony and bishopric (see Mailoc) was established in Northern Galicia (Britonia), probably as foederati and allies of the Suebi. In 585, the Visigothic King Leovigild invaded the Suebic kingdom of Galicia and defeated it, bringing it under Visigoth control.
Later the Muslims invaded Spain (711), but the Arabs and Moors never managed to have any real control over Galicia, which was later incorporated into the expanding Christian Kingdom of Asturias, usually known as Gallaecia or Galicia (Yillīqiya and Galīsiya) by Muslim Chroniclers, as well as by many European contemporaries. This era consolidated Galicia as a Christian society which spoke a Romance language. During the next century Galician noblemen took northern Portugal, conquering Coimbra in 871, thus freeing what were considered the southernmost city of ancient Galicia.
High and Low Middle Ages
In the 9th century, the rise of the cult of the Apostle James in Santiago de Compostela gave Galicia a particular symbolic importance among Christians, an importance it would hold throughout the Reconquista. As the Middle Ages went on, Santiago became a major pilgrim destination and the Way of Saint James (Camiño de Santiago) a major pilgrim road, a route for the propagation of Romanesque art and the words and music of the troubadors. During the 10th and 11th centuries, a period during which Galician nobility become related to the royal family, Galicia was at times headed by its own native kings, while Vikings (locally known as Leodemanes or Lordomanes) occasionally raided the coasts. The Towers of Catoira (Pontevedra) were built as a system of fortifications to prevent and stop the Viking raids on Santiago de Compostela.
In 1063, Ferdinand I of Castile divided his realm among his sons, and the Kingdom of Galicia was granted to Garcia II of Galicia. In 1072, it was forcibly annexed by Garcia's brother Alfonso VI of León; from that time Galicia was united with the Kingdom of León under the same monarchs. In the 13th century Alfonso X of Castile standardized the Castilian language and made it the language of court and government. Nevertheless, in his Kingdom of Galicia the Galician language was the only language spoken, and the most used in government and legal uses, as well as in literature.
During the 14th and 15th centuries, the progressive distancing of the kings from Galician affairs left the kingdom in the hands of the local knights, counts and bishops, who frequently fought each other to increase their fiefs, or simply to plunder the lands of others. At the same time, the deputies of the Kingdom in the Cortes stopped being called. The Kingdom of Galicia, slipping away from the control of the King, responded with a century of fiscal insubordination.
The modern period of the kingdom of Galicia began with the murder or defeat of some of the most powerful Galician lords, such as Pedro Álvarez de Sotomayor, called Pedro Madruga, and Rodrigo Henriquez Osorio, at the hands of the Castilian armies sent to Galicia between the years 1480 and 1486. Isabella I of Castile, considered a usurper by many Galician nobles, eradicated all armed resistance and definitively established the royal power of the Castilian monarchy. Fearing a general revolt, the monarchs ordered the banishing of the rest of the great lords like Pedro de Bolaño, Diego de Andrade or Lope Sánchez de Moscoso, among others.
The establishment of the Santa Hermandad in 1480, and of the Real Audiencia del Reino de Galicia in 1500—a tribunal and executive body directed by the Governor-Captain General as a direct representative of the King—implied initially the submission of the Kingdom to the Crown, after a century of unrest and fiscal insubordination. As a result, from 1480 to 1520 the Kingdom of Galicia contributed more than 10% of the total earnings of the Crown of Castille, including the Americas, well over its economic relevance. Like the rest of Spain, the 16th century was marked by population growth up to 1580, when the simultaneous wars with the Netherlands, France and England hampered Galicia's Atlantic commerce, which consisted mostly in the exportation of sardines, wood, and some cattle and wine.
In the late years of the 15th century the written form of the Galician language began a slow decline as it was increasingly replaced by Spanish, which would culminate in the Séculos Escuros "the Dark Centuries" of the language, roughly from the 16th century through to the mid-18th century, when written Galician almost completely disappeared except for private or occasional uses but the spoken language remained the common language of the people in the villages and even the cities.
After the rupture of the wars with Portugal and Catalonia, the Junta changed its attitude, this time due to the exhaustion of Galicia, now involved not just in naval or oversea operations, but also in an exhausting war with the Portuguese, war which produced thousands of casualties and refugees and was heavily disturbing to the local economy and commerce. So, in the second half of the 17th century the Junta frequently denied or considerably reduced the initial petitions of the monarch, and though the tension didn't rise to the levels experienced in Portugal or Catalonia, there were frequent urban mutinies and some voices even asked for the secession of the Kingdom of Galicia.
Late Modern and Contemporary
The 1833 territorial division of Spain put a formal end to the Kingdom of Galicia, unifying Spain into a single centralized monarchy. Instead of seven provinces and a regional administration, Galicia was reorganized into the current four provinces. Although it was recognized as a "historical region", that status was strictly honorific. In reaction, nationalist and federalist movements arose.
The liberal General Miguel Solís Cuetos led a separatist coup attempt in 1846 against the authoritarian regime of Ramón María Narváez. Solís and his forces were defeated at the Battle of Cacheiras, 23 April 1846, and the survivors, including Solís himself, were shot. They have taken their place in Galician memory as the Martyrs of Carral or simply the Martyrs of Liberty.
Defeated on the military front, Galicians turned to culture. The Rexurdimento focused on recovery of the Galician language as a vehicle of social and cultural expression. Among the writers associated with this movement are Rosalía de Castro, Manuel Murguía, Manuel Leiras Pulpeiro, and Eduardo Pondal.
In the early 20th century came another turn toward nationalist politics with Solidaridad Gallega (1907–1912) modeled on Solidaritat Catalana in Catalonia. Solidaridad Gallega failed, but in 1916 Irmandades da Fala (Brotherhood of the Language) developed first as a cultural association but soon as a full-blown nationalist movement. Vicente Risco and Ramón Otero Pedrayo were outstanding cultural figures of this movement, and the magazine Nós ('Us'), founded 1920, its most notable cultural institution, Lois Peña Novo the outstanding political figure.
The Second Spanish Republic was declared in 1931. During the republic, the Partido Galeguista (PG) was the most important of a shifting collection of Galician nationalist parties. Following a referendum on a Galician Statute of Autonomy, Galicia was granted the status of an autonomous region.
General Francisco Franco — himself a Galician from Ferrol — ruled as dictator from the civil war until his death in 1975. Franco's centralizing regime suppressed any official use of the Galician language, including the use of Galician names for newborns, although its everyday oral use was not forbidden. Among the attempts at resistance were small leftist guerrilla groups such as those led by José Castro Veiga ("El Piloto") and Benigno Andrade ("Foucellas"), both of whom were ultimately captured and executed. In the 1960s, ministers such as Manuel Fraga Iribarne introduced some reforms allowing technocrats affiliated with Opus Dei to modernize administration in a way that facilitated capitalist economic development. However, for decades Galicia was largely confined to the role of a supplier of raw materials and energy to the rest of Spain, causing environmental havoc and leading to a wave of migration to Venezuela and to various parts of Europe. Fenosa, the monopolistic supplier of electricity, built hydroelectric dams, flooding many Galician river valleys.
The Galician economy finally began to modernize with a Citroën factory in Vigo, the modernization of the canning industry and the fishing fleet, and eventually a modernization of small peasant farming practices, especially in the production of cows' milk. In the province of Ourense, businessman and politician Eulogio Gómez Franqueira gave impetus to the raising of livestock and poultry by establishing the Cooperativa Orensana S.A. (Coren).
During the last decade of Franco's rule, there was a renewal of nationalist feeling in Galicia. The early 1970s were a time of unrest among university students, workers, and farmers. In 1972, general strikes in Vigo and Ferrol cost the lives of Amador Rey and Daniel Niebla. Later, the bishop of Mondoñedo-Ferrol, Miguel Anxo Araúxo Iglesias, wrote a pastoral letter that was not well received by the Franco regime, about a demonstration in Bazán (Ferrol) where two workers died.
As part of the transition to democracy upon the death of Franco in 1975, Galicia regained its status as an autonomous region within Spain with the Statute of Autonomy of 1981, which begins, "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 independentist 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 Galician political status as a nation.
From 1990 to 2005, Manuel Fraga, former minister and ambassador in the Franco dictature, presided over the Galician autonomous government, the Xunta de Galicia. Fraga was associated with the Partido Popular ('People's Party', Spain's main national conservative party) since its founding. In 2002, when the oil tanker Prestige sank and covered the Galician coast in oil, Fraga was accused by the grassroots movement Nunca Mais ("Never again") of having been unwilling to react. In the 2005 Galician elections, the 'People's Party' lost its absolute majority, though remaining (barely) 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 federal sister-party of Spain's main social-democratic party, the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE, '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 (conservative), which will govern until 2013. Alberto Núñez Feijóo (PP) is now Galicia's president. It must be said that the PSdG-BNG coalition actually obtained the most votes.