Alternative names: Gallegos
Location: North-western Spain
Population: 3 million approx.
% of population: 7.2% of Spanish population
Language: Gallegan (Gallego), Spanish
The Galicians are the inhabitants of the remote north-western region of Spain, bordering northern Portugal. This region has been occupied by Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks and Suevis and provided a bastion against the Roman invasion. It later became a haven for Spaniards fleeing Moorish domination, and has long enjoyed a distinctive history, language and culture. The Galicians are a Celtic minority and share certain cultural traits with other Celtic peoples. Like the Scots, Irish and Bretons the Galicians use bagpipes, for example, and the school of lyric poetry, which once greatly influenced Spanish literature, has strong links with the Celtic tradition. The city of Santiago de Compos-tella has been a centre of pilgrimage since the ninth century.
Economically Galicia is one of the poorest regions in Spain. Communications were poor until recently, agriculture is bedevilled by over-division of the land and unemployment is high. The majority of men are obliged to emigrate for part of their lives and emigration has become a tradition, leaving many women to do work traditionally assigned to men. From the late 1960s extensive road-building linking Galicia with the rest of Spain has ended some of the region’s social and cultural isolation however and during the 1970s and 1980s there have been an increasing number of migrants returning to Galicia. Tourism has increased and there has been a boom in property prices in the coastal areas.
Unlike other Spanish regions, Galicia has experienced little political unrest. There is an autonomous government of Galicia, established under the 1978 constitution, but there have been few moves towards true autonomy. There is a separatist party and small separatist groups have committed violent acts, but in general politics in the region follow a strongly conservative tradition. A campaign to have Gallegan reinstated as a respected language rather than a regional dialect has not as yet been accepted by the authorities.