Twenty thousand years ago the planet was immersed in the last known glaciation. It was during this period when many inhabitants of Europe, fleeing the ice, moved southwards, finding a climatic refuge in today’s Galicia and Northern Portugal. Ten thousand years later, already in the Neolithic era, the Würm glaciation receded and the population moved northwards again… This is the beginning of the great epic of the Celts!
“The first country in Europe” – after the Galician Kingdom was established in 410 CE – has a very distinctive character.
Galicia (Galiza) has a strong Celtic background. Yet Galicia is unique in Herself and has a vibrant culture, folklore and traditions transmitted from antiquity.
At present, the stateless nation of Galicia is an autonomous territory within the framework of the Spanish State. However, all members of the IDG (and not only, of course) claim for a lasting and enduring freedom.
In fact, the old Kingdom is split in two halves: Galicia proper to the north of Minho river and the region called Northern Portugal to the south of said river. Still, both territories share an undeniable common cultural and linguistic heritage, and strong social and economic ties. Since 2008 they form an official “Euro-Region”.
Facts and Figures
- Local name: Galiza.
- Other names: Galicia (English, Spanish), Galice (French), Galicien (German). Callaecia or Gallaecia is a historical name often used for the territory comprising both today’s Galicia and Northern Portugal.
- Population: 2.7 m. (in official Galician territory) / 3.7 m. (Northern Portugal). Combined total of 6.4 million.
– Administrative Galicia: 29,575 km²
– Territories of Galician culture under Spain: 35,692 km² (approx. the size of Belgium or Taiwan / see regional map)
– Northern Portugal: 21,284 km²
– Combined total: 56,976 km² (approx. the size of Croatia)
- Capital: Santiago de Compostela (Galicia proper) / Porto (Northern Portugal).
- Location: North-West corner of the Iberian Peninsula (Southern Atlantic Europe – map).
- Currency: Euro (€).
- Languages (all cited languages hold official status in their respective territories):
– Galicia proper: Galician-Portuguese (48% monolinguals), Castilian-Spanish (15% monolinguals).
– Northern Portugal: standard Portuguese (99% monolinguals), Mirandese (approx. 15,000 speakers).
- Main cities: Galicia proper – Vigo (293,255), Corunha (243,320), Ourense (108,137), Compostela, (93,470), Lugo (93,450), Ponte Vedra (80,096), Ferrol (76,399) / Northern Portugal – Porto (237,591), Braga (181,494), Guimarães (151,124), Viana do Castelo (88,725), Vila Real (51,850), Bragança (35,341).
- National holiday: July 25th
- National symbols: Flag, coat of arms and national anthem. The flag of the first Kingdom is often seen as a symbol of consensus for the whole Galicia-Northern Portugal.
- Date of formation: 410 CE (establishment of the Galician Kingdom).
- Terrain: The territory is highly fragmented, with highlands in the east, central plateaus (chairas), ample estuaries (rias), and a myriad of rivers. Galicia has a climate of transition, from Oceanic to Mediterranean. Pockets of Continental climate are present inland. Weather is in general humid with moderate temperatures.
- Political organisation: Standard Western parliamentary system. Elections are held every four years.
- International disputes: Full devolution by Spain (Galicia proper). Controversies over eastern territories of Galician culture in Spanish territory (outside administrative Galicia). Strengthening of the formal ties within the Euro-Region. Autonomy and further powers to the Northern Portugal (devolution by the central Portuguese government).
500,000 BCE: First human settlements in what today is Galicia-Northern Portugal (estimate).
2000-700 BCE: Bronze Age. Sea-trade and cultural exchange with Atlantic Europe and the Mediterranean.
1000 BCE: Unequivocal evidences of Celtic peoples (estimate). Iron Age.
9thC BCE – 1stC CE: Cultura Castreja: Consolidation of a Celtic civilisation based in the historical Galicia-Northern Portugal (Callaecia) territory.
19 BCE: Establishment of the Roman Empire following a number of military campaigns. Introduction of Latin language and Roman law. Weak level of Romanization: hybrid culture. The new Gallaecia province is never fully incorporated into Roman standards.
2ndC CE: Introduction of Christianity (mixes with Celtic religion).
4th – 5thC CE: Priscilianism: Galicia’s own Christian movement, strongly influenced by Druidry.
410 CE: Foundation of the Galician Swabian Kingdom by means of a treaty with Rome. Galicia becomes “the first country in Europe”. Period of territorial, cultural and economic growth. Roman influences partially dissipate.
5thC CE: Mass Celtic migration to Northern Galicia coming from Britain.
585-711 CE: End of Swabian Dynasty. Visigoth rule (Viceroys).
711 CE: Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula: The Visigoth Empire is dismantled. Re-establishment of the Galician Crown. Muslims never successfully conquer Galicia. Still, they attack and temporarily occupy the southern part of the Kingdom.
813 CE: “Discovery” of the remains of St James: ancient pilgrimage route is Christianised and reactivated (Way of St. James). Galicia progressively becomes the dominant force among Iberian Christian kingdoms. Growing stability.
846-1008 CE: Waves of Viking invasions, all repelled.
1037: Vermudo III dies: end of the direct succession of the Galician Dynasty.
1065-1072: Garcia II King of Galicia: attempts to restructure and revitalise the Kingdom.
1072-1110: Political instability: dynastic wars.
1093: Era Compostelã: cultural splendour that lasts for more than a century.
1175: First known official document written in Galician-Portuguese language (despite the formal political “separation” both territories continue to share cultural, economic and social links normally).
1230: Afonso VIII dies: Castile arises as a new force in Iberia. Galician culture will yet flourish, but Galicia’s political influence gradually diminishes.
1255: Lisbon becomes the new capital of Portugal following the campaign of expansion southwards against Muslims and Castillians. This tactical move also implies the gradual loss of relevance of Northern Portugal within the new kingdom. Central and southern Portugal will gradually adopt more Mediterranean influences in detriment of its original Northern/Atlantic core.
1366-1387: Galician attempts made in the search of an union/alliance with Portugal.
1431-1469: Revoltas Irmandinhas: major popular uprisings within Galicia against nobility because of abusive taxes and restrictions (first time such a thing took place in Europe, namely at this scale). The Irmandinhas troops are eventually defeated by said nobility with great difficulty.
1474: Dynastic conflicts in Castile: sectors of Galician nobility seek to recover former supremacy and an alliance with Portugal once more taking advantage of the situation, to no avail.
1483: End of Galician armed resistance to Castilian (Spanish) forces following a number of offensives. The Galician nobility (thus support to its armies) had been severily affected by the Irmandinhas wars.
1486: Spanish ‘Catholic Monarchs’ initiate their policy of «taming and castration of the Kingdom of Galicia». Galicia becomes a colony.
Late 15thC to 18thC: ‘The Dark Centuries’: Cultural, political, administrative and economic activity in Galicia is controlled by Castile (Spain). In Portugal, the North is often neglected in favour of the capital and the ‘good of the Empire’. Rurality and isolation: backwardness. Emigration.
1601-1602: Galician soldiers take part in the Battle of Kinsale (Ireland) supporting Gaelic leaders against English rule. The subsequent defeat forced Irish nobles to seek refuge in a number of locations, including the Galician city of Corunha (1607). It is also believed that Irish soldiers had received military instruction in the city of Ponte Vedra.
1st half 19thC: Mass emigration to South America due to the dire economic and political situation.
1808-1813: War of Independence against France (Napoleonic occupation). Spanish troops retreat from Galicia. Autonomy. Establishment of the Xunta (Galician Government).
1812: Xunta proclaims Galicia’s self-rule, but soon Galicia is reoccupied by Spain.
1833: Galicia formally loses its condition of Kingdom: Spain moves towards the creation of a centralised nation-state, imitating the French model. Likewise, Portugal becomes highly centralised in Lisbon.
1840-1846: Provincialism: reactivation of the Galician self-consciousness as a reaction to centralisation and dire economic and political situation.
1846: Armed uprising: claim for Galician self-rule. A final open confrontation between Galician and Spanish forces results in a Galician defeat and the execution of the so-called Martyrs of Carral.
2nd half 19th C: Regionalism and Federalism. Intense cultural revival: Galician Rexurdimento (‘Renaissance’).
1st half 20th C: Emigration to the Americas. Xeración Nós (‘Generation Us’): a number of intellectuals set down the fundamentals of modern Galician Nationalism.
1921: Failed attempt to proclaim a Republic of Galicia.
1931: Short-lived proclamation of the First Republic of Galicia.
1933: Galicia joins the League of Nations (predecessor of the UN) as a stateless nation.
1933 – 1974: Salazar Dictatorship in Portugal: Political repression and strengthening of State centralism. Northern Portugal is further impoverished.
1936: Galician Statute of Autonomy: partial recovery of self-government within the framework of the Spanish II Republic. Debates on the prospect of a Galician Free State, following the Irish example.
1936-1939: Spanish Civil War: victory of Spanish far-right nationalists led by General Franco. The Republic and the Galician Autonomy are put to an end and thousands are murdered or persecuted. Political refugees. Exile (many Galicians find shelter in Northern Portugal and the Americas).
1960s: Partial relaxation of Francoist regime: gradual reactivation of the Galician resistance and culture. Emigration towards Western Europe and Spain.
1975: Franco dies: restoration of Spanish monarchy and start of a new political regime. Emigration momentarily stops.
1981: New Statute of Autonomy is passed: Galicia is devolved partial self-government and national status is implicitly recognised. However, Galicia is curtailed from international representation and lacks real sovereignty.
1990s: Increased Spanish nationalism and centralism: fears over Galicia’s autonomy. Emigration resumes.
1998: Claims for the establishment of a Northern Portuguese autonomous territory. Still, a referendum is called and lost.
2002: Coastal oil-spill: major environmental catastrophe. Activation of major civil/grassroots and political movements.
2004: Galician culture is considered «endangered» by UNESCO.
2005-2009: New Galician Government opens the debate on the reform of the Galician laws and search for greater autonomy, to no avail.
2008: Establishment of the Galicia-North Portugal Euro-Region, built upon a pre-existing work comission operating since 1991 in the European Union.
2013: Civic movements and organisations claiming for full sovereignty and independence from Spain become more visible and active.
2014: Thousands take the streets demanding the establishment of a (independent) Galician Republic.
Present day: Galician autonomy is monitored and controlled by Spain. Galician culture is threatened and statistics show a decrease in the use of Galician language motivated by endogenous factors. Emigration is, again, a sad economic and social reality for the Galician People. In Northern Portugal, claims for the decentralisation of the country, full autonomy and the repetition of the 1998 referendum are frequent. Calls for a greater cooperation with Galicia and, even, independence, can also be heard.
Trivia – What is Galicia famous for?
Art: the capital city of Compostela was declared by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Galician fine arts and craftsmanship have traditionally been among the best in the world.
Cuisine: with specialities such as polvo (octopus), empada (pie), caldo (broth), marisco (seafood), filhoas (crepes), lacão com grelos (stew), alvarinho and ribeiro wines, queijos (cheese), etc.
Landscape: with famed breath-taking scenery.
Literature: Gallaecia has produced fine literature since 13thC, from Medieval Cantigas to modern authors such as Rosalia de Castro, Eça de Queiroz, Castelo Branco, Miguel Torga, Castelao, Pedraio, Uxio Novoneira, Graça and Lisa Pina, Cunqueiro, Avilés de Taramancos, Celso Emilio Ferreiro, etc.
Music and dance: from traditional melodies to rock. Someone once said: “We’re at the end of the world, but we make the best music in the universe”. Some also say that there is a party in Gallaecia for every day of the year!
International projection: “Galicians are everywhere”. Thanks to millions of emigrants throughout history, and the outstanding expansion of the Galician commercial and fishing fleet, the names of Galicia and Northern Portugal have been spread all over the globe. The significance of the Way of Saint James (pilgrimage route) has also been crucial in the making of Europe.
Sports: football clubs such as Deportivo, Celta Vigo, FC Porto and Braga have helped to put Galicia-Northern Portugal on the map. Gallaecian rowing, roller hockey, cycling, basketball, handball, indoor football, martial arts and sailing are also renowned.
DID YOU KNOW? … Galicia is a fishing world power, for example, She produces almost half the mussels in the world … The Galician Diaspora has been labelled as “the greatest Diaspora in times of peace” … Galicia is the cradle of Portuguese language … Galicia is considered to be “the first country in the history of Europe” … There’s a Galician living in almost every country of the Planet … Irish people are of Galician origin, according to the legends and recent discoveries … Buenos Aires (Argentina) was the “biggest Galician city ever” and it was even called the “fifth province” … In the old days, Galicia was considered to be “the end of the World “ … Galicia is often called “The Land of the Witches”, as many say strange magical beings still inhabit Her forests … Table football was invented by a Galician … Galicia and North Portugal formed the first ever “Euroregion” within the EU, and they submitted a joint candidature to the UNESCO … Galicia is also called “The Land of the One Thousand Rivers”