The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Galicia (Spain)

Comunidade Autónoma de
Capital Santiago de Compostela
Official languages Galician and Castilian

 - total

 - % of Spain
Ranked 7th

29 574 km²


 - Total (2003)
 - % of Spain

 - Density
Ranked 5th

2 737 370


 - English
 - Galician

 - Spanish


Statute of Autonomy April 28, 1981
ISO 3166-2 GA
Anthem Os Pinos


 Congress seats
 Senate seats



President Manuel Fraga Iribarne (PPG )
Xunta de Galicia

Galiza or Galicia (Galego-Português: Galiza, Spanish: Galicia) is an autonomous community in the northwest of Spain.



The spoken languages are Galician, or Galego (the historical language derived from Latin) and Spanish (officialised by Spanish government).

After several centuries that Spanish was imposed as the only official language, since the end of the 20th century the Galician language has also an official status and both of them are taught in schools. There is a strong social movement to preserve and maintain the Galician language.

It must be noted that both Galician and Portuguese languages derive from the early Portuguese-Galician (Galego-Português) idiom. Since the middle ages the Galician and Portuguese languages start to diverge due to political separation. Nowadays they constitute different languages with different gramatical rules and official academies and institutions, even though there is still a big similarity between both Portuguese and Galician.

The Galician Literature has detached since Middle Age.

Provinces and Cities

Since 1833, Galicia has been divided in four administrative provinces:

Main cities include Vigo, A Coruña, Pontevedra, Lugo, Ferrol, Ourense, and Santiago de Compostela, the capital and seat of the archbishop, the endpoint of medieval Europe's most famous pilgrimage route.


Geographically, one of the most important features of Galicia is the presence of many fjord-like indentations on the coast, estuaries that were drowned with rising sea levels after the ice age These are called rías and are divided into the Rias Altas and the Rias Baixas . Most of the population live near the Rias Baixas, where several large urban centers such as Vigo and Pontevedra are located. The rias are important for fishing, and make the coast of Galicia one of the most important fishing areas of the world. The spectacular landscapes and wildness of the coast attract great numbers of tourists even though the weather is mostly rainy, even in the summer.

The weather is Atlantic, with mild temperatures all over the year. Santiago de Compostela has as average 320 days of rain a year. Galicia has preserved a lot of dense atlantic forests where wildlife is commonly found. It is scarcely polluted, and its landscape composed of green hills, cliffs and "rias" is very different to 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 towns are few and far between (Ourense, Lugo, Verín, Monforte de Lemos, A Rua) and there are many small villages. 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. In fact, 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 in the interior. There is a ski resort in Manzaneda in Ourense Province . The highest mountain is Trevinca (2 000 m) near the eastern border with León.


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 Ourense and Lugo— base mostly their economy 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.


Galicia's inhabitants are called galegos (Spanish gallegos, Portuguese galegos). Galician emigration in the XIX and early XX centuries to other parts of Spain and to Latin America was immense. In fact, the city with the greatest number of Galician people is Buenos Aires (Argentina). In most of Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America, Spaniards of all origens are sometimes called gallegos. Even in Brazil anyone who is blond and light-skinned is often called a "galego", but this is mainly due to Northern Portuguese, which are also called by southern Portuguese and Brazilians as Galegos.


The name Galicia (Galiza) comes from Latin name Gallaecia, associated to the name of the ancient tribe that resided above the Douro river, the Gallaeci or Callaeci in Latin (mentioned by the Herodotus) and Kallaikoi in Greek.

Before Roman invasion, a series of tribes lived on the region, having -according to Strabo, Pliny, Herodotus and others- a similar culture and customs. These tribes appear to have Celtic culture -it appears to be some evidence that the last Galician Celtic speaker died in the 15th century.

The region was first entered by the Roman legions under Decius Junius Brutus in 137 BC/136 BC. (Livy lv., lvi., Epitome); but the province was only superficially Romanized in the time of Augustus.

In the 5th century AD invasions, Galicia fell to the Suevi contrary to other large parts of the Iberian Peninsula, held by the Visigoths, in 411, who formed there the Kingdom of Galicia. Moors very briefly occupied Galicia, until they were driven out in 739 by Alphonso I of Asturias .

During the 9th and 10th centuries the counts of Galicia owed fluctuating obedience to their nominal sovereign, and Normands/Vikings occasionally raided the coasts. A proof of that danger are the Towers of Catoira (A Coruna), system of fortifications to stop Viking raids over Santiago de Compostela.

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

Galician nationalist and federalist movements arose in the nineteenth century, and after the Spanish Republic was declared in 1931, Galicia approved in referendum an Autonomy Statute for becoming as an autonomous region. In 1936, Francisco Franco came to power and impeded such autonomy, and also tried to suppress the Galician language and culture. During the last decade of Franco's rule, renewed nationalist sentiment built up in Galicia. In 1975, Franco died and democracy was restored soon after and Galiza became an autonomous region within Spain.

Nowadays Galicia is an autonomous community inside the Spanish State, with its own parliament, health service.

Galicia suffered recently one of the worst ecological disasters in Europe due to the "Prestige" oil spill, where large areas of the coastline were completely covered by crude oil.

Galician Artists and Writers

  • Literature (in Galician) -see Galician literature for details- : Rosalia de Castro , Curros Enriquez , Pondal , Castelao, Celso E.Ferreiro
  • Literature (in Spanish): Ramon M del Valle Inclan, Camilo J Cela (Nobel price), (...)
  • Phototography: Manuel Ferrol , Mariano Grueiro, Xurxo Lobato
  • Film: Mariano Grueiro
  • Artist: Daniel R. Castelao
  • Architecture: Cesar Portela , Mestre Mateo


  • BNG — Bloque Nacionalista Galego –
  • EU-IU — Esquerda Unida – Izquierda Unida
  • PP — Partido Popular (People's Party)
  • PSdG -PSOE — Partido Socialista de Galicia (Socialist Party of Galicia-Spanish Socialist Workers' Party)

Last updated: 02-07-2005 15:31:36
Last updated: 04-30-2005 11:09:39