The people and culture of Galicia
Many parts of Spain have seen invasions, occupations and influences that have shaped its people and culture and whilst Galicia is no exception, it has retained one of the most distinct identities of any of the peoples of Europe.
A brief History of influences that have shaped the people of Galicia
Artefacts of Galicia’s pre-history are now been found at a constant rate with dolmens, megaliths and castros offering a view of the region’s early inhabitants, their societies and lifestyles. Whist some of these structures are many miles inland, most are close to the coast indicating an early connection with the sea.
During the Roman empire, Galicia became another conquest and later it was the Moors who imposed their rule and civilisation on the region. In more recent times the French and English invaded and constant wars with Portugal kept Galicia in a state of open hostility and constant threat. At the time of the Spanish Armada, it was Galicia’s port of Ferrol from which the ships were launched and Galicia was also the region where most were built. The connection with the sea continued and the Galicians became expert ship builders, navigators and fishermen, developing a reputation for seafaring that remains today.
Over the last few centuries Galicia has enjoyed a more placid and peaceful period, but internal struggles have resulted in local hostilities and the regime of General Franco, in the mid to late nineteenth century, saw a political assault on Galicia’s regional identity.
Throughout these turmoils the region has maintained an economy and culture that has been driven by ship building, fishing and farming and the area’s festivals, of which there are many, reflect these influences.
The Galicians today
Today the Galicians are a proud people who see themselves firstly as citizens of the nation of Galicia and only secondly as Spaniards. They speak their own language, gallego, have a regional parliament with autonomous powers and a Celtic culture that varies greatly from that of Spain’s more southerly communities.
Galicia celebrates its culture in a variety of ways, but one of the most evident is the festival events that run year long through its calendar. These festivals present an opportunity for the Galicians to demonstrate their traditional dress, styles of music and dancing, whilst enjoying their colourful regional cuisine. Many of these festivals display elaborate costumes, the traditional bagpipe like galeta and some have sea bound floral displays with fireworks concluding the days events.