A piece of History of Catalonia


Catalonia (Catalunya, in Catalan; Catalonha, in Aranese), is regarded as an autonomous community and a historical nationality that is located northeast of the Iberian Peninsula. It occupies an area of about 32,000 km²; it borders on the north by France (Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc-Roussillon) and Andorra; on the east by the Mediterranean Sea along a coastal strip of about 580 kilometers; on the south by Castellón in the Autonomous region of Valencia; and on the west by Aragon (Huesca, Zaragoza and Teruel). This strategic location has led to a close relations to the territories of the Mediterranean and continental Europe. Catalonia comprises the provinces of Barcelona -Catalonia’s capital- Girona, Lleida and Tarragona. Currently, 7,504,881 people live in Catalonia; the population is distributed between 946 municipalities; 63 of which exceeds 20,000 inhabitants (wherein 70 percent of the population of Catalonia have their residency). Two thirds of the population live in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. Catalonia is a very dense and highly industrialized area, and it has led the industry sector in the Iberian Peninsula since the nineteenth century, whereas its economy is the largest among the autonomous regions, as it generates 18.6% of Spanish GDP. And talking about the GDP per capita, it stands at the fourth position after the Basque Country, Madrid and Navarra. Catalonia’s history and language are, for many of its inhabitants, the foundation of their collective identity Etymology The etymology of Catalonia remains uncertain, although several possibilities have been taken into account. There is one theory that says that Catalunya derives from the term “land of castles”, so it evolved from the term castlà, which meant the ruler of a castle. Therefore it suggests that the names Catalunya and Castile have a common root. Also, it has been suggested that the name Catalunya (Latin Gathia Launia) derives from the name Gothia (or Gauthia), “Land of the Goths”, since the Marca Hispanica was first known as Gothia, from which Gothland > Gothlandia > Gothalania > Catalonia theoretically derived. During the Middle Ages, Byzantine chroniclers claimed that Catalania stemmed from the local medley of Goths with Alans. But still another theory suggests that the source of the name has a Celtic origin, and it refers to “chiefs of battle”. Although the area is not known to have been occupied by Celts, the Celtic culture was present in the central part of the Iberian peninsula during pre-Roman times. The toponym, as such, was first found in written form in Latin around 1179, as it can be seen in the Pisan poem Liber maiolichinus de gestis pisanorum illustribus. This text, which describes the heroic feats that the Pisans and the Catalans achieved for the conquest of Mallorca, contains several references to the Count Ramón Berenguer III (Dux Catalanensis, Rector Catalanicus hostes, Catalanicus hostes, Christicolas Catalanensesque), as well as the ethnic references, such as catalanenses or catalanensis and territory of Catalans, Catalania. Later on, the term in Catalonia appears in some donations that King Alfonso II gave to his wife in 1174; also the term Cathalonia appears several times in the king’s will, and as Catalonha in songs of many Occitan troubadours. It is again mentioned, in times of his son and successor Pedro the Catholic, in the Assembly on the Declaration on Peace and Truce in 1200, which defines the scope of application: “Haec est pax quam dominus Petrus (…) constituit per totam Cataloniam, videlicet a Salsis usque ad Ilerdum”. The first time when the text can be read in Catalan is in the book, Llibre dels fets by James I the Conqueror written in the second half of the thirteenth century. History Catalonia was, during the Middle Ages, one of the territories that made up the King of Aragon’s inheritance, which was later known by the historiography as the Crown of Aragon. After the disintegration of the Carolingian Empire, the County of Barcelona, which had, up to that time, been part of the Hispanic Empire, obtained a de facto independence in the late tenth century and gathered around it an important part of the current Catalonia thanks to family ties or allegiance oaths; mainly the counties of Gerona, Osona, Besalu, Cerdanya and Ampurias. The county of Barcelona and the kingdom of Aragon were dynastically united by the betrothal agreed between Ramiro II of Aragon, and Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona in 1137. A betrothal by which the Count of Barcelona would marry the future queen of Aragón, Petronila. It was in the fourteenth century when Catalonia, as a Principality, played an important economic role in the context of the Mediterranean trade. The decline of the Crown brought along the decline of Catalonia, which did not prosper again until the industrialization process. The Renaixença (renaissance in Catalan) flourished from the second third of the nineteenth century; it represented a cultural movement in the recovery process of the Catalan as a culture language. In the following decades, the political Catalan movement started to take shape, and gathered into groups, such as the Lliga Regionalista, which later on became Esquerra Republicana. After the first self-government projects, which gave rise, first to the Mancomunitat de Catalunya (Commonwealth of Catalonia) from 1913 to 1923, and later on the restoration of the Generalitat of Catalonia and the subsequent approval of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 1932 during the Second Spanish Republic, Catalonia suffered during both the Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975) the annulment of political freedoms, and the economic exploitation that even within the context of the current Spanish Constitution is still in force. Catalonia recovered under the 1978 Constitution the Statute of Autonomy in 1979; a Statute that has been trimmed and limited by sentences pronounced by the Constitutional Court, whose members has been elected by the Spanish right-wing party PP. Climate Catalonia has a Mediterranean climate, although there are great variations as to the temperatures registered between the coastline —with a mild climate, which is warm in winter and very hot in summer— while the inland zone has a continental Mediterranean climate —with cold winters and hot summers. There are also mountainous areas near the Pyrenees that have a high mountain climate, with slightly low temperatures below zero and heavy snow in winter, and annual rainfall figures above 1,000 mm, as well as cooler summers. The Catalan coast line has rectilinear extension of more than 500 km in length, although its real length following its course is 754.8 km. The coast tends to be straight with no major geographical accidents. The only maritime changes are defined by the contact of the Pyrenees with the sea, where the the Cabo de Creus takes shape near the Golfo de Rosas. Further down lies Blanes, where the Costa Brava begins its sinuous course, which is characterized by small cliffs and hidden coves. (.) The Costa Brava is followed by a long line of beaches known as Maresme, which goes parallel to the coastal mountain range; these beaches are interspersed with various commercial and fishing ports. Barcelona’s coastline is characterized by artificial beaches and a large commercial port that covers more than nine kilometers. The southern part of the port was built on the Llobregat delta plain, and it is followed by a smooth coast line of over 18 km. Next, the Garraf massif articulates the coasts into remarkable cliffs on its way to Sitges, after which the coast becomes a straight line again (except for numerous new ports) that stretches southwards down to the port of Tarragona. This is the second largest port of Catalonia and extends for over 5 kilometers to arrive to the Cape of Salou. The beaches in this area are known, in their tourism version, as the Costa Dorada. To the south, the coast is a smooth line again and is characterized by a smaller human population. The last major geographical feature is determined by the Golf de San Jordi and the lowlands of the Ebro river Delta, which formed by islands and peninsulas, such as those known as the tips of Trafalgar, on the north, and La Banya, on the south; while this last is attached to the delta by the Trabucador beach. The sand of the Catalan beaches is usually golden, and tends to be grainy on the north and thinner on the south.

Carlos Mirasierras

Links of interest:The Gastrosite of Spanish RecipesNews of interest in English about politics in Spain in Crónica Popular

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