Catalonia is an ancient European nation, sharing with Castille the same reigning dynasty from 1469, although it didn’t lose its judicial independence until the end of the War of Spanish Succession. From that time onwards, it was to be administered as just another region within Spain. Nevertheless that period of inflexion in Catalonia’s history was soon overcome at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the Industrial Revolution. Together with the Basque Country, Catalonia became Spain’s most economically predominant region. This brought with it a strengthening of Catalonia’s identity, based on its own language, culture and history.
Following many years of oppression, especially under Franco’s regime, Catalonia is now an autonomous community within the Spanish State and as such it has its own government, parliament, broad administrative base in many areas, as well as its own civil code.
Catalan as a language is Romanesque, deriving from the Latin Vulgate, a legacy from the Roman Empire. For centuries it has been Catalans own unique language. Nowadays català is, together with Castillian, or Spanish, the official language in Catalonia. Most Catalans speak both languages, though speaking Catalan is predominant in Catalonia’s interior, whilst Castillian is spoken more on the streets of Barcelona. This linguistic prevalence of Catalan also takes in a large amount of Valencia, the Baleariac islands, Andorra and the Catalan region of Roussillon in France.
Catalonia extends across the Iberian peninsular from the Pyrenees to beyond the Ebro Delta. It comprises the four provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona, with a population of approximately 7 million people. As a region it has internationally renowned coastlands, such as the Costa Brava or the Costa Daurada. Catalonia is also a very mountainous country, with altitudes as high as 3,000 metres, as well as large, luxuriant wooded areas, and a great deal of wildlife.
Just as in many other Southern European areas, Catalonia has also kept up many of its own traditions. These almost always ancient popular ‘fiestas’ are fixed dates on the Catalan calendar. Aside from the nationwide festivities, there are hundreds of important local events across the whole country. Almost every village has an annual fiesta, in celebration of its own patron saint and these celebrations often last for several days. Especially well known on a global scale are traditions such as the castellers – human towers of various storeys, or the sardana, a typically circular Mediterranean dance. In addition to all this there are all kinds of festivals with fire; street parades with gegants i cap-grossos ( giants and ‘big-heads’) or large-scale traditional walks to hermitages hidden away in the mountains, often ending up with a communal popular meal.
Catalonia really does offer everything, as well as suiting all tastes !