What is Catalonia?

“But let me say one thing. I am a Catalan. Today a province of Spain. But what has been Catalonia? Catalonia has been the greatest nation in the world. I tell you, I will tell you why. Catalonia has had the first parliament, much before England. Catalonia had the beginning of the United Nations. All the authorities of Catalonia, in the 11th century, met in a city of France , at that time Catalonia. To speak about peace. In the 11th centurey. Peace in the world. And against, against, against wars, the inhumanity of wars. This was Catalonia. Now I am so, so happy, so happy, so moved to be here with you…” (Pau Casals, 24/10/1975 at the United Nations)

Plain and simple, Catalonia is often described like this: Catalonia is a Comunidad Autónoma (autonomous community, the first level political division of Spain) in the northeasternmost corner of Spain. Although this is 100% correct, it is merely a geographical and administrative description.

More than that, Catalonia is also a Nacionalidad histórica (historical nationality), a term used to describe autonomous communities which have their own historic, linguistic and/or cultural identity.  The Spanish constitution of 1978 recognizes The Basque country, Galicia and Catalonia as historical nationalities and as such grants them the right to self-government.

The capital of Catalonia and home of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Catalonia’s government, is the always fascinating Barcelona, Spain’s second biggest city, well known for its architecture, culinary highlights, museums, festivals, the Olympic games in 1992, its incredible soccer team and so much more…

Catalonia consists of 4 provinces (Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona) which in turn are comprised by 41 Comarques with 947 municipalities, turning geography lessons at Catalan schools into a nightmare. With its close to 32.000 km² Catalonia is the sixth biggest autonomous community of Spain. However, about 7,5 million inhabitants make Catalonia the second biggest autonomous community in terms of population, only topped by Andalucia’s 8,2 million.

Catalonia is also known for its linguistic diversity. Besides Spanish, Catalan and Aranese are official languages in Catalonia. Tourists may find it strange to see e. g.  signs  at the airport always in both, Spanish and Catalan. Most people underestimate the importance of Catalan and the number of Catalan speakers in the world.

Catalan is not only spoken in Catalonia, but the Catalan language area spans a much bigger territory including the southwest of France, the Balearic Islands, most of the Valencian Community, parts of Aragon, small parts of Murcia and even the city of Alghero in Italy. Last but not least, there is even a sovereing state which has Catalan as its only official language: The small shopping and skiing paradise of Andorra in the Pyrenees.

Many of the points mentioned above have historical reasons. Catalonia’s history is very controversial, to say the least. Especially Franco’s long dictatorship and with it the suppression Catalans, their traditions and their language had to suffer, is a widely discussed period which was very influential for Catalonia, Catalans and their traditions.

To sum up, Catalonia is something different for different people. To many it may just be the region in Spain, to others it is the area where Catalan is spoken, or an area that surrounds the stadium of the FC Barcelona. In the end, it depends on everyone how they see Catalonia. Maybe you don’t end up like Pau Casals, seeing as the greatest nation in the world, but hopefully it will be more to you than just a geographical and administrative area in Spain.

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3 Responses to “What is Catalonia?”
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