[kat-l-oh-nee-uh, -ohn-yuh]
Catalonia, Catalan Catalunya, Span. Cataluña, autonomous region (1990 pop. 6,165,638), NE Spain, stretching from the Pyrenees at the French border southward along the Mediterranean Sea.

Land and Economy

Catalonia comprises four provinces, named after their capitals: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Barcelona, the historic capital, contains more than a third of the region's residents. Catalan and Spanish have been the official languages of Catalonia since 1978, which has led to a considerable revival of Catalan. Mostly hilly, with pine-covered mountains, it also has some highly fertile plains. Cereals, olives, and grapes are grown, and one third of the wines of Spain are produced there. The beautiful 240-mi (386-km) seacoast has fine harbors, excellent fisheries, and an active tourist trade. The Ebro (Ebre, in Catalan), Segre, and Cinca rivers furnish hydroelectric power for the industries in Barcelona and Girona provs.; chief products are textiles, chemicals, automobiles, airplanes, locomotives, and foundry and other metal items. The service sector has grown rapidly.


Trade has been active along the coast since Greek and Roman times. The history of medieval Catalonia is that of the counts of Barcelona, who emerged (9th cent.) as the chief lords in the Spanish March founded by Charlemagne. United (1137) with Aragón through marriage (see Raymond Berengar IV), Catalonia nevertheless preserved its own laws, cortes (or corts), and language (akin to Provençal). Catalan art and Catalan literature flourished in the Middle Ages. In the cities, notably Barcelona, the burgher and merchant classes grew very powerful.

Catalan traders rivaled those of Genoa and Venice, and their maritime code was widely used in the 14th cent. They, and adventurers like Roger de Flor, were largely responsible for the expansion in the Mediterranean of the house of Aragón (see Aragón, house of). Catalonia failed in its rebellion (1461-72) against John II of Aragón, and after the union (1479) of Aragón and Castile, Catalonia declined. The centralizing policy of the Spanish kings, the shifting of trade routes with the consequent loss of commercial income, pirate attacks, and recurring plagues and famines were all major factors.

Agitation for autonomy was always strong. In the Thirty Years War (1618-48), Catalonia rose against Philip IV, and in the War of the Spanish Succession it sided with Archduke Charles against Philip V, who in reprisal deprived it of its privileges. In the late 19th and early 20th cent. it was a center of socialist and anarchist strength. In 1931 the Catalans established a separate government, first under Francesc Macià, then under Lluis Companys, which in 1932 won autonomy from the Spanish Cortes. A revolution (1934) for complete independence failed, but in 1936 autonomy was restored. In the civil war of 1936-39, Loyalist Catalonia sided with the Republic and suffered heavily for its opposition to Franco. Barcelona was the Loyalist capital from Oct., 1937, to Jan., 1939. Catalonia fell to Franco in Feb., 1939. Under the Franco dictatorship, the use of Catalan was banned in public life. Catalonia elected its first parliament as an autonomous region in 1980, and by the mid-1990s Catalan nationalists had become a force in both Catalonian and Spanish politics. Increased autonomy for Catalonia and recognition of the region as a "nation" within Spain was approved in 2006.

Catalonia (Cataluña; Catalunya; Aranese: Catalonha), is an Autonomous Community in the northeast part of Spain. The Autonomous Community of Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an official population of 7,210,508 from which immigrants represent an estimated 12.3% of the total population. It borders France and Andorra to the north, Aragon to the west, the Valencian Community to the south, and the Mediterranean Sea to the east (580 km coastline). Official languages are Catalan, Spanish and Aranese.

The capital city is Barcelona. Catalonia is divided into four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its territory corresponds to most of the historical territory of the former Principality of Catalonia.


The name of Catalunya, (Catalonia) began to be used in the 12th century in reference to the group of counties that comprised the Marca Hispanica, which gradually became independent from the French. The origin of the term is subject to diverse interpretations. The most accepted theory suggests that Catalunya derives from the term "Land of Castles , having evolved from the term castlà, the ruler of a castle (see castellan). This theory, therefore, suggests that the term castellà, "Castilian" would have been synonymous.

Another theory suggested that Catalunya derives from Gothia, "Land of the Goths" since the Spanish March was one of the places known as Gothia, whence Gothland and Gothlandia theoretically derived, though critics usually consider it rather simplistic.

Another theory suggests that the name derives from a mythical German prince, Otger Cataló, but this theory has been mostly discredited. Yet another speculation points out the Lacetani, an Iberian tribe that lived in the area, whose name, due to the Roman influence, would have evolved to Katelans and then Catalans.


The climate of Catalonia is very diverse. The most populated areas by the coast, including three capitals out of the four provinces (Tarragona, Barcelona and Girona) are mediterranean weatherwise, but the inland part of the region (Lleida and the inner part of Barcelona) is a Continental Mediterranean climate for the most of it. Then there is mountain climate even alpine climate at the higher Pyreneean peaks. In the Mediterranean area, summers are hot and humid, with sea breezes (max. around 30 °C). Rain is scarce there during this season, however, summer is the most rainy season at the Pyreneean valleys due to frequent summer storms activity. Winter is cool to cold depending on the location. Snow is frequent at the Pyrenees, and every year there are some episodes of snow reaching lower altitudes, sometimes including the coast line. Overall, the most rainy months are in spring and autumn.

The inland part of Catalonia is hotter and, especially, dryer in summer, temperatures can reach 35 °C or more, even 40 °C is not rare. Nights are cooler than by the coast, (14°-16 °C). Fog is not uncommon in valleys and plains, it can be especially resilient and with freezing drizzle episodes during Winter by the Segre and other river valleys.

Legal status within Spain

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 declares that Spain is an indissoluble nation that recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the "nationalities" and regions that constitute it. Catalonia, alongside Basque Country, Galicia and Andalusia self-ascribed as "nationalities" in the elaborations of their Statutes of Autonomy – the first three acceding to autonomy automatically – and more recently in their new Statutes or recent amendments Aragon, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands also did.

The 1979 as well as the current Statute of Autonomy, approved in 2006, state that "Catalonia, as a nationality, exercises its self-government constituted as an autonomous community in accordance with the Constitution and with the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, which is its basic institutional law..

The Preamble of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia states the Parliament of Catalonia defined Catalonia as a nation, but that the "Spanish Constitution recognizes Catalonia's national reality as a nationality". While this Statute was approved by and sanctioned by both the Catalan and the Spanish parliaments, and later by referendum in Catalonia, it has been legally contested by the surrounding Autonomous Communities of Aragon, Balearic Islands and the Valencian Community, as well as by the Partido Popular. The objections are based on various topics such as disputed cultural heritage but, especially, on the Statute's alleged breaches of the "solidarity between regions" principle enshrined by the Constitution in fiscal and educational matters. As of December 2007, the Constitutional Court of Spain is assessing the constitutionality of the challenged articles; its binding conclusion is expected for 2008.


Like some other parts in the rest of the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Catalonia was colonized by Ancient Greeks, who settled around the Roses area. Both Greeks and Carthaginians (who, in the course of the Second Punic War, briefly ruled the territory) interacted with the main Iberian substratum. After the Carthaginian defeat, it became, along with the rest of Hispania, a part of the Roman Empire, Tarraco being one of the main Roman posts in the Iberian Peninsula

It then came under Visigothic rule for four centuries after Rome's collapse. In the eighth century, it became under Moorish al-Andalus control. Still, after the defeat of Emir Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi's troops at Tours in 732, the Franks conquered former Visigoth states which had been captured by the Muslims or had become allied with them in what today is the northernmost part of Catalonia. Charlemagne created in 795 which came to be known as the Marca Hispanica, a buffer zone beyond the province of Septimania made up of locally administered separate petty kingdoms which served as a defensive barrier between the Umayyad Moors of Al-Andalus and the Frankish Kingdom.

The Catalan culture started to develop in the Middle Ages stemming from a number of these petty kingdoms organized as small counties throughout the northernmost part of Catalonia. The counts of Barcelona were Frankish vassals nominated by the emperor then the king of France, to whom they were feudatories (801-987).

In 987 the count of Barcelona did not recognize the French king Hugh Capet and his new dynasty which put it effectively out of the Frankish rule. Two years later, in 989, Catalonia declared its independence. Then, in 1137, Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona married Petronila of Aragon establishing the dynastic union of the County of Barcelona with the Kingdom of Aragon which was to create the Crown of Aragon.

It was not until 1258, by means of the Treaty of Corbeil, that the king of France formally relinquished his feudal lordship over the counties of the Principality of Catalonia to the king of Aragon James I, descendant of Ramon Berenguer IV. This Treaty transformed the country's de facto independence into a de jure direct transition from French to Aragonese rule. It also solved a historic incongruence. As part of the Crown of Aragon, Catalonia became a great maritime power, helping to expand the Crown by trade and conquest into the Kingdom of Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and even Sardinia or Sicily.

In 1410, King Martin I died without surviving descendants. As a result, by the Pact of Caspe, Ferdinand of Antequera from the Castilian dynasty of Trastamara, received the Crown of Aragon as Ferdinand I of Aragon.

His grandson, King Ferdinand II of Aragon married Queen Isabella of Castile in 1469; retrospectively, this is seen as the dawn of the Kingdom of Spain. At that point both Castile and Aragon remained distinct territories, each keeping its own traditional institutions, Parliaments and laws. Political power began to shift away from Aragon toward Castile and, subsequently, from Castile to the Spanish Empire.

For an extended period, Catalonia, as part of the Crown of Aragon, continued to retain its own usages and laws, but these gradually eroded in the course of the transition from feudalism to a modern state, fueled by the kings' struggle to have more centralized territories. Over the next few centuries, Catalonia was generally on the losing side of a series of wars that led steadily to more centralization of power in Spain, like the Reapers' War (1640–1652).

The most significant conflict was the War of the Spanish Succession, which began when Charles II of Spain (the last Spanish Habsburg) died without a successor in 1700. Catalonia, as the other kingdoms which used to form the Crown of Aragon, mostly rose up in support of the Habsburg pretender Charles of Austria, while the rest of Spain mostly adhered to the French Bourbon claimant, Philip V. Following the fall of Barcelona on 11 September 1714, the Crown of Aragon and its institutions were abolished by the Nueva Planta decrees, under which all its lands were incorporated, as provinces, into a united Spanish administration, as Spain moved towards a centralized government under the new Bourbon dynasty.

In the latter half of the 19th century, Catalonia became an industrial center; to this day it remains one of the most industrialised parts of Spain. In the first third of the 20th century, Catalonia gained and lost varying degrees of autonomy several times, receiving its first statute of autonomy during the Second Spanish Republic (1931). This period was marked by politic unrest and the preeminence of the Anarchists during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). After the defeat of the Republic in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) which brought General Francisco Franco to power, his regime suppressed any kind of public activities associated with Catalan nationalism, Anarchism, Socialism, Democracy or Communism, such as publishing books on the matter or simply discussing them in open meetings. As part of this suppression the use of Catalan in government-run institutions and in public events was banned. During later stages of the Francoist regime, certain folkoric or religious celebrations in Catalan were resumed and tolerated. Use of Catalan in the mass media was forbidden, but was permitted from the early 1950s in the theatre. Publishing in Catalan continued throughout the dictatorship.

After Franco's death (1975) and with the adoption of a democratic Spanish constitution (1978), Catalonia recovered political and cultural autonomy. Today, Catalonia is one of the most economically dynamic regions of Spain. The Catalan capital and largest city, Barcelona, is a major international cultural centre and a major tourism destination.

Catalonia's second statute of autonomy, adopted by the Catalan government on 22 December 1979, officially recognized Catalonia as a nationality. Then, the amended version approved on 9 August 2006 has defined Catalonia as a nation in the preamble. The precise meaning of the term nation is ambiguous as to not conflict with the Spanish Constitution. The Statute of Autonomy also establishes that "Catalonia wishes to develop its political personality within the framework of a State which recognizes and respects the diversity of identities of the peoples of Spain". After the charter was first passed in the regional parliament, it was then edited in conjunction with the Cortes Generales (Spanish bicameral parliament). Except the Partido Popular, all the other political parties represented in the Catalan autonomous Parliament endorsed the final redaction of the statute, which was then approved by means of a referendum held in June 2006 in which 73.9% voted for the autonomy plan and 20.8% against it. The turnout was unprecedentedly low, at around 49% of the total census, which resulted in the highest abstention ever registered in Catalonia in a referendum.


Originating in the historic territory of Catalonia, Catalan is one of the three official languages and has enjoyed special status since the approval of the Statute of Autonomy of 1979 which declares it to be the language "proper to Catalonia". The other languages with official status are Spanish, which is the official language throughout Spain, and Aranese (a dialect of Occitan spoken in the Val d'Aran valley).

Under the Franco dictatorship Catalan was, until the 1970s, excluded from the state education system and all other official and public use, including the prohibition of giving children Catalan names. Rural-urban migration originating in other parts of Spain also reduced the social use of the language in urban areas. Lately, a similar sociolinguistic phenomenon has occurred with foreign immigration. In an attempt to reverse this, the re-established self-government institutions of Catalonia embarked on a long term language policy to increase the use of Catalan and has, since 1983, enforced laws which attempt to protect, and extend, the use of Catalan. Some groups consider these efforts a way to discourage the use of Spanish, while some other, including the Catalan government and the European Union consider the policies not only respectful, but also an example which "should be disseminated throughout the Union".

Today, Catalan is the language of the Catalan autonomous government and the other public institutions that fall under its jurisdiction. Basic public education is given in Catalan other than two hours per week of Spanish medium instruction. Businesses are required to display all information (e.g. menus, posters) in Catalan under penalty of legal fines; there is no obligation to display this information in either Aranese or Spanish, although there is no restriction on doing so in these or other languages and this is often done, in particular in Spanish. The use of fines was introduced in a 1997 linguistic law that aims to increase the use of Catalan.

According to the most recent linguistic census elaborated by the Government of Catalonia, a plurality claims Catalan as "their own language" (48.8% Catalan compared to 44.3% Spanish), and in most everyday uses, people who use exclusively Catalan or both languages equally are in the majority. 53.4% of citizens declared Spanish as a native language, either exclusively or along with Catalan. The law, therefore, ensures that both Catalan and Spanish – being official languages – can be used by the citizens without prejudice in all public and private activities. Even though the Generalitat usually uses Catalan in its communications and notifications addressed to the general population, citizens can also receive information from the Generalitat in Spanish if they so desire.

Finally, since the Statute of Autonomy of 1979, Occitan, in its Aranese variety (a dialect of Gascon), has been official and subject to special protection in the Val d'Aran (Aran Valley). This small area of 7,000 inhabitants was the only place where Occitan (spoken mainly in France and some Italian valleys) received full official status. However, on 9 August 2006, when the new Statute came into force, Occitan became official throughout Catalonia.


The GDP of Catalonia in 2007 was € 202,509 million and Per capita GDP was € 24,445, ranking high among autonomous communities in Spain.

The Catalan economy is distinguished by its industrial profile. The distribution of sectors is the following one:

The GDP growth is 3,3%, the land dedicated to agricultural use is 33%.

Catalonia is the first tourist destination of Spain. The main tourist destinations of Catalonia are the city of Barcelona, the beaches of the Costa Brava at Girona and the Costa Daurada at Tarragona. In the Pyrenees there are 10 ski resorts: Baqueira Beret, the Molina, Espot Ski, the Masella, Port Ainé, Vall de Núria, Boí Taüll, Port of the Comte, Flat of Peguera, Tavascan and Vallter 2000.

From the financial point of view the saving banks have a great implantation in Catalonia. 10 of the 46 Spanish savings banks are Catalan and "La Caixa" is the first savings bank of Europe. The first private bank originated in Catalonia is "Banc Sabadell" ranking fourth of the Spanish private banks.

The Stock market of Barcelona, that in 2004 negotiated almost 205,000 million euros, is the second most important of Spain after the Stock market of Madrid and Fira de Barcelona organizes samples and congresses of international character on varied sectors of the economy.

The main economic cost for the Catalan families is the purchase of a house. According to data of the Society of Appraisal on the 31 of December 2005 Catalonia is, after Madrid, the second community of Spain where the price of the house is more expensive: 3,397 euros for a square meter are paid by average. By cities, nevertheless, Barcelona is the most expensive city of Spain, with an average price of 3,700 euros for a square meter.

The most commonly cultivated crops in Catalonia are maize, potatoes, forage, vines, olives and cereals. Also commonly practiced are horticulture and animal husbandry; most important to the latter are porcine livestock, bovine livestock and ovine livestock.


After Franco's death in 1975 and the adoption of a democratic constitution in Spain in 1978, Catalonia recovered, and extended, the powers granted in the statute of autonomy of 1932 it had lost with the fall of the Second Spanish Republic at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.

The historical region has gradually achieved a greater degree of autonomy since 1979. The Generalitat holds exclusive jurisdiction in various matters including culture, environment, communications, transportation, commerce, public safety and local governments while it shares jurisdiction with the Spanish government in education, health and justice.

There is significant Catalan nationalist sentiment present in a part of the population of Catalonia, which ranges from the desire for independence from Spain expressed by Catalan independentists, to a more generic demand of further autonomy.

Law and government of Catalonia

The Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia is the fundamental organic law, second only to the Spanish Constitution from which the Statute originates. The Catalan Statute of Autonomy establishes that Catalonia is organized politically through the Generalitat de Catalunya, conformed by the Parliament, the Presidency of the Generalitat, the Government or Executive Council and the other institutions created by the Parliament.

The seat of the Executive Council is the city of Barcelona. Since the restoration of the Generalitat through the return of democracy in Spain, the presidents of Catalonia have been Jordi Pujol (1980-2003), Pasqual Maragall (2003-2006) and incumbent José Montilla Aguilera.

Catalonia is divided into four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Local governments include comarques (roughly equivalent to counties), as well as smaller forms of municipal administration.

Security forces

Catalonia has its own police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, whose origins trace back to the eighteenth century. Since 1980 they are under the commandment of the Generalitat, and since 1994 it is expanding in order to replace the Spain-wide Guardia Civil and Policía Nacional, which report directly to the Homeland Department of Spain. These corps are to retain a limited number of agents within Catalonia to exercise specific functions such as overseeing ports, airports, coasts, international borders, custom offices, identification documents, control of armament amongst others.

Most of the justice system is administered by national judicial institutions. The legal system is uniform throughout Spain, with the exception of so-called "civil law", which is administered separately within Catalonia.

After Navarre and the Basque Country, Catalonia is the Spanish region with the highest degree of Autonomy.


The autonomous community of Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² with an official population of 7,134,697 (2006) from which immigrants represent an estimated 12.3%.

The Urban Region of Barcelona includes 5,327,872 people and covers an area of 4.268 km² and about 2.5 million persons live in a radius of 25 km from Barcelona. The first metropolitan crown of the Urban Region includes cities like l'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Badalona, Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Cornellà. The main populations of the second crown are Terrassa, Sabadell, Montcada i Reixac, Granollers, Martorell, Molins de Rei, Rubí, Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Gavà and Castelldefels.

In 1900 the population of Catalonia was 1,984,115 people and in 1970 it was 5,107,606. That increase was produced due to the demographic boom produced in Spain during the 60s and early 70s and also due to the large-scale internal migration produced from the rural interior of Spain to its industrial cities. In Catalonia that wave of internal migration arrived from several regions of Spain, especially Andalusia, Murcia and Extremadura.




Commercial and passenger ports


see also List of autopistes and autovies in Catalonia

There are 12,000 km of roads throughout Catalonia.

The principal highway is AP-7 know also as Autopista del Mediterrani. It follows the coast from the French Border to Valencia, located south of Tarragona. The main roads generally radiate from Barcelona. The A-2 and AP-2 connect inland and onward to Madrid.

Other major roads are:


Catalonia saw the first railway construction in Iberian Peninsula in 1848, linking Barcelona with Mataró. Given the topography most lines radiate from Barcelona. The city has both suburban and inter-city services. The main east coast line runs through the province connecting with French Railways at Portbou on the coast.

The railroad companies operating in Catalonia are FGC and RENFE.

High speed AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) services from Madrid currently reach Lleida, Tarragona and Barcelona. The official opening between Barcelona and Madrid was on 20 February 2008. The journey between Barcelona and Madrid lasts about 2 and a half hours. Construction has commenced to extend the high speed line northwards to connect with the French high speed network. This new line passes through Girona and a rail tunnel through the Pyrenees.

Some symbols of Catalonia

Catalonia has its own representative and distinctive symbols such as:

  • The flag of Catalonia or Senyera (flag in Catalan), is a vexillological symbol based on the coat of arms of the Crown of Aragon, which consists of four red stripes on a golden background. It is an official symbol since the Statute of Catalonia of 1932.
  • The National Day of Catalonia is on 11 September, and it is commonly called La Diada. It commemorates the 1714 Siege of Barcelona defeat during the War of the Spanish Succession.
  • The national anthem of Catalonia is Els Segadors and was written in its present form by Emili Guanyavents in 1899. The song is official by law from the February 25 of 1993. It is based on the events of 1639 and 1640 when Catalans fought for independence against Philip IV in the so called Catalan Revolt.
  • La Diada de Sant Jordi is widely celebrated in all the towns of Catalonia on 23 April. It is a day where in addition to the exchange of books and roses, Catalans will proudly display their senyeres as a show of national pride.
  • One of the most international symbols of Catalonia is FC Barcelona. The area's footballing branch is supported with a passion by the 'cules'. The matches against Real Madrid are one of the most known sports rivalries.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Catalonia

There are several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Catalonia:

Popular culture

Castellers are one of the main manifestations of the Catalan popular culture. The activity consists on the construction of human towers by colles castelleres (teams) that compete among them. This practice was originated in the southern part of Catalonia during the XVIII century.

The sardana is the most characteristic Catalan popular dance, other groups also practice Ball de bastons, moixiganga or jota in the southern part. Musically the Havaneres are also characteristic in the marine localities of the Costa Brava specially during the summer months when this songs are sung outdoors always accompanied by a tasting of burned rum. As opposed to other more traditional parts of Spain, flamenco is not popularly performed, but rather the rumba is a more prevalent dance style.

In the greater celebrations other elements of the Catalan popular culture are usually present: the parades of giants and correfocs of devils and firecrackers. Another traditional celebration of Catalonia is La Patum de Berga declared oral and immaterial patrimony of the Humanity by UNESCO in the 25 of November of 2005.

In addition to the traditional local Catalan culture, people can enjoy traditions from other parts of Spain as a result of sizeable migration from other regions.

Gallery of images

See also


External links

[edit ] Comarques of Catalonia
Comarques of Autonomous Community of Catalonia
Alt Camp | Alt Empordà | Alt Penedès | Alt Urgell | Alta Ribagorça | Anoia | Bages | Baix Camp | Baix Ebre | Baix Empordà | Baix Llobregat | Baix Penedès | Barcelonès | Berguedà | Cerdanya | Conca de Barberà | Garraf | Garrigues | Garrotxa | Gironès | Maresme | Montsià | Noguera | Osona | Pallars Jussà | Pallars Sobirà | Pla de l'Estany | Pla d'Urgell | Priorat | Ribera d'Ebre | Ripollès | Segarra | Segrià | Selva | Solsonès | Tarragonès | Terra Alta | Urgell | Val d'Aran | Vallès Occidental | Vallès Oriental

Search another word or see Cataloniaon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature