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Castilians (Spanish: castellanos) are a subgroup of Spaniards and the inhabitants of the historical region of Castile. West Castile and León, Albacete, Cantabria and La Rioja are often also included in the definition, but this is controversial for historical reasons and the strong sense of unique cultural identity of those regions.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Spain (Castile and Leon, Castile–La Mancha, Community of Madrid)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|other Spaniards (Leonese, Extremadurans, Andalusians)|
A broader definition is to consider as Castilians the population belonging to the Peninsular territories (and Canary Islands) controlled by the Crown of Castile, which is a large part of the Iberian Peninsula.
However, not all people in the regions of the medieval Kingdom of Castile or Crown of Castile think of themselves as Castilian. For this reason, the exact limits of what Castile is today are disputed. As an ethnicity, they are most commonly associated with the sparsely populated inner plateau of the Iberian peninsula, which is split in two by the Sistema Central mountain range and Northern or Old Castile from Southern or New Castile, the latter being somewhat closer in terms of culture and dialect to southern regions of Spain such as Andalusia, Extremadura and Murcia.
Through the Reconquista and other conquests in the Middle Ages, the Kingdom of Castile (later Crown of Castile) spread over a large part of the Iberian Peninsula, especially towards the southern Spanish regions. After this, since the 15th century, through the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the Castilians also spread over the New World, bringing with them not only their language, but also elements of their culture and traditions.
Castilian (castellano), that is, Spanish, is the native language of the Castilians. Its origin is traditionally ascribed to an area south of the Cordillera Cantábrica, including the upper Ebro valley, in northern Spain, around the 8th and 9th centuries; however the first written standard was developed in the 13th century in the southern city of Toledo. It is descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, with Arabic influences, and perhaps Basque as well. During the Reconquista in the Middle Ages, it was brought to the south of Spain where it replaced the languages that were spoken in the former Moorish controlled zones, such as the local form of related Latin dialects now referred to as Mozarabic, and the Arabic that had been introduced by the Muslims. In this process Castilian absorbed many traits from these languages, some of which continue to be used today. Outside of Spain and a few Latin American countries, Castilian is now usually referred to as Spanish.
Castilian (or Spanish) is the dominant language in Spain, and therefore was the language that was brought by the New World Conquistadores during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Due to this gradual process, the Hispanophone world was created. As Castilian was the language of the Crown, it became the official language of all Spain, used side by side with other languages in their regions for centuries. During the years of the Francoist State (1939 to 1975) there was an attempt to suppress the regional languages in favour of Castilian as the sole official language, causing a backlash against the use of Castilian in some regions after his death.
In Spanish, the word castellano (Castilian) is often used to refer to the Spanish language, alongside español (Spanish). See Names given to the Spanish language.
Roman Catholicism is deeply tied to Castilian culture and identity and is the religion of the overwhelming majority of Castilians, as a result of the settlement of Christian populations and forced assimilation of religious minorities (particularly Judaism and Islam) during and prior to the Spanish Inquistion. The presence in the region of minority religions such as Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity, Islam or Judaism are the result of relatively recent conversions or immigration.