The Catalans (Catalan, French and Occitan: catalans; Spanish: catalanes, Italian: catalani) are an Iberian/European ethnic group of mediterranean and Pyrenean descent, having its roots in the Pyrenees mountains. The only official category of "Catalans" is that of the citizens of Catalonia, an autonomous community in Spain and the inhabitants of the Roussillon historical region in southeast France, today the Pyrénées Orientales departments, also called Catalonia Nord and Pays Catalan in French.
|c. 8.4 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
| Spain |
(people born in Catalonia; excludes Catalans born in other regions in Spain)
(people born in Pyrénées-Orientales)
(Algherese speakers in Alghero, Sardinia)
| United States of America|
Occitan (in Aran Valley)
Spanish (as a result of immigration or language shift since the 15th century)
Some authors also extend the word "Catalans" to encompass the inhabitants of all the regions where Catalan language is spoken, namely those from Andorra, Valencia, the Balearic islands, eastern Aragon, Roussillon, and the city of Alghero in Sardinia. These territories are also known as the Països Catalans or "Catalan Countries".
In 1500 BCE the area that is now known primarily as Catalonia was, along with the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, inhabited by Proto-Celtic Urnfield people who brought with them the rite of burning the dead. These Indo-European people were absorbed by the Iberians beginning in 600 BCE in a process that would not be complete until the fourth century BCE. These groups came under the rule of various invading groups starting with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, who set up colonies along the coast, including Barcino (present-day Barcelona) itself. Following the Punic Wars, the Romans replaced the Carthaginians as the dominant power in the Iberian eastern coast, including parts of Catalonia, by 206 BCE. Rome established Latin as the official language and imparted a distinctly Roman culture upon the local population, which merged with Roman colonists from the Italian peninsula. An early precursor to the Catalan language began to develop from a local form of popular Latin before and during the collapse of the Roman Empire. Various Germanic tribes arrived following nearly six centuries of Roman rule, which had completely transformed the area into the Roman province of Tarraconensis. The Visigoths established themselves in the fifth century, making their first capital in the Iberian peninsula Barcelona, and they later would move to Toledo. This continued until 718 when Muslim Arabs conquered the region in order to pass through the Pyrenees into French territory. With the help of the Frankish, a land border was created commonly known nowadays as Old Catalonia (which would consist of the counties County of Barcelona, Ausona, County of Pallars, County of Rosselló, County of Empúries, County of Cerdanya and County of Urgell) which faced Muslim raids but resisted any kind of settlement from them. "New Catalonia" and its native peoples were fully in control of the Arab invaders for around a century. The Franks on the other side of the Pyrenees held back the main Muslim raiding army which had penetrated virtually unchallenged as far as central France at the Battle of Tours in 732. Frankish suzerainty was then extended over much of present-day Catalonia. Larger wars with the Muslims began in the March of Barcelona which led to the beginnings of the Reconquista by Catalan forces over most of Catalonia by the year 801. Barcelona would then become an important center for Christian forces in the Iberian Peninsula.
Catalonia emerged from the conflicts in Muslim Spain as a regional power, as Christian rulers entrenched themselves in the region during the Carolingian period. Rulers such as Wilfred the Hairy became masters of a larger territory encompassing Catalonia. The Crown of Aragón included the Principality of Catalonia and the kingdoms of Aragon, Valencia and Majorca (in the Balearic Islands). The marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon was a dynastic union in which the Kingdom of Castille and the Kingdom of Aragon were under the same crown but kept their own laws, power structures, borders and monetary systems.
Regional unrest led to conflicts such as the Revolt of the Germanies in Valencia and Majorca, and the 1640 revolt in Catalonia known as the Reapers' War. This latter conflict embroiled Spain in a larger war with France as many Catalan nobles allied themselves with Louis XIII. The war continued until 1659 and ended with the Peace of the Pyrenees, which effectively partitioned Catalonia as the northern strip of the March came under French rule, while the rest remained under Spanish hegemony. The Catalan government took sides with the Habsburg pretender against the Bourbon one during the War of the Spanish Succession that started in 1705 and ended in 1714. The Catalan failure to defend the continuation of Habsburg rule in Spain culminated in the surrender of Barcelona on 11 September 1714 which came to be commemorated as Catalonia's National Day.
During the Napoleonic Wars, much of Catalonia was seized by French forces by 1808, as France ruled the entire country of Spain briefly until Napoleon's surrender to Allied Armies. In France, strong assimilationist policies integrated many Catalans into French society, while in Spain a Catalan identity was increasingly suppressed in favor of a Spanish national identity. The Catalans regained autonomy during the Spanish Second Republic from 1932 until Francisco Franco's nationalist forces retook Catalonia by 1939. It was not until 1975 and the death of Franco that the Catalans as well as other Spaniards began to regain their right to cultural expression, which was restarted by the Spanish Constitution of 1978. Since this period, a balance between a sense of local identity versus the broader Spanish one has emerged as the dominant political force in Catalonia. The former tends to advocate for even greater autonomy and independence; the latter tends to argue for maintaining either a status quo or removal of autonomy and cultural identity, depending on the leanings of the current government. As a result, there tends to be much fluctuation depending on regional and national politics during a given election cycle. Given the stronger centralist tendencies in France, however, French Catalans display a much less dynamic sense of uniqueness, having been integrated more consistently into the unitary French national identity.
The vast majority of Catalans reside in the autonomous community of Catalonia, in the northeast part of Spain. At least 100,000 Catalan speakers live in the Pays Catalan in France. An indeterminate number of Catalans emigrated to the Americas during the Spanish colonial period and to France in the years following the Spanish Civil War.
Culture and societyEdit
Described by author Walter Starkie in The Road to Santiago as a subtle people, he sums up their national character with a local term seny meaning "common sense" or a pragmatic attitude toward life. The counterpart of Catalan "seny" is "rauxa" or madness, epithomized by "crazy", eccentric and creative Catalan artists like Antoni Gaudí, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró or Antoni Tàpies. The masia or mas is a defining characteristic of the Catalan countryside and includes a large house, land, cattle, and an extended family, but this tradition is in decline as the nuclear family has largely replaced the extended family, as in the rest of western Europe. Catalans in Spain are recognised as a "nationality" and enjoy a high degree of political autonomy, leading to reinforcement of a Catalan identity.
The Catalan language is a Romance language. It is the language closest to Occitan, and it also shares many features with other Romance languages such as Spanish, French, Portuguese, Aragonese, and Italian. There are a number of linguistic varieties that are considered dialects of Catalan, among them, the dialect group with the most speakers, Central Catalan.
The total number of Catalan speakers is over 9.8 million (2011), with 5.9 million residing in Catalonia. More than half of them speak Catalan as a second language, with native speakers being about 4.4 million of those (more than 2.8 in Catalonia). Very few Catalan monoglots exist; basically, virtually all of the Catalan speakers in Spain are bilingual speakers of Catalan and Spanish, with a sizeable population of Spanish-only speakers of immigrant origin (typically born outside Catalonia or with both parents born outside Catalonia) existing in the major Catalan urban areas as well. In Roussillon, only a minority of French Catalans speak Catalan nowadays, with French being the majority language for the inhabitants after a continued process of language shift.
In September 2005, the .cat TLD, the first Internet language-based top-level domain, was approved for all web pages intending to serve the needs of the Catalan linguistic and cultural community on the Internet. This community is made up of those who use the Catalan language for their online communication or promote the different aspects of Catalan culture online.
The traditional dress (now practically only used in folkloric celebrations) included the barretina (a sort of woollen, long cap usually red or purple in colour) and the faixa (a sort of wide belt) among men, and ret (a fine net bag to contain hair) among women. The traditional footwear was the espardenya or espadrille.
There are three main daily meals:
- In the morning: a very light breakfast, consisting of fruit or fruit juice, milk, coffee, or pa amb tomàquet "bread with tomato". Catalans tend to divide their breakfast into two parts: one early in the morning before going to work or study (first breakfast), and the other one between 10:00 and 12:00 (second breakfast)
- In the afternoon (roughly from 13:00 to 14:30): the main meal of the day, usually comprising three dishes. The first consists of pasta or vegetables, the second of meat or fish, and the third of fruit or yogurt
- In the evening (roughly from 20:00 to 22:30): more food than in the morning, but less than at lunch; very often only a single main dish and fruit; it is common to drink moderate quantities of wine.
In Catalan gastronomy, embotits (a wide variety of Catalan sausages and cold meats) are very important; these are pork sausages such as botifarra or fuet. In the past, bread (similar to French bread) figured heavily in the Catalan diet; now it is used mainly in the morning (second breakfast, especially among young students and some workers) and supplements the noon meal, at home and in restaurants. Bread is still popular among Catalans; some Catalan fast-food restaurants don't serve hamburgers, but offer a wide variety of sandwiches.
One type of Catalan dish is escudella, a soup which contains chick peas, potatoes, and vegetables such as green cabbage, celery, carrots, turnips, and meats such as botifarra (a Catalan sausage), pork feet, salted ham, chicken, and veal. In Northern Catalonia, it is sometimes called ollada.
The first wave of secularization happened during the eighteenth century as a result of the enlightenment influence to the bourgeoisie. The second one happened during the nineteenth century, that had a huge impact on the lower and middle class, but was interrupted by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939).
After the Francoist regime, the population, dissatisfied with the dictatorship, accused the Catholic Church of being a supporter of the regime and this led to another wave of secularization that extends since the 1980s. During the 1990s most of the population of Catalonia was non-practising Catholic. Nowadays 52.4% of Catalans are Catholic, practising or not, 30.2% of Catalans are agnostic or atheist, and there is also a considerable amount of other religions: 7.3% Muslim, 2.5% Evangelical, 1.3% Buddhism, and 1.2% Orthodox Christians.
Catalonia is one of the richest and most well developed regions in Southern Europe. Barcelona is among the most industrialized metropolises and a both regional capital and a magnet for various migrants from other regions in Spain, as well as from foreign countries.
Fire is the element used in most important traditional festivals, which are derived from pagan roots. These celebrations have a high acceptance of fire between the Catalans, like the Flame of Canigó to the Bonfires of Saint John.
Historical memory is the second axis of celebrations in Catalonia, where the Catalan people reunite with their date of birth as a people. This explains the many parties associated with the Reconquest, especially Moors and Christians, like in Lleida.
Finally, the religious celebrations are the last pillar. Amongst them are St. George's Day and the celebrations of Saint Vincent Martyr and Saint Anthony Abbot. The maximum expressions of this element are the Easter processions and performances of the Passion. Some festivals have a complicated relationship with religion, such as Carnival and Dance of Death, or specific aspects such as the Tió de Nadal (Christmas piñata) and the "Caganer".
Other key elements of a Catalan celebration are: food, central to every party and especially to the pig slaughter and harvest festivals; contests such as human towers, choice of major and festive floats; music, songs and bands; processions; dances; and animals, especially bulls and representations of mythological creatures. The Patum of Berga has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Because of their intertwining history, much of the traditional symbols of Catalonia coincide with Aragon, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. The oldest Catalan symbol is the shield of Catalonia, or bars of Aragon, one of Europe's oldest heraldic emblems. A popular legend dates it back to the ninth century: it is said that the four red lines are the result of Charles the Bald's four fingers which smeared blood on the gold shield of Wilfred the Hairy (Guifré el Pelós) as a reward for having fought valiantly against the Normans.
The royal flag, inspired by the shield, is perhaps the most representative symbol of Catalan culture.
As for anthems, "The Reapers" (Els Segadors) is the official anthem of Catalonia and is also used in the other lands of the Principality; the Balanguera represents the people from the Balearic Islands and, in the case of Valencia, the official "Anthem of the Exhibition" (Himne de l'Exposició) alongside Muixeranga as symbols of the country.
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