Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Catalonia (Catalan: Catalunya; Spanish: Cataluña; Aranese: Catalonha), is an Autonomous Community of the Kingdom 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.

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.


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 suggests that Catalunya derives from Gotholàndia, "Land of the Goths" since the Franks usually designated the entire Iberian Peninsula as "Gothia".[citation needed] A similar version is suggested in Encyclopædia Iranica - according to it, the name "is but a slight deformation of Goth-Alania, province of the Goths and Alans".

Other theories suggest that the name derives from a mythical German prince, Otger Cataló, or from the Laketani, a Pre-Roman tribe that lived in the area, whose name, due to the Roman influence, evolved to Katelans and then Catalans.


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.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalunya

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