Galicia (autonomous region, Spain)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Galicia (autonomous region, Spain)

Galicia (gəlē´shə, –shēə; Span., gälē´thēä), autonomous region (1990 pop. 2,914,514), NW Spain, on the Atlantic Ocean, S of the Bay of Biscay and N of Portugal. Comprised of the provinces of A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense, and Pontevedra, the region gained autonomy in 1981, when it elected its first parliament. Galician (Galego), closely related to Portuguese, is the official language of the region; most inhabitants understand it, but only about half use it primarily.

The area is mostly mountainous, with several swift rivers, of which the Miño is the most important. Fishing, cattle and hog raising, and food processing are the main industries. An important naval base is at Ferrol and a petroleum refinery is at A Coruña. The region's mineral resources, chiefly iron and tin, were known to the Romans but are now little exploited. Much of the region's electricity is produced by wind farms.

Galicia was (5th–6th cent. AD) the center of the kingdom of the German Suevi. It was liberated (8th–9th cent.) from the Moors by the king of Asturias. Its people's strong spirit of independence was shown in the Middle Ages by the frequent rebellions of the feudal lords against the crown and again in the 19th cent. by the popular resistance to Napoleon I. The shrine of Santiago de Compostela, a center of culture in medieval times, remains a great place of pilgrimage. In the 19th cent., Galicia was the scene of a remarkable cultural and literary revival.

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