Castelao and Sempre En Galiza: Emigration and Social Clash

By Carballal, Ana Isabel | Notes on Contemporary Literature, May 2007 | Go to article overview

Castelao and Sempre En Galiza: Emigration and Social Clash


Carballal, Ana Isabel, Notes on Contemporary Literature


Alfonso Rodriguez Castelao (Rianxo 1886-Buenos Aires 1950) was the most important Galician writer and politician (Galicia is the northwest region of Spain with Celtic connections). Born in 1886, he was the first to use Galician language and topics as the focus of all his work; as a politician, he was not only one of the main supporters of the Spanish Republic (19311936), he was also the founder of the Galician Nationalist Party, the first representative of Galicia in Congress, and one of the main writers of the Estatuto de Galicia (a Galician constitution that would provide the region with certain prerogatives for its self government).

Castelao's most important and well-known work was Sempre en Galiza written in 1946 (Obras de Castelao, Vigo: Galaxia, 2000, pgs. 43-580), and considered to be the "Bible" of Galician Nationalism. The volume deals with many important issues, from a description of Galicia, its history, culture, economy, and society, to an explanation of why the Spanish Congress did not pass in 1936 the Estatuto de Galicia, and the right of Galicia to be a nation. But above all, Sempre en Galiza is a meticulous analysis of the causes and the consequences of having suffered for years under the power and control of a government, Spain, that ignored the needs of the Galician people.

One of the consequences of this suffering and of the repression that the Spanish government sometimes inflicted on its citizens was emigration. In Sempre en Galiza, emigration is not only the consequence of a bad economic and social policy, it goes beyond those problems to relate to the problem of social class. Castelao distinguishes between rich and poor in Galicia, in emigration and among those who returned from it, to show how affluence and poverty may be considered in various terms and not always based on a bank account.

In Sempre en Galiza, Galicia's society is divided between rich (those who possess extensive land that they rent to peasants to work) and poor (those who spend their lives working for the owners of the land and that finally decide to emigrate in the hope of finding a better life). Nevertheless, fortune, in Castelao's view, does reside not in the money or lack thereof, but in who possesses the culture, the land, and the determination to fight for it: "A terra galega esta esnaquizada polo amor e cobiza dos seus fillos . …

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