Culture and Language of Galicia

Galicia is different to what a tourist would imagine when arriving in Spain. It isn’t just it’s geography or its abundance of greenery. No, it goes deeper than that. It has a culture and a language that is unique to this part of Spain. A part of the Galician cycling tour, is immersing yourself in that culture.

 Gallego Music and Dancing

Galician culture is very different to the rest of Spain. It has its own music & dancing, and you would be forgiven for thinking that you were in Ireland or Scotland when experiencing Galician fiestas. The most common instrument is the bagpipes (gaitas), which differ slightly from those found in Scotland. Some have an accordion like arm pump action, and typically only have three pipes emanating from the bag. The pipers (gaiteros) are accompanied by dancers, and the traditional form of dancing again has similarities to Ireland and Scotland. Holding the hands head high throughout the dance is common.  However, the foot movements are not as dramatic as in Irish dancing. The costumes too are less elaborate than in the northern Celtic countries. Most common are knee high boots, and the head wear is normally the traditional pointy hat.

The Origins of Modern day Gallego 

Spain is made up of fourteen autonomous regions, and has seven different recognised languages, and four official languages, of which Gallego is one. The origin of the Galician language is Latin, and there are many similarities with traditional Castillian Spanish. Many linguistic scholars however, particularly in Galicia, say that Gallego was the original language, and the Castellano formed from Gallego. That is a story, or argument, depending on your point of view, best conducted with a good bottle of Galician wine. The language when spoken, is a good mixture of Castellano and Portuguese. Galicians speak both Castellano and Gallego, although their own language has taken centre stage in modern day Galicia.

Modern day Gallego

When Franco died in the mid-seventies, Gallego was re-born. Franco, the dictator who ruled Spain after the civil war ended in 1939, was Galician, born in Ferrol. However, he was no friend of Galicia and banned the Gallego language.  Galicians defied the Government and spoke in secret, “behind closed doors”. As a result of this the  original language underwent changes.However, it survived,and  ensured that today, Gallego remains the official language of Galician government. Galicia has its own language television channel, and all schools teach their science subjects in Gallego.