The evolution of what has become modern day Galicia was the decline of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. After almost 300 years of Roman rule, Galicia, a Celtic based nation, was invaded by the Suebi nation. These invaders hailed from what is now modern-day Germany, and they were followed by the British in the 7th century. The British however, moved further south to what is now northern Portugal, but at that time was part of Galicia. This is the reason that modern day Portugal retains a lot of British customs.
Repelling the Moorish Invaders
At the turn of the 8th century, the north African moors began their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. However, the Moors were unable to conquer Galicia for different reasons. Legend has it, that the brave Galician warriors repelled the all-conquering hordes from north Africa. Galicians, were a disparate bunch in that era, a true mixture of Celtic, Germanic and British bloodlines. Because of this they were fearsome warriors, and did indeed drive the Moors back. However, it is probably true that the mountainous territory, coupled with the health problems that the Moors, who were used to much drier conditions, is what stopped a full-scale invasion.
Origins of the Camino de Santiago
So, Galicia, unlike the rest of the Peninsula kept its historical roots intact, refusing to bow to the Moors. As a result, Galicia´s evolution has differentiated it in many ways to the rest of Spain. Another event that shaped modern Galicia was the discovery in 813AD of an ark.This was said to contain the remains of St James, one of the original disciples of Jesus. Legend has it that the ark, was discovered by a hermit in a field full of stars. A field of stars in Castellano is “campo de las estrellas”, which morphed into Compostela. James in Castellano is Santiago, thus forming Santiago de Compostela. The ark´s discovery, and it´s internment in a purpose-built church, led to Santiago becoming a pilgrimage site. To this day it remains the most important site in Galicia. Pilgrims the world over come to walk the Camino de Santiago (St James Way).
In the years that followed, Galicia´s evolution reached out to territories now found in northern Portugal. Through a succession of battles, the border of the kingdom of Galicia was very fluid. This finally ceased at the end of the 11th century, when Portugal separated definitively from Galicia. The beautiful River Miño providing the boundary between the two territories for 60km from the sea.
The Last 200 years of Galician History
During the 18th century and early 19th, Galicia was subjected to several min-invasions by the English and the French, but most were repelled. Galicia finally settled down, but found itself struggling to adapt, perhaps due to its geographical situation. It began to suffer from emigration, as well as serious problems with it’s textile and agriculture industries. Many Galicians decided to emigrate, particularly as the Spanish government had officially recognised new overseas colonies. Mexico and Uruguay became favourite destinations for Galicians, and still many children of the emigrants retain a special bond to Galicia. This emigration continued, particularly through the years of the civil war, as Galicia was oppressed by Franco, despite it being his place of birth.
Galicia has emerged from all this strife as a fiercely proud, albeit non-independent region of Spain. It values greatly it´s language and culture, and is well placed to continue its transformation well into the 21st century.