|— Autonomous community of Spain —|
|Anthem: Els Segadors (The Reapers)|
|Provinces||Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, Tarragona|
|• Type||Devolved government under constitutional monarchy|
|• Body||Generalitat de Catalunya|
|• President||Artur Mas (CiU)|
|• Total||32,114 km2 (12,399 sq mi)|
|• Density||240/km2 ( 610/sq mi)|
|• Rank||2nd (16% of Spain)|
català, catalana (ca)
catalán, catalana (es)
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Area code||+34 97- (Catalonia)
+34 93 (Barcelona)
|Official languages||Catalan, Spanish,
Catalan Sign Language also recognized
|Statute of Autonomy||9 August 2006|
|Patron saint||Saint George (Sant Jordi)|
|Congress||47 deputies (of 350)|
|Senate||16 senators (of 264)|
|Website||Generalitat de Catalunya|
Catalonia (English //, //; Catalan: Catalunya [kətəˈɫuɲə] or [kataˈluɲa]; Spanish: Cataluña [kataˈluɲa]; Occitan: Catalonha [kataˈluɲɔ]) is an autonomous community of Spain, with the official status of a nationality. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the center of one of the largest metropolitan areas in Europe. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an official population of 7,535,251.
It comprises the larger part of the territory of the former Principality of Catalonia, with the remainder of the historic Catalan region now part of southern France. Catalonia borders France and Andorra to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the east (580 km coastline). The neighbouring Spanish regions of Aragon and the Valencian Community lie to the west and south respectively. The official languages are Catalan, Spanish, and Aranese (Occitan); Catalan Sign Language is also officially recognised. The Catalan government intends to hold a referendum on independence from Spain in 2014.
The name Catalunya (Catalonia) began to be used in the late 11th century in reference to a group of counties that comprised part of the Marca Hispanica under the control of the Count of Barcelona. The origin of the name, Catalunya, is subject to diverse interpretations because of a lack of evidence.
One theory suggests that Catalunya (Latin Gathia Launia) derives from the name Gothia (or Gauthia), "Land of the Goths", since the Marca Hispanica was first known as Gothia, whence Gothland > Gothlandia > Gothalania > Catalonia theoretically derived. During the Middle Ages, Byzantine chroniclers claimed that Catalania derives from the local medley of Goths with Alans, initially constituting a Goth-Alania.
Another theory suggests that Catalunya derives from the term "land of castles", having evolved from the term castlà, the medieval term for the ruler of a castle (see castellan). This theory therefore suggests that the names Catalunya and Castile have a common root.
Another theory suggests the source is of Celtic origin, meaning "chiefs of battle". Although the area is not known to have been occupied by Celts, a Celtic culture was present within the interior of Iberia in pre-Roman times.
In pre-Roman times, the area now called Catalonia, like the rest of the Mediterranean side of Iberia, was populated by the Iberians. Coastal trading colonies were established by the 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, traded with the surrounding Iberian population. After the Carthaginian defeat by the Roman Republic, it became the first area of Iberia to come under Roman rule, and became part of Roman Hispania, the westernmost part of the Roman Empire. Tarraco, now called Tarragona, was one of the most important Roman cities in Hispania.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the area was conquered by the Visigoths and was ruled as part of the Visigothic Kingdom for almost two and a half centuries. In 718, it came under Muslim control and became part of the Ummayad province of Al-Andalus. From the conquest of Rousillon in 760 to the conquest of Barcelona in 801 the Frankish Empire took control of the area from the Muslims and created the counties that would later become known as Catalonia. These counties formed part of the Marca Hispanica, the Spanish March, a buffer zone south of the province of Septimania that served as a defensive barrier against the Moors of Al-Andalus.
In the Middle Ages, these counties in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula became the basis for Catalonia under the rule of the counts of Barcelona. The counts of Barcelona were Frankish vassals nominated by the emperor of the Franks, to whom they were feudatories (801–987).
In 987, the count of Barcelona did not recognise Hugh Capet, which effectively put Catalonia beyond Frankish rule. In 1137, Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona married Queen Petronilla of Aragon, establishing the dynastic union of the County of Barcelona with the Kingdom of Aragon, creating the Crown of Aragon and making the Catalan counties that were united under the county of Barcelona into a principality of the Aragonese Crown.
In 1258, by means of the Treaty of Corbeil, the king of France finally formally relinquished his nominal feudal lordship over the Catalan counties, the Principality of Catalonia, ceding it to James I of Aragon, a descendant of Ramon Berenguer IV. This treaty transformed the region's de facto union with Aragon into a de jure one. As a coastal territory of the Crown of Aragon, Catalonia, Barcelona in particular, became the base of Aragonese maritime power in the Mediterranean, helping expand the power and influence of the Aragonese Crown by trade and conquest of the Kingdom of Valencia, the Balearic Islands and later Sardinia, Sicily, Corsica, Naples and Athens. In the 12th century, under the patronage of the counts of Barcelona, a Catalan literature first appeared and flourished in the next few centuries.
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 Trastámara received the Crown of Aragon as Ferdinand I of Aragon.
His grandson, King Ferdinand II of Aragon, and Queen Isabella I of Castile married in 1469, becoming the Catholic Monarchs; subsequently, this event was seen as the dawn of the unified Kingdom of Spain. At that point, though united by marriage, the Crowns of Castile and Aragon maintained distinct territories, each keeping its own traditional institutions, parliaments and laws. Castile commissioned the expeditions to the Americas, and benefited from the colonial riches. Political power gradually shifted away from the Aragonese court to the court of the Spanish Crown.
By virtue of descent from his maternal grandparents, Ferdinand II and Isabella I, in 1516 Charles I (Carlos I) became the first king to rule Castile-León and Aragon simultaneously in his own right. Following the death of his paternal (Habsburg) grandfather, Maximilian I, he was also elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1519 as Charles V 
Until 1716, Catalonia, as a principality 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, the increasing centralization of power in Spain led to conflicts between Catalonia and the Spanish Crown. The Reapers' War (1640–52) saw Catalonia rebel with French help against the Spanish Crown for overstepping Catalonia's rights. Most of Catalonia was reconquered but Catalan rights were recognised. Roussillon was lost to France. Rousillon is now the Department of Pyrénées-Orientales and is also named Northern Catalonia (Catalunya Nord).
The most significant conflict concerning the loss of autonomy was the War of the Spanish Succession, which began when the childless Charles II of Spain, the last Spanish Habsburg, died without an heir in 1700. Charles II had chosen Philip V, from the French dynasty, the Bourbons. Catalonia, like the other territories that formed the Crown of Aragon, rose up in support of the Austrian Habsburg pretender Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor in his claim for the Spanish throne as Charles III of Spain. The fight between the houses of Bourbon and Habsburg for the Spanish throne split Spain and Europe.
The fall of Barcelona on 11 September 1714 to the Bourbon king militarily ended the Habsburg claim to the Spanish throne, which became legal fact in the Treaty of Utrecht. Feeling that he had been betrayed, the first Bourbon king introduced the Nueva Planta decrees that incorporated the territories of the Crown of Aragon, including Catalonia, as provinces under the Crown of Castile in 1716, terminating their separate institutions and rights, within a united administration of Spain.
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 political unrest and the preeminence of the Anarchists during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). The Anarchists had been active throughout the early 20th century, achieving the first eight-hour workday in the Europe in 1919.
The defeat of the Republic of Spain in the Spanish Civil War brought fascist Francisco Franco to power as dictator. His regime imposed linguistic, political and cultural restrictions across Spain. In Catalonia, any kind of public activities associated with Catalan nationalism, Anarchism, Socialism, Democracy or Communism, including the publication of books on those subjects or simply discussion of them in open meetings, was banned. Franco's regime banned the use of Catalan in government-run institutions and during public events. The pro-Republic of Spain President of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, was tortured and executed for the crime of 'military rebellion'.
During later stages of the Franco regime, certain folkloric and religious celebrations in Catalan resumed and were tolerated. Use of Catalan in the mass media had been forbidden, but was permitted from the early 1950s in the theatre. Publishing in Catalan continued throughout the dictatorship.
The years after the war were extremely hard. Catalonia, like many other parts of Spain, had been devastated by the war. Recovery from the war damage was slow and made more difficult by the international trade embargo against Franco's dictatorial regime. By the late 1950s the country had recovered its pre-war economic levels and in the 1960s was the second fastest growing economy in the world in what became known as the Spanish Miracle. During this period there was a spectacular growth of industry and tourism in Catalonia that drew large numbers of workers to the region from across Spain and made the area around Barcelona into one of Europe's largest industrial metropolitan areas.
After Franco's death in 1975, Catalonia voted for the adoption of a democratic Spanish Constitution in 1978, in which 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 tourist destination.
The climate of Catalonia is diverse. The populated areas lying by the coast in Tarragona, Barcelona and Girona provinces feature a Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa). The inland part (including the Lleida province and the inner part of Barcelona province) show a mostly continental Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa). The Pyrenean peaks have a mountain (Köppen H) or even Alpine climate (Köppen ET) at the highest summits, while the valleys have a maritime or oceanic climate sub-type (Köppen Cfb).
In the Mediterranean area, summers are dry and hot with sea breezes, and the maximum temperature is around 26-31 °C. Winter is cool or slightly cold depending on the location. It snows frequently in the Pyrenees, and it occasionally snows at lower altitudes, even by the coastline. Spring and autumn are typically the rainiest seasons, except for the Pyrenean valleys, where summer is typically stormy.
The inland part of Catalonia is hotter and drier in summer. Temperature may reach 35 °C, some days even 40 °C. Nights are cooler there than at the coast, with the temperature of around 14-17 °C. Fog is not uncommon in valleys and plains; it can be especially persistent, with freezing drizzle episodes and subzero temperatures during winter, along the Segre and in other river valleys.
|This section requires expansion. (April 2012)|
|This section requires expansion. (April 2012)|
Most of Catalonia belongs to the Mediterranean Basin. The Catalan hydrographic network consists of two important basins, the one of the Ebro and the one that comprises the internal basins of Catalonia, all of them flow to the Mediterranean. Furthermore, there is the Garona river basin that flows to the Atlantic Ocean, but it only covers the 1.73% of the Catalan territory.
The hydrographic network can be divided in two sectors, an occidental slope or Ebre river slope and one oriental slope constituted by minor rivers that flow to the Mediterranean along the Catalan coast. The first slope provides an average of 18,700 hm3/year, while the second only provides an average of 2,020 hm3/year. The difference is due to the big contribution of the Ebre river, from which the Segre is an important tributary. Moreover, in Catalonia there is a relative wealth of groundwaters, although there is inequality between comarques, given the complex geological structure of the territory. In the Pyrenees there are many small lakes, remnants of the ice age. The biggest is the one of Banyoles.
The Catalan coast is almost rectilinear, with a length over 500 km and few landforms—the most relevant are the Cap de Creus and the Gulf of Roses to the north and the Ebre Delta to the south. The Catalan Coastal Range hugs the coastline, and it is split into two segments, one between L'Estartit and the town of Blanes (the Costa Brava), and the other at the south, at the Costes del Garraf.
|This section requires expansion. (April 2012)|
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Politics and government of
After Franco's death in 1975 and the adoption of a democratic constitution in Spain in 1978, Catalonia recovered and extended the powers that it had gained in the Statute of Autonomy of 1932 but lost with the fall of the Second Spanish Republic at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.
The region has gradually achieved more autonomy since the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978. The Generalitat holds exclusive jurisdiction in culture, environment, communications, transportation, commerce, public safety and local government, and shares jurisdiction with the Spanish government in education, health and justice. In all, the current system grants Catalonia with "more self-government than almost any other corner in Europe"
A relatively large sector of the population supports the ideas and policies of Catalan nationalism, a political movement which defends the notion that Catalonia is a separate nation and advocates for either further political autonomy or full independence of Catalonia.
The support for Catalan nationalism ranges from the desire for independence from the rest of Spain, expressed by Catalan independentists, to a demand for further autonomy and the federalisation of Spain. The first survey following the Constitutional Court ruling that cut back elements of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy, published by La Vanguardia on July 18, 2010, found that a majority would support independence in a referendum. Already in February of the same year, a poll by the Open University of Catalonia gave more or less the same results. Other polls have shown lower support for independence, ranging from 40 to 49%. Since 2011 when the question started to be regularly surveyed by the governmental Center for Public Opinion Studies (CEO), support for Catalan independence has been on the rise. According to the CEO opinion poll from October 2012, 51% of Catalans would vote for independence, 21% against it, and 21% would either not vote or vote blank.
In hundreds of non-binding local referendums on independence, organised across Catalonia from 13 September 2009, a large majority voted for independence, although critics argued that the polls were mostly held in pro-independence areas. As of December 2009, 94% of those voting backed independence from Spain, on a turn out of 25%. The final local referendum was held in Barcelona, in April 2011. On Sept. 11, 2012, a pro-independence march pulled in a crowd of an estimated 1.5 million, and poll results revealed that half the population of Catalonia supported secession from Spain. Two major factors were Spain's Constitutional Court's 2010 decision to declare part of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia unconstitutional, as well as the fact that Catalonia contributes 19.49% of the federal government’s tax revenue, but only receives 14.03% of federal spending.
Parties that consider themselves either Catalan nationalist or independentist have been present in all Catalan governments since 1980. The largest Catalan nationalist party, Convergence and Union, ruled Catalonia from 1980 to 2003, and returned to power in the 2010 election. Between 2003 and 2010, a leftist coalition, composed by the Catalan Socialists' Party, the pro-independence Republican Left of Catalonia and the leftist-environmentalist Initiative for Catalonia-Greens, implemented policies that widened Catalan autonomy.
In the November 25, 2012 Catalan parliamentary election, sovereigntist parties supporting a secession referendum gathered 59.01% of the votes and hold 87 of the 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament. Parties supporting independence from the rest of Spain obtained 49.12% of the votes and a majority of 74 seats.
The Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia is the fundamental organic law, second only to the Spanish Constitution from which the Statute originates.
In the Spanish Constitution of 1978 Catalonia, along with the Basque Country and Galicia, was defined as a "nationality". The same constitution gave Catalonia the automatic right to autonomy, which resulted in the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 1979.
Both the 1979 Statute of Autonomy and the current one, 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, always under the law in Spain".
The Preamble of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia states that the Parliament of Catalonia has defined Catalonia as a nation, but that "the Spanish Constitution recognizes Catalonia's national reality as a nationality". While the Statute was approved by and sanctioned by both the Catalan and Spanish parliaments, and later by referendum in Catalonia, it has been subject to a legal challenge by the surrounding autonomous regions of Aragon, Balearic Islands and the Valencian Community, as well as by the conservative People's Party. The objections are based on various issues such as disputed cultural heritage but, especially, on the Statute's alleged breaches of the principle of "solidarity between regions" in fiscal and educational matters enshrined by the Constitution. After considerable legal debate, Spain's Constitutional Court assessed the disputed articles and on 28 June 2010, issued its judgment on the principal allegation of unconstitutionality presented by the People's Party in 2006. The judgment granted clear passage to 182 articles of the 223 that make up the fundamental text. The court approved 73 of the 114 articles that the People's Party had contested, while declaring 14 articles unconstitutional in whole or in part and imposing a restrictive interpretation on 27 others. The court accepted the specific provision that described Catalonia as a "nation", however ruled that it was a historical and cultural term with no legal weight, and that Spain remained the only nation recognized by the constitution.
The Catalan Statute of Autonomy establishes that Catalonia is organised politically through the Generalitat de Catalunya, conformed by the Parliament, the Presidency of the Generalitat, the Government or Executive Council and the other institutions created by the Parliament.
The seat of the Executive Council is the city of Barcelona. Since the restoration of the Generalitat on the return of democracy in Spain, the presidents of Catalonia have been Jordi Pujol (1980–2003), Pasqual Maragall (2003–2006), José Montilla Aguilera (2006–2010) and Artur Mas incumbent as of 2010[update].
Catalonia has its own police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, whose origins date back to the 18th century. Since 1980 they have been under the command of the Generalitat, and since 1994 they have expanded in number in order to replace the national Guardia Civil and Policía Nacional, which report directly to the Homeland Department of Spain. The national bodies retain personnel within Catalonia to exercise functions of national scope such as overseeing ports, airports, coasts, international borders, custom offices, the identification of documents and arms control amongst others.
Most of the justice system is administered by national judicial institutions. The criminal justice system is uniform throughout Spain, while "civil law" is administered separately within Catalonia.
Catalonia is organised territorially into provinces, further subdivided into comarques and municipalities. The 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia establishes the administrative organization of three local authorities: vegueries, comarques, and municipalities.
There are at present 947 municipalities in Catalonia.
|2||L'Hospitalet de Llobregat||Barcelonès||257,038|
|9||Santa Coloma de Gramenet||Barcelonès||119,717|
Comarques are entities composed by the municipalities to manage their responsibilities and services. The current regional division has its roots in a decree of the Generalitat de Catalunya of 1936, in effect until 1939, when it was suppressed by Franco. In 1987 the Government adopted the territorial division again and in 1988 three new comarques were added (Alta Ribagorça, Pla d'Urgell i Pla de l'Estany). At present there are 41.
The vegueria is a new type of division defined as a specific territorial area for the exercise of government and inter-local cooperation with legal personality. The current Statute of Autonomy states vegueries are intended to supersede provinces in Catalonia, and take over many of functions of the comarques.
The territorial plan of Catalonia (Pla territorial general de Catalunya) provided six general functional areas, but was amended by Law 24/2001, of December 31, recognizing the Alt Pirineu i Aran as a new functional area differentiated of Ponent. On 14 July 2010 the Catalan Parliament approved the creation of the functional area of the Penedès.
In 2008, the regional GDP of Catalonia was €216.9 billion ($314.4 billion), the highest in Spain, and per capita GDP was €30,700 – similar to that of countries such as the United Kingdom or Austria. However, it had the fourth per capita GDP in Spain, considerably behind the Basque Country (€34,100), Madrid (autonomous community) (€34,100) and Navarra (€32,900). In that year, the GDP growth was 3.7%. In the context of the 2008 financial crisis, Catalonia was expected to suffer a recession amounting to almost a 2% contraction of its regional GDP in 2009.
In 2011, Catalonia ranked the 61th largest country subdivision by GDP (nominal), just behind Queensland (Australia) and ahead Rio de Janeiro state (Brazil). Catalonia is one of the Four Motors for Europe.
The distribution of sectors is as follows:
The main tourist destinations in Catalonia are the city of Barcelona, the beaches of the Costa Brava in Girona, the beaches of Costa Barcelona from Mataró to Vilanova i la Geltrú and the Costa Daurada in Tarragona. In the Pyrenees there are several ski resorts, near Lleida
Many savings banks are based in Catalonia, with 10 of the 46 Spanish savings banks having headquarters in the region. This list includes Europe's premier savings bank, La Caixa. The first private bank in Catalonia is Banc Sabadell, ranked fourth among all Spanish private banks.
The stock market of Barcelona, which in 2004 traded almost €205,000 million, is the second largest of Spain after Madrid, and Fira de Barcelona organizes international exhibitions and congresses to do with different sectors of the economy.
The main economic cost for the Catalan families is the purchase of a home. According to data from the Society of Appraisal on the 31 December 2005 Catalonia is, after Madrid, the second most expensive region in Spain for housing: 3,397 €/m² on average (see Spanish property bubble).
The Urban Region of Barcelona includes 5,217,864 people and covers an area of 2.268 km², and about 1.7 million people live in a radius of 15 km from Barcelona. The metropolitan area of the Urban Region includes cities such as L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Sabadell, Terrassa, Badalona, Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Cornellà de Llobregat.
In 1900, the population of Catalonia was 1,984,115 people and in 1970 it was 5,107,606. That increase was due to the demographic boom in Spain during the 60s and early 70s and also to the large-scale internal migration from the rural interior of Spain to its industrial cities. In Catalonia that wave of internal migration arrived from several regions of Spain, especially Andalusia, Murcia and Extremadura.
Immigrants from other countries settled in Catalonia in the 1990s and 2000s; a large percentage came from Africa and Latin America, and smaller numbers from Asia and Eastern Europe, often settling in urban centers such as Barcelona and industrial areas.
According to the most recent linguistic census held by the Government of Catalonia as of 2009[update], a plurality claims Spanish as "their own language" (46.53% Spanish compared to 37.26% Catalan). In everyday use, 11.95% of the population claim to use both languages equally, while 45.92% mainly use Spanish and 35.54% mainly use Catalan. There is a significant difference between the Barcelona metropolitan area (and, to a lesser extent, the Tarragona area), where Spanish is more spoken than Catalan, and the rest of Catalonia, where Catalan clearly prevails over Spanish.
Since the Statute of Autonomy of 1979, Aranese (a dialect of Gascon Occitan) has also been official and subject to special protection in Val d'Aran. This small area of 7,000 inhabitants was the only place where a dialect of Occitan has received full official status. Then, on 9 August 2006, when the new Statute came into force, Occitan became official throughout Catalonia. Occitan is the mother tongue of 22.4% of the population of Val d'Aran.
Originating in the historic territory of Catalonia, Catalan has enjoyed special status since the approval of the Statute of Autonomy of 1979 which declares it to be the "own language of Catalonia", a term which signifies a language given special legal status within a Spanish territory, or which is historically spoken within a given region. The other languages with official status are Spanish, which has official status throughout Spain, and Aranese Occitan, which enjoys co-official status with Catalan and Spanish in the Val d'Aran.
Although not considered an "official language" in the same way as Catalan, Spanish, and Aranese, Catalan Sign Language, with about 18,000 users in Catalonia, is granted official recognition and support: "The public authorities shall guarantee the use of Catalan sign language and conditions of equality for deaf people who choose to use this language, which shall be the subject of education, protection and respect."
Under the Franco dictatorship, Catalan was excluded from the public education system and all other official use, so that for example families were not allowed to officially register children with Catalan names. While never completely banned, Catalan language publishing was severely restricted during the early 1940s, with only religious texts and small-run self-published texts being released. Some books were published clandestinely or circumvented the restrictions by showing publishing dates prior to 1936. This policy was changed in 1946, when unrestricted publishing in Catalan resumed.
Rural-urban migration originating in other parts of Spain also reduced the social use of the language in urban areas, while increasing the use of Spanish. Lately, a similar sociolinguistic phenomenon has occurred with foreign immigration. Catalan cultural activity increased in the 1960s and Catalan classes began thanks to the initiative of associations such as Òmnium Cultural.
After the end of Franco's dictatorship, the newly established self-governing democratic institutions in Catalonia embarked on a long-term language policy to increase the use of Catalan and has, since 1983, enforced laws which attempt to protect and extend the use of Catalan. This policy, known as the "linguistic normalization" (normalització lingüística in Catalan, normalización lingüística in Spanish) has been supported by the vast majority of Catalan political parties through the last thirty years. Some groups consider these efforts a way to discourage the use of Spanish, while some others, including the Catalan government and the European Union consider the policies respectful, or even as an example which "should be disseminated throughout the Union".
Recently, some of these policies have been criticized for trying to promote Catalan by imposing fines on businesses. For example, following the passage of a March 2010 law on Catalan cinema, which establishes that half of the movies shown in Catalan cinemas must be in Catalan, a general strike of 75% of the cinemas took place. These criticisms mostly come from outside Catalonia, especially from conservative, conservative liberal and classical liberal circles of Spanish society. In Catalonia, on the other hand, there is a high social and political consensus on the language policies favoring Catalan, also among Spanish speakers and speakers of other languages.
In Catalonia, the Catalan language policy has been challenged by some anti-nationalist intellectuals like Albert Boadella. Since 2006, the liberal Citizens - Party of the Citizenry has been one of the most consistent critics of the Catalan language policy within Catalonia. The local Catalan branch of the People's Party has a more ambiguous position on the issue: on one hand, it demands a bilingual Catalan-Spanish education and a more balanced language policy that would defend Catalan without favoring it over Spanish, while on the other, a few local PP politicians have supported in their municipalities measures privileging Catalan over Spanish and it has defended some aspects of the official language policies, sometimes against the positions of its colleagues from other parts of Spain.
Today, Catalan is the main language of the Catalan autonomous government and the other public institutions that fall under its jurisdiction. Basic public education is given in Catalan, except for two hours per week of Spanish medium instruction. Businesses are required to display all information (e.g. menus, posters) in Catalan under penalty of fines. There is no obligation to display this information in either Occitan or Spanish, although there is no restriction on doing so in these or other languages. The use of fines was introduced in a 1997 linguistic law that aims to increase the public use of Catalan and defend the rights of Catalan speakers.
The law ensures that both Catalan and Spanish – being official languages – can be used by the citizens without prejudice in all public and private activities, but primary education can only be taken in Catalan language. The Generalitat uses Catalan in its communications and notifications addressed to the general population, but citizens can also receive information from the Generalitat in Spanish if they so desire. Debates in the Catalan Parliament take place almost exclusively in Catalan and the Catalan public television broadcasts programs only in Catalan.
Due to the intense immigration which Spain in general and Catalonia in particular experienced in the first decade of the 21st century, many foreign languages are spoken in various cultural communities in Catalonia, of which Rif-Berber, Moroccan Arabic, Romanian and Urdu are the more common.
Airports in Catalonia are owned and operated by Aena (a Spanish Government entity) except two airports in Lleida which are operated by Aeroports de Catalunya (an entity belonging to the Government of Catalonia).
The two main commercial and passenger ports in Catalonia are owned and operated by Puertos del Estado (a Spanish Government entity).
There are 12,000 km of roads throughout Catalonia.
The principal highways are AP-7 (Autopista del Mediterrani) and A-7 (Autovia del Mediterrani). It follows the coast from the French border to Valencia, Murcia and Andalusia. The main roads generally radiate from Barcelona. The A-2 and AP-2 connect inland and onward to Madrid.
Other major roads are:
Public-own roads in Catalonia are either managed by the autonomous government of Catalonia (e.g., C- roads) or the Spanish Government (e.g., AP- , A- , N- roads).
Catalonia saw the first railway construction in the Iberian Peninsula in 1848, linking Barcelona with Mataró. Given the topography most lines radiate from Barcelona. The city has both suburban and inter-city services. The main east coast line runs through the province connecting with the SNCF (French Railways) at Portbou on the coast.
There are two publicly owned railway companies operating in Catalonia: the Catalan FGC that operatates commuter and regional services, and the Spanish national RENFE that operates long-distance and high speed rail services (AVE and Avant).
High speed rail (AVE) services from Madrid currently reach Lleida, Tarragona and Barcelona. The official opening between Barcelona and Madrid took place 20 February 2008. The journey between Barcelona and Madrid now takes about 2 and a half hours. A connection to the French high speed TGV network has been completed, but is awaiting the completion of stations along the route to begin passenger service in April 2013. This new line (currently the LGV Perpignan- Figueres Vilafant) passes through Girona and Figueres with a tunnel through the Pyrenees. There is a direct train from Barcelona Estació de França to Paris Austerlitz along the older railway tracks.
Catalonia has its own representative and distinctive symbols such as:
Castells are one of the main manifestations of Catalan popular culture. The activity consists in constructing human towers by competing colles castelleres (teams). This practice originated in the southern part of Catalonia during the 18th century.
The sardana is the most characteristic Catalan popular dance, other groups also practice Ball de bastons, moixiganga, galops or jota in the southern part. Musically, the Havaneres are also characteristic in some marine localities of the Costa Brava especially during the summer months when these songs are sung outdoors accompanied by a cremat of burned rum. Other music styles are Catalan rumba, Catalan rock and Nova Cançó.
In the greater celebrations other elements of the Catalan popular culture are usually present: the parades of gegants (giants) and correfocs of devils and firecrackers. Another traditional celebration in Catalonia is La Patum de Berga declared Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 25 November 2005.
In addition to traditional local Catalan culture, traditions from other parts of Spain can be found as a result of migration from other regions. On July 28, 2010, Catalonia became the second Spanish territory, after the Canary Islands, to forbid bullfighting. The ban, which went into effect on January 1, 2012, had originated in a popular petition supported by over 180,000 signatures.
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