Catalonia – Spanish autonomous community

Drawings: Joan Mañe

Catalonia (cat. Catalunya, Aran. Catalonha, Sp. Cataluña) is an autonomous community of Spain. It is located on the northeastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula and borders Andorra and France in the north, Aragon in the west, Valencian Community in the south and the Mediterranean Sea in the east. Catalonia is the largest part of the historical and cultural territory of the Principality of Catalonia and one of the countries belonging to the Catalan countries.

According to IDESCAT (cat. L’Institut d’Estadística de Catalunya), the country’s population in 2020 was 7,600,065, which is 51.55% of the total population of Catalan countries.

The territory now known as Catalonia was the possession of the Roman Empire, which passed into the hands of the Goths and Alans in the 5th century. The Muslims conquered it in 712 but were expelled from the northern coast of Llobregat at the end of the same century and at the beginning of the next century, with the support of Charlemagne, then the king of the Franks, who created a number of counties.

Over time, the Frankish counts turned Catalonia into an independent territory, which was allied in 1137 with the crown of Aragon, and ended the conquest of the Muslim territories of Catalonia in 1154. The Crown of Aragon later joined the Crown of Castile in 1476 as a result of the marriage between Elizabeth and Ferdinand, the Catholic monarchs.

Catalonia retained its autonomous government institutions until the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1714. A few years later, the division of the territories followed as a result of the cession of the province of Roussillon and part of Cerdanya to the French kingdom. In 1978, the region regained autonomy and became the Autonomous Community of the Kingdom of Spain. On October 27, 2017, the Parliament of Catalonia proclaimed the Catalan Republic, which did not enter into force and did not appear in the DOGC (El Diari Oficial de la Generalitat de Catalunya), but led to the application of Article 155 by the Spanish government for 218 days.

The Parliament of Catalonia, uniting the feelings and will of the citizens of Catalonia, defined Catalonia as a nation by a majority vote in the Preamble to the Statute of Autonomy.

The capital of Catalonia, Barcelona, has a total of 947 municipalities. Two-thirds of the population lives in the Barcelona metropolitan region. More

Catalonia’s own language is Catalan, with the exception of the Aran Valley, where Aranese is spoken. Both Catalan and Spanish, the official language of Spain, are official languages throughout Catalonia. Occitan, called Aran in the Aran Valley, is also an official language in Catalonia. Catalans are generally bilingual and speak two main languages. As of 2013, 99.7% of Catalans speak Spanish and 80.4% Catalan. In addition, the use of a particular language by each speaker often depends on the social sphere in which it is expressed. According to the Statistical Institute of Catalonia, 36% of Catalans use Catalan as a common language, 46% use Spanish, 12% use both languages and 6% of the resident population of Catalonia regularly use other languages. More


The name Catalonia began to be used in the late 11th century to designate a number of border counties, which were gradually dissociated from the tutelage of the Franks. The origin of the word Catalonia is still unclear and can be interpreted. One theory is that it comes from a reference to the presence of numerous castles, and that it comes from the Castilian term for “castle governor.” According to this theory, the Spanish term would be similar. Another theory suggests that Catalonia came from Gotoland, that is, the land of the Goths. In fact, the Franks often referred to the territory of Catalonia as Gothia.

Another theory comes from its history of Muslim rule, which wanted to relate the name to Talunya or Taluniya, a Muslim town in the region of Ath-Thaghr al-Allah near Lleida. It is mentioned by the Muslim historian and geographer Al-Udhrí (1002– ~ 1085) in his work Tarsi al-akhbār. According to Al-Udhrí, it was located halfway between Lleida and Huesca, which leads many experts to identify it with Montsó. It would be a name of Iberian origin. During the Saracen period, it had a fortification or castle (qalat in Arabic), which gave qalat Talunya or, using the contraction qa- to refer to castle, qa Talunya (‘castle of Talunya’). According to this hypothesis, the Arabs would call the inhabitants of Gòtia ‘those who live beyond qa Talunya.’ The Arabic origin, through an Iberian toponym, could explain the lack of exact correspondence between the Catalan gentilicio and the toponym Catalunya.

The concept Principat de Catalunya is a legal term (in Latin principatus) that appeared in the 14th century to indicate the territory under the jurisdiction of the Catalan Parliament, whose sovereign (in Latin, princeps) was the king of the Casal de Barcelona, without being formally a kingdom but a grouping of counties with laws united by Cortes.

Geography of Catalonia

The geography of Catalonia describes the topography and how it affects human relations (trade, demography, transport) that are established in the territory of Catalonia, in the sense of an autonomous community, with an area of about 32,000 km².

Catalonia has borders in the north with Andorra (65.3 km) and France, in the west with the Department of Eastern Pyrenees (315 km) and the Autonomous Community of Aragon (359.9 km), in the south with Valencia (52.9 km) and in the east with the Mediterranean Sea. Its geographical position since the Middle Ages has contributed to the establishment of close and intense relations with the rest of the Mediterranean and at the same time with continental Europe. More


Catalonia has a temperate Mediterranean climate, typical of its latitudes in the northern hemisphere. However, given its varied topography, there is a variety of climatic features. Average annual temperatures range from 0 ° C in the Pyrenees to 17 ° C on the southern coast; the maximum temperature can reach 43 ° C (in Les Garrigues) and the minimum is -30 ° C (high in the Pyrenees). More

Administrative division

There are several administrative levels in Catalonia. The division into municipalities and provinces was organized after the territorial division of Spain in 1833 with variations, usually the merging of municipalities, especially in places where depopulation was the main demographic force. Catalonia has four provinces: Barcelona (capital Barcelona), Girona (capital Girona), Lleida (capital Lleida), Tarragona (capital Tarragona). However, in connection with the growing strengthening of self-government, the local administrations of Catalonia have called for the creation of other administrative levels, which would be more consistent with this administration. Among the largest cities in Catalonia are Barcelona, Lleida, Girona, Figueres, Tortosa, Sabadell and Tarragona. More

Political system

The institutional norm that establishes the political structure of Catalonia is the 2006 Statute of Autonomy. In accordance with what the Statute establishes, the self-government of Catalonia is politically organized in the Generalitat of Catalonia, which is coordinated by the Parliament, the Presidium, the Executive Council and other institutions created by the Parliament. The system of political organization in Catalonia is based on parliamentarism. More


Catalonia, despite a certain lack of natural resources, is one of the richest communities in Europe. Catalonia is a member of The Four Motors for Europe. Four Motors for Europe (4ME) is an association for interregional cooperation between the territories of Catalonia, Baden-Württemberg (BW), Lombardy (ITA) and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (AURA) with the aim of strengthening and increasing economic activity. The association controls the internationalization of its members, as well as their active participation in European construction, mainly through joint decisions and positions that are presented to European institutions.

The Catalan economy, with a gross domestic product of 223,629 million euros in 2016, is the largest in the autonomous communities of Spain. More 


The art of Catalonia has given the world many important figures. The most famous Catalan painters worldwide are Salvador Dali, Joan Miró and Antoni Tapies. Closely associated with the Catalan scenic environment, Pablo Picasso, originally from Malaga, lived in Barcelona as a young man, studied painting there and laid the foundation for the Cubist movement. Other Catalan artists include Ramon Casas, Josep Maria Subirax and Maria Fortuny.

The most important scenic museums in Catalonia are the Dalí Theater Museum, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, the Antoni Tapies Foundation, the Joan Miró Foundation, the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona (MACBA), the Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) and CaixaFòrum.

In the field of architecture, various predominant artistic styles in Europe have been developed and adapted in Catalonia, leaving their mark on many Romanesque churches, monasteries and cathedrals. The prevailing styles include Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassicism. The name of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi has become a “common” name.  More

Cuisine and gastronomy

Catalan cuisine takes its own place among the gastronomy of the Mediterranean, while being its typical representative. Often, this name refers to the cuisine of Catalonia under the influence of Spain, Northern Catalonia (cat. Catalunya Nord), France and even Andorra (cat. Andorra). Some contemporary authors such as Josep Pla, Jaume Fàbrega, Eliana Thibaut i Comalada, Ferran Agulló and English-speaking writer Colman Andrews talk about the gastronomy characteristics of the entire area of distribution of Catalan culture, including the Valencian Autonomy (cat. País Valencià), the Balearic Islands (cat. Les Balears), the Western Strip (cat. Franja de Ponent)—the border area between Catalonia and Aragon—and Andorra; thus, it becomes the predominant cuisine of the Catalan lands (cat. Països Catalans). More

Festivals and holidays

The anniversary of the end of the siege of Barcelona in 1714, the National Day of Catalonia (cat. Diada Nacional de Catalunya), is celebrated every year on September 11th.

Popular festivals in Catalan countries are a collection of traditional festivals that are celebrated in Catalan-speaking territories.

The festivals of the Pyrenean fire, or San Joan (cat. Les falles del Pirineu), are essential elements of traditions rooted in paganism. It is interesting to note that these fire festivals, which are also widespread throughout Europe and beyond, have very high recognition in all Catalan countries, from Falles del Pallars Sobirà, Falles d’Andorra and Flame of Canigou (cat. Flama del Canigó) to the bonfires of Alicante and the other 90 cities of Valencia. More


Tourism in Catalonia is one of the most important sectors of the Catalan economy. It is the main tourist destination in Spain and one of the most important in Europe. One of the main destinations is the metropolitan area of Barcelona.

Catalonia is one of the leading tourist regions in the world. Tourism accounts for about 11-12% of Catalonia’s GDP. For example, in 2019, this figure was 12.34 billion euros. More


Catalonia has many media both in Catalan and Spanish, and an even large number of bilingual media.

Televisió de Catalunya, a public channel in Catalonia that broadcasts entirely in Catalan, is the main Catalan television. It has five channels: TV3, Canal 33, 3/24, Esport3 and Canal Super3. TVC competes for an audience with the Spanish-language channels of Spanish communication groups, mainly Radiotelevisión Española (RTVE), Atresmedia and Mediaset España Comunicación. These groups are based in Madrid, but have production centers in Catalonia, from where they broadcast some programs.

Other channels with a smaller audience are 8 TV, the private Godó Group TV that broadcasts in Catalan, Barça TV, El Punt Avui TV and local TV channels, the largest of which is Barcelona Televisió, which also broadcast in Catalan.

The two main groups of the Catalan press and magazines are the Godó Group and the Zeta Group. Each of the groups has a variety of both newspapers and magazines with general and sports information.

The two main Catalan general information newspapers are El Periódico de Catalonia (Grupo Zeta) and La Vanguardia (Godó Group), both of which are published in both Catalan and Spanish. These are the two newspapers with the largest circulation and distribution in Catalonia, ahead of national Spanish-language newspapers such as El País or El Mundo, which also have branches in Catalonia. Also noteworthy are the newspapers El Punt Avui i Ara, published only in Catalan.

Many regional newspapers are published both in Spanish and Catalan. The most influential are El 9 Nou, Segre, Regió 7, Diari de Girona and El Diari de Tarragona.

In the area of sports information, Sport by the Zeta Group and El Mundo Deportivo (Godó Group) stand out. Both newspapers are published in Spanish. L’Esportiu is published in Catalan.

The radio with the largest audience in Catalonia is RAC 1 (Grup Godó), which broadcasts entirely in Catalan. The second is Catalunya Ràdio, a public radio owned by the Catalan radio and television company.


National symbols of Catalonia are elements and icons that are representative or characteristic of Catalonia and its population, culture and history. The oldest Catalan symbol is the coat of arms of Catalonia, which is one of the oldest heraldic emblems in Europe. According to legend, it dates from the ninth century, and it is said that the four sticks (or four rods) depicted on it were the result of four fingers of Charles II the Bald (cat. Carles el Calb) passing through the blood stain on the golden shield of Guifré el Pelós as a reward for his valiant struggle against the Normans. The national flag of Catalonia (cat. Senyera), inspired by the coat of arms, is perhaps the most representative symbol of Catalonia.


L’Enciclopèdia: Grup Enciclopèdia Catalana.

«Els Països Catalans»: Grup Enciclopèdia Catalana.

Institut d’Estadística de Catalunya