Among them are such venerated writers as Álvaro Cunqeiro and Camilo José Cela, who won the 1989 Nobel Prize for Literature. By then Cela had been writing for almost half a century. Born in Padrón, in Galicia, he was later ennobled by King Juan Carlos, receiving the title ‘1st Marquis of Iria Flavia’, the irony of which was no doubt not lost on the man who’d spent his life being irreverent.
Other Galician artists include sexy singers Luz Casal (born in Boimorto) and Marta Sánchez, whose mother was from A Coruña and is considered one of the most popular pop stars in Spain. They belong to a long list of singers and actors with Galician roots that also includes Julio and Enrique Iglesias, Swiss-born rapper Carlos Leal and Jerry Garcia, one of the founding members of The Grateful Dead.
Famous business impresarios include fashion designer Adolfo Dominguez and Amancio Ortega, founder of the world’s largest textile group and one of the richest men in the world. Galicia has even produced an astronaut, Fernando Caldeiro, and where he soars above the planet Amancio Ortega is famous for keeping his feet firmly on the ground and supporting business and cultural initiatives throughout A Coruña and the region.
Galicia has also produced its share of political leaders – and not always without controversy. Take Francisco Franco, born in El Ferrol, or Fidel Castro, born of Galician ancestry, but also Adolfo Suárez González, Spain’s first democratically elected leader of the modern era, whose father was from A Coruña. The country’s current prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, was born nearby, in Santiago de Compostela.
Rather more certain of their popular appeal are sport stars such as Óscar Pereiro, winner of the 2006 Tour de France, footballers Michel Salgado and Luis Suárez – not the current Liverpool striker but the Barcelona and Inter Milan ace who was one of the greatest players of the 1950s and 60s. Indeed, the Galician connection even reaches Hollywood, where Martin Sheen (Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez) and his sons Charlie (Carlos Irwin Estévez) and Emilio are among the most famous Galician Americans of all.