Now there are Spaniards and there are Galicians, or Gallegos. Known as Galegos in the local tongue, people from Galicia are Spaniards by nationality, yet not all Spaniards are Galician. To make matters even more confusing, nationalities such as the Argentineans have a habit of saying Gallegos when referring to Spaniards in general.
If this sounds confusing fear not, for the explanation is quite straightforward. You see, Galicia is an autonomous region in the northwest of Spain with a distinct language akin to Portuguese and a culture that is influenced by a strong Celtic heritage. Today, the Galicians number 2.5 million people within the Kingdom of Spain – and many more beyond!
Having long been a region from which people emigrated to the four corners of Spain and its colonial empire, large numbers of Galicians settled in countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Venezuela, Cuba and Mexico, as well as in Portuguese-speaking countries such as Brazil. Later emigration from these regions ensured that there is now also a sizeable community of Galician origin in the USA.
In fact, such was the proportion of immigrants from Galicia that to Argentineans all newly arrived Spaniards were gradually called Gallegos, and the habit has stuck. Many an Argentinean, or for that matter Brazilian, Venezuelan or Cuban, has Galician blood, and they are proud of it, supporting associations that celebrate this heritage and maintain traditions that hark back to the ‘old country’.
In more than one way, therefore, the Galicians can be seen as the ‘Irish of the Iberian Peninsula’, and as a result the region’s culture lives on throughout the Americas and dotted across different parts of Spain and Europe. Because of this, you may just find yourself surrounded by Galician bagpipers in Buenos Aires or New York.