Within the history and context of modern Spain there are many truths and questions. The divisive nature of the cultural and regional divides of Spain have long been thought to be the seeds of conflict and violence. Yet, it is clear that the strength of the nation lies in its ability to stay solidified as one, regardless of the diversity of language, history and political opinion. Each culture within the dynamic of the larger body, has troubles and difficulties arising from differences and standards, yet it is clear that Spain must remain unified in order to continue to compete with the other fast moving and highly competitive countries of Western Europe. Within Spain there a four major cultural minorities, Basque, one the smallest yet most vocal, Catalan, the largest minority yet the most vividly amicable to cohesion, Asterias and Gallegan. "The Catalan experience clearly illustrates the strengthening of the hegemony the civic character of a nationalist movement in the context of determined opposition to tyranny."
Regional nationalism in Spain has points of both progress and conflict. The determined and violent separatist terrorists at least nominally aligned with the Basque culture have proven a formidable enemy to the cohesion of the country as a whole.
Repression of both peripheral nationalist and social rights by authoritarian regimes bent on centralization and the upholding of their own regional privileges, on many occasions, unified groups and classes that otherwise would have been locked into an ethnic conflict of their own. Where regional and prodemocracy struggles coexist, political decentralization and sometimes even regional independence are accepted as an integral part of the process of democratization and increase the civic dimension of the nationalist movement.
Many cultural divides have been healed by the cohesion that is inherent within the culture of oppression, associated with both ancient and modern Spanish history. Though, clearly there are conflicts yet to arise and old feelings associated with regional nationalism that will continue to color the country.
The independence of any one culture could divide the Spanish nation into fractions that cannot retain the economic and/or political strength of the whole. The cultural linguistic divide is relatively small as the majority of the Spanish population communicates within the official language, known as Castilian Spanish (74%) with the largest minority speaking Catalan (17%) and the remaining two significant language groups being Galician (7%) and Basque (2%).
The Catalan culture is a culture associated with an immigration, into the Iberian Peninsula from France and even as far north as England and Ireland. The language itself can be thought of as a determining cultural expression of their history. Historically the conflicts associated with the settlement of Catalan speaking individuals arises through historical conflict between the Islamic colonialists and the Christian defenders from the Frankish empire.
Though proven separatists, by both geographical and political social issues the Catalan population has proven to be the most likely and capable of assimilation with the inclusion of cultural recognition.
Today, the Catalan culture and politics enjoy increasing latitude in both Spain and France. This has encouraged various forms of cross-border co-operation in the Catalan borderlands. It also has led many Catalanists to expect still broader political autonomy. Some activists have laid claims for independence and even the re-incorporation of the Spanish (el Principat) and French Catalonias (Catalunya Nord). However, political tensions regarding the borderland's development exist between the local actors and the Spanish and the French national governments, as well as between Catalan nationalists and the broader population.
With or without the tensions of cultural diversity the reality of the struggle for all the cultural groups of Spain is clear. The challenges of the pride of culture leads even the most amiable group to the point of the expression and demand for political control of self.
The Asturias region located in the northern peninsula south of the Bay of Biscay is inhabited by an indigenous Iberian culture, again defined by the challenges they faced as the seat of the Muslim militant incursion of the peninsula.
Not all Christians submitted to this new order. [of Muslims] In the far north, in the remote, poor, mountainous area of Asturias on the Bay of Biscay, the first of what would become a number of small baronies was formed, much as little states were being formed in the rest of feudal Europe, by bands of warriors and frightened peasants.
Still largely an agrarian culture the difficulty the region might have to perform economically in the European economic climate could make it impossible to declare independence, regardless of the desire to separate form the greater Spanish nation. Though there is at least a small movement that would like to see the demonstration of independence within the Asturias culture, that us seen within the Basque and Catalan regions, the messages are largely associated with further inclusion rather than independence.
The Gallegan culture is associated with the Celts who are erroneously exclusively associated with Ireland.
People who call themselves gallegos (Gallegans) have their roots in Galicia, this somewhat isolated northwestern chunk of Spain bordered by the regions of Asturias and Castile- Castile-Le n on the east, the Bay of Biscay on the north, the Atlantic Ocean on the west, and Portugal on the south. They speak a language called galego (sometimes called Galician), which is akin to Portuguese; most Gallegans also speak Castilian Spanish (castellano). Gallegans like to trace their ethnic heritage, at least in part, to the Celts who once populated the area; there is even a variant of the bagpipes (the gaita) used in nearly every Gallegan musical group.
Though it is not so simple that because the majority of the Gallegan iinhabitants also speak Castilian Spanish, it does give some testament to the idea that to at least some degree the region is lest separatist and again more interested in minority rights and recognition, in accompaniment to assimilation into the more homogenous Spanish culture.
It is without a doubt that the most vocal of the cultural minorities within Spain is the Basque Culture. Challenging the cohesion of the culture they have been asking for independent status in one way or another for centuries.
Since the beginning of its recorded history, there has always been in the Basque Country a vigorous defense of its national identity against attempts by Madrid and Paris to impose uniformity on it. At times this resistance has taken peaceful, political and cultural forms, and at others the Basques have resorted to armed struggle.
It is without a doubt the most vocal and in many ways successful culture for achievement of political and cultural voice within the broader context of the region.
The Basque Country does not really exist as an entity of its own, with a unity that is generally recognized by others. Its territory on the northern side of the Franco-Spanish border has been denied even the smallest degree of autonomy, while on the southern side it is divided into two distinct parts. Nevertheless, when Sabino Arana, the father of Basque Nationalism, was still in his cradle, Victor Hugo, who was well acquainted with the Basque Country, wrote in the first volume of his novel, L'homme qui rit (1869), 'A Basque is neither a Spaniard nor a Frenchman. He is a Basque.'
This strong sense of cultural pride is far reaching and the cohesion of oppressive struggle does not defeat this spirit it simply strengthens it, much as the death of a martyr.
Collective differences of opinion over the best possible solution are overlooked in the face of tyranny, as it is seen by the oppressed. The tendency of the proud people is to follow that method which seems to get the most done at any given time.
Linguistically the language of the Basques is unrelated to that of the other romance languages of the region and that point tends to receive a lot of air-time. Yet, the differences run deeper and the cultural and political divisiveness of the region are far reaching and often associated with the stifling nature of the controls imposed upon them by the controlling governments of the past.
To a large degree the cultural division of Spain can be demonstrated to be a geographical issue, as all the divisive forces of the country are on what constitutes borderland. The regions themselves have through history associated themselves with historically independent and even sometimes much larger political and social entities. Yet, the truth is much deeper than that, as the thought of the independent western thinker surrounds the idea of self-motivated destiny and self-rule. Since the time of the first great revolution within the European region individuals and groups have wished to overthrow oppression and self determine the outcomes of their futures. This is true not only of those political entities which evolved as they are into the large and powerful nations that are globally recognized as independent. It is also true of those smaller regions who have pride and resolve for their own "national" identity and homogeneity.