regionalism


regionalism
   The distinction between regional nationalism and regionalism is largely a matter of differing levels of political intensity, historic antecedents and cultural distinctiveness. The term "nationalism" is certainly appropriate to the socalled "historic nationalities": Galician, Catalan and Basque. By contrast with these, regionalist movements have never posed a serious challenge to the unitary conception of Spain. The post-Francoist transformation of Spain from a highly centralized to a quasi-federal state was due primarily to pressure from Catalan and Basque nationalists, which led, under the constitution of 1978, to the creation of seventeen autonomous communities, some of which had little or no historic identity. For instance, Cantabria and La Rioja, each founded from a single preexisting province (Santander and Logroño respectively) belong firmly to the Castilian cultural sphere. On the other hand, in some regions, such as Aragon, Valencia and Navarre, traditional local loyalty developed overnight into a heightened sense of distinctiveness, as a counterweight to the perceived assertiveness of Catalan and Basque nationalism.
   Regionalism is also expressed through the proliferation of local research in the field of history, anthropology, economy, social issues and culture in general, often sponsored by official bodies in the region. These efforts often result in a substantial amount of publication on local knowledge, comprehensive reference works, and book series. For example, each autonomous community has now its own encyclopedia, mostly conceived on the model of the twenty-five-volume Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana, initiated in 1969 under the direction of Jordi Carbonell and completed in 1993.
   Municipal and regional historians have been highly active, and philologists have embarked on a quest for archaic lexicons, revitalizing lost languages, as well as inventing new ones, such as the "Cantabrian language" supposedly spoken in the region before Castilianization, an enterprise which has not caught the imagination of the public. Attempts to revive the fabla aragonesa, still spoken in a few Aragonese Pyrenean valleys, have met with mixed results. More successful has been the case of Asturian (nicknamed bable), spoken by less than 300,000 people and made co-official in the "Principate" of Asturias (Principau d'Asturies). The language is actively promoted by the Con-seyeria d'Educacion, Cultura, Deportes y Xuventu (Department of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth) through its own Serviciu de Politica Llinguistica (Language Policy Unit). Its corpus has been systematized by the Academia de la Llingua Asturiana (Asturian Language Academy) and its language normalization is supported by grassroots movements such as the Xunta pola Defensa de la Llingua (Committee for the Defence of the Language). Simultaneous efforts in the northern areas of León, where an asturiano-lleonés variant (also known as asturianu de Lleón or asturleonés) is spoken, have been carried out in parallel with the Oviedo groups. Where language is not the distinctive regional element, other aspects of local culture have gained various degrees of institutional support. Yet, the revival has often been at the grass roots, and local artists have had to cope with dire economic conditions in order to survive. For instance, while the Andalusian government has promoted theatre, literature and flamenco, artistic activity has also proliferated spontaneously in gypsy communities without institutional patronage.
   Overall, however, though all regions have engaged in a process of cultural revival and community-building, regions do not share the sense of separate identity experienced by Basques, Catalans and Galicians, and elaborating a distinctive culture is likely to be a long and slow process.
   DANIELE CONVERSI

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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