Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Galicians

All Spaniards regardless of their origin are collectively referred to in Argentina as Gallegos (Galicians). As you might guess however, this does not go down very well in some quarters with many becoming highly indignant to the fact that their own native province is being painted with the same brush as every other. This is of course especially annoying given that each province sees itself as being quite distinct from the remainder of the varied Spanish territory.

However it was only while in Argentina that I realized that certainly no offence is indeed intended, and I now often cheekily defend this careless Argentine propensity to ironically label the entire regionalist Spanish population with the name of this one Galician province. The reason is quite simply due to the fact that down through the years Galicia was traditionally the principal region of Spain from which the majority of Iberian immigrants came. The extent to which this is true became quite clear to me, as having met a considerable number of people with Spanish parents, or of course older generations who themselves are Spanish born, I cannot recall one who was not of pure Galician stock.

Furthermore, this Galician exodus to Argentina became most significant in the said provinces governmental elections which took place last May. The dead tie result of the 16 year reigning (and right leaning) Popular Party with the left of centre PSOE, in the swing town of Pontivideo, amazingly meant that the postal vote of Gallegos living in Argentina was to decide the outcome. In the end, 83 year old Manuel Fragga, one time golden boy of General Franco who then went on to found the Popular Party, was finally defeated, thus ending his lengthy 4 consecutive terms of office . Of course while I was naturally happy with this outcome, it was nothing compared to my amusement at the number of Argentine sons of Galicians who proudly boasted to me in Buenos Aires that their fathers had herded the entire family down to the polling stations in order to vote for that long over due change in the old country.

Common parlance in Argentina when expressing lack of comprehension for what a colleague has just said or done, or quite simply another way of saying "how stupid!” is the phrase "Que Gallego!" ( How Gallego ! ). Again this stems from the fact that Galicia was such a poor and backward province that when the Gallegos arrived off the boats they were very much out of depth and ill prepared for the sophisticated and culturally thriving "Paris of the South". As a result, born and bred cosmopolitan Argentines for a time laughed at and looked down upon these new rustic arrivals. It was or perhaps " IT IS " this snobbish attitude and Argentine superiority complex that caused the coining and continuous re-minting of the phrase "Bruto Gallego", which is translated to English as Galician Brute. Furthermore the condescending Irish jokes in England that become the Kerry Jokes in Ireland are naturally enough, the Gallegos jokes in Argentina.

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