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Commemorations, festivals : Galician

  • FestivalsGalician
  • Author:
    López, Teresa
  • Cultural Field:
    Society
  • Text:

    Many literary contests were held in Galicia during the 19th century, usually on the occasion of local celebrations, commemorations or events such as regional exhibitions. These competitions provided an ideal platform for provincialists and regionalists, who utilized such events to disseminate their ideological and cultural programmes, not without sparking some tension amongst themselves and vis-à-vis the representatives of Spanish nationalism. Poetry was the prevailing genre in these contests, but historical essays, art, ethnographic studies and reports on different socio-economic aspects were also included. The Galician language never dominated in the competitions, except in specific cases; this changed in the 1880s, with the creation of awards for drama, fiction or translation. Thematically, most texts breathed patriotic enthusiasm, celebrating historical (mainly medieval) episodes or figures, as well as popular customs and traditions. This is why, beyond the issue of what was the language used, these contests helped establish a Galician imaginary.

    Many contests took the form of “Floral Games”, a reinvention of troubadour poetry contests which had spread in northern Spain from Toulouse and Barcelona since the late 1850s. They were a mixture of literary contest and social festivity under the motto “Patria. Fides. Amor”; the awards were presented during soirées held in the main theatres, with speeches by the organisers and local authorities, the appointment of a queen in charge of presenting the awards, the reading of the award-winning works, and musical interludes.

    The first Galician Floral Games were held in A Coruña on 2 July 1861. Seven awards, whose themes and motifs were mainly related to Galicia, were announced for texts written either in Galician or in Spanish. The exception was the first of these awards, to be given for the best poem “To Galicia”, written in Galician; only a second prize was awarded (to the submission by Francisco Añón). The awards and their publication in the Álbum de la caridad – with a selection of works by Galician contemporary poets – were financed by José Pascual López Cortón, who donated the proceeds to the poorhouse, in a gesture that combined the promotion of arts and public charity.

    Another Floral Games festival was held on 11 August in Pontevedra. Mainly a poetic contest, it also included an award for the best report on the reason for the extreme subdivision of property in Galicia and how to improve this. The first prize – for a poem in Galician – was not awarded, and the prizes went only to texts in Spanish.

    Literary competitions succeeded each other in cities and towns over the following decades. Especially important were those held in 1877 in Ourense (marking the triumphant literary debut of Curros Enríquez) and in A Coruña; the Pontevedra Floral Games of 1882 (with a prize awarded to Manuel Murguía’s study of the foro land tenure); the Betanzos Floral Games of 1886 and again 1887, organized by the newspaper Las mariñas (where awards were given for poetry, novels, fables or legends in Galician); and the Pontevedra Floral Games of 1886, organized by the (monolingually Galician) newspaper O Galiciano (which included awards for novels, drama, historical and literary essays, as well as for poetry and musical compositions). This series culminated in the Floral Games held in Tui in 1891 on the initiative of the Asociación Regionalista Gallega (“Galician Regionalist Association”) as part of its public self-promotion strategy. Organised as Xogos Froraes de Galicia, the contest only included awards for works written in “ancient or modern” Galician. In parallel, a bagpipe and folk-dance competition was organised. Manuel Murguía, as chairman, and other members of the committee gave several fervently regionalistic speeches in Galician, while local dignitaries, including members of the Church, played a major role in the organisation; the awards were sponsored by notables, most of whom were not regionalists. Apart from poetry, there were awards for comedy, translation, historical studies and a report on antiques in Galicia.

    The following years saw a clear decline in the use of Galician in these contests, in spite of the presence of regionalist figures in the juries – the Mondoñedo Floral Games of 1895 were chaired by Murguía, the Lugo Floral Games of 1896 attracted the participation of Brañas, Cabeza de León and Barcia, with Montes chairing the music competition. In the Ourense Floral Games of 1901, with Emilia Pardo Bazán as speaker and Filomena Dato in the chair, the Galician language was barely present at all, in spite of the vast array of genres and themes for which awards were given. In the early decades of the century, Galician literature obtained irregular results in the newly organised games and was only given a major boost after the creation of the Irmandades da Fala (“Brotherhoods of the Language”) in 1916.

    These contests stimulated new directions in literary production and a diversification of genres in Galician literature; they promoted the study of history and popular culture and fostered the application of scientific knowledge towards resolving Galicia’s social and economic problems; in addition, they advanced musical composition and performance and provided a platform for the proclamation of a Galician public culture.

    Word Count: 842

    Tui (ES)

    Pontevedra (ES)

    Ourense (ES)

    Mondoñedo (ES)

    Lugo (ES)

    A Coruña (ES)

    Betanzos (ES)

    Barcelona (ES)

    Toulouse (FR)

    Pardo Bazán, Emilia

    Curros Enríquez, Manuel

    Murguía, Manuel

    Brañas, Alfredo

    Montes, Juan

    Añón, Francisco

    Cabeza de León, Salvador

    Dato, Filomena

    Literary-cultural associations: Galician

    History-writing : Galician

    Patriotic poetry and verse : Galician

    Manners and customs : Galician

    Commemorations, festivals : Catalan

    Commemorations, festivals: Occitan/Provençal and Pan-Latin

    Title page charity album Floral Games A Coruña

    1861 – Añón, Francisco: To Galicia (A Galicia)

  • Article version:
    1.1.1.3/a
  • Project credit:

    Article courtesy of the Consello da Cultura Galega

    Word Count: 8

  • Beramendi, Justo G.; 2007. De provincia a nación: Historia do galeguismo político, 1840-2000 (Vigo: Xerais) [“From province to nation: History of political Galicianism, 1840-2000”]

    Hermida, Carme; 1992. Os precusores da normalización: Defensa e reivindicación da lingua galega no Rexurdimento (1840-1891) (Vigo: Xerais) [“The precursors of standardization: Defense and claim of the Galician language during the Renaissance (1840-1891)”]

    Máiz, Ramón; 1984. O relixionalisme galego: Organización e ideoloxía (Sada: O Castro) [“Galician regionalism: Organization and ideology”]


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    All articles in the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe edited by Joep Leerssen are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://www.spinnet.eu.

    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): López, Teresa, 2018. "Commemorations, festivals : Galician", Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, https://ernie.uva.nl/), article version 1.1.1.3/a, last changed 12-09-2018, consulted 19-09-2018.