Galicians - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Old shipbuilding, tanning, and sawmill industries have declined, leaving fishing and agricultural crops to dominate the Galician economy. The small farms ( minifundios ) produce maize, potatoes, turnips, cabbages, small green peppers, apples, pears, and grapes. Although tractors are common, plowing on some farms is still done with a single blade or pointed prod pulled by oxen; heavy wooden-wheeled carts ( carros chiriones, "screeching carts") are still seen. Harvesting is frequently by hand. A textile industry has produced income in the region, as have petrochemical and automobile factories. Tungsten, tin, zinc, and antimony are mined. Tourism is also growing, with the beaches of the various estuaries on the Atlantic coast (the Rías Atlas and Rías Bajas) being particularly attractive.

Emigration is the traditional way of alleviating land pressure and keeping the region's problems within manageable proportions; these days, however, greater prosperity is causing fewer than an estimated 10,000 per year to leave for Latin America and Europe, compared with the 230,000 who emigrated to Latin America between 1911 and 1915. In Buenos Aires, so many Galicians have immigrated that all people who have immigrated from Spain in the last century are called gallegos. There are Galician communities in all the big towns of Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland. The Galicians' capacity for hard work is matched only by their ability to save. The strategy is to save as quickly as possible for a rapid return to Galicia. Some of the savings brought back by migrants go into land, but much more is invested in houses and in food and drink businesses.

Trade. Small stores, café-bars, street vendors, and open-air markets are found throughout Galicia. Homegrown produce or other homemade products are brought (usually by women and not infrequently on their heads) to the markets to sell or to supply other merchants.

Division of Labor. In 1980, 46 percent of the region's labor force (1,175,400 persons) was engaged in agriculture, 16.3 percent in industry, 8 percent in construction, and 27.1 percent in services; 2.6 percent of the available labor force was unemployed.

In Galicia, more than 75 percent of the women work for pay, generally sharing the same jobs as the men. Both women and men work the farms, tend the animals, sell fish, run cafébars and markets, and serve as heads of households. The traditional home tasks are also assigned to women, but men will tend babies and do housework.

Land Tenure. Nearly everyone owns land in Galicia, but it is precious little; most plots are from 1 to 2.5 hectares. There are few examples of large landholding such as in the south. "Galicians never use handkerchiefs; they till them" is a frequent assertion, reflecting the scarcity and dimensions of the landholdings.


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