Culture Name


Alternative Names

Yanito (self-name), Llanito, Gibraltareño


Identification. The name "Gibraltar" derives from "Tariks Mountain," after Tariq-Ibn-Zayid, the Muslim conqueror who invaded the Iberian peninsula in 711. Although Gibraltar is a multiethnic and a multireligious society, its citizens identify themselves as having a common culture based on common history and territoriality, intermarriage, mutual tolerance, and their status as British colonial subjects.

Location and Geography. Gibraltar is a tiny territory of 4 square miles (6.5 square kilometers) at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula. The territory consists mainly of rock.

Demography. Among the thirty thousand inhabitants, about twenty-five thousand have the status of British Gibraltarians, two thousand are other British citizens (mainly military), and two thousand are Moroccan workers. There are some Indian and Pakistani workers and about one hundred Russian citizens.

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language is English. Locally, Yanito, an Andalusian-based creole language with many English, Italian, Hebrew, and Maltese words, is spoken. Minority languages include Sindhi and Arabic.

Symbolism. Gibraltarians share a strong sense of unity that is expressed in several cultural symbols: traditional housing arrangements, a common school system, and the Yanito language. A fervent interest in beauty contests is an expression of national identity. Since the early 1990s, much energy has been invested in the creation of national symbolism (the anthem and flag). National Day is celebrated on 10 September to commemorate the pro-British referendum of 1967. The most powerful symbol is the Rock itself, which possesses symbolic meaning in British imperial iconography and is linked to the fortress mentality of Gibraltarians. Like the Rock, the apes of Gibraltar are symbols of British permanence and solidity.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Gibraltar is a colony, not a nation, yet there is a strong nationalist movement that fights for political self-determination as a part of the United Kingdom or a state within the European Union.

National Identity. Nationalist aspirations are the result of two circumstances: the fight for a non-English-based British identity and opposition toward neighboring Spain, whose territorial claim opposes Gibraltarian self-determination. National identity is not based on an ideology of purity but on positively valuing hybridity and multi-ethnicity.

Ethnic Relations. Gibraltarians include Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, and a few Muslim citizens. They were linked to the population of the Spanish hinterland through common customs and intensive intermarriage until 1969, when Spain closed the border for thirteen years. Today this kind of common borderland society is almost nonexistent. While the Sephardic Jews have always been an integrated part of Gibraltar, they tend to segregate themselves. By contrast, the Hindu community politically and culturally has integrated more fully. Moroccan workers are largely excluded from civil society.


Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Space has always been a problem. Housing is limited by military requirements. Until the military cutback in the 1990s, only 20 percent of the territory was accessible to civilians. Gibraltar's edifices are influenced by British military architecture and by Genoese housing style (also known as "patios"). Until the 1980s, most Gibraltarians lived densely packed in patios. After the opening of the border in 1982, many wealthier citizens purchased houses in the Spanish hinterland. In the 1990s, enough land was reclaimed from the sea to build extensive housing estates.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Food is a British-Mediterranean mixture with strong roots in Spanish, Italian, English, and Jewish cuisine. There are no general food taboos within the different religious groups.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Calentita, a chickpea pie of Genoese origin, is the national dish.

Basic Economy. Until recently, the local economy depended on the military economy and smuggling (mainly of tobacco). In the 1980s and early 1990s, the economy underwent a heavy transformation and now is based on tourism, the harbor and shipping facilities, and the financial offshore sector. The principal exports are petroleum and manufactured goods. The major trading partners are the United Kingdom, Morocco, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, the United States, and Germany. The national currency is the Gibraltar pound.

Land Tenure and Property. Land has been largely in the hands of the British government (92 percent of land and housing in the 1960s). Between 1985 and 1996, 296,663 acres (20.5 percent of the territory) were handed over to the local government. Many Gibraltarians buy property in Spain.

Commercial Activities. Gibraltar is a duty-free harbor. The major goods sold are tobacco, alcohol, perfume, dairy products, and electronics.

Major Industries. Gibraltar is home to the light-manufacturing of tobacco, roasted coffee, ice, mineral waters, candy, beer, and canned fish. Tourism, banking and finance (mostly off-shore), and construction form the larger areas of manufacture, with Gibraltar's main source of industry its support of large UK naval and air bases.

Division of Labor. After the border was closed in 1969, blue-collar jobs were filled by Moroccan migrant workers who replaced the Spanish workforce. Today many Spaniards work on the Rock as shop assistants or cleaning women. Gibraltarians work mainly in the service sector (trade, financial sector, tourism). About 50 percent of young Gibraltarians obtain their education in British universities.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The upper strata consist of a few families of Genoese origin. The upper middle class consists of Catholic, Jewish, and Hindu merchants and lawyers. The working class is made up of families of Spanish, Maltese, and Italian origin. The lower strata consists of Hindu shop assistants of Indian or Pakistani nationality and Moroccan workers. During the time of economical transformation (1980s–1990s), many unemployed and unskilled youth made a living smuggling.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Proper English pronunciation is a symbol of upward social mobility. Suits and ties are symbols of white-collar jobs. Among youngsters, smuggler-type iconography is highly valued.

A donkey grazes outside a farmhouse in Gibraltar. Most of the colony's four square miles of land consists of rock.
A donkey grazes outside a farmhouse in Gibraltar. Most of the colony's four square miles of land consists of rock.

Political Life

Government. Gibraltar is a British colony with a local government. The British Crown is represented by a governor. The government is headed by a chief minister and seven ministers who are responsible for most domestic affairs (with the exception of internal security).

Leadership and Political Officials. Politics is strongly influenced by "big men" and a client-based structure based on class but cross-cut by families, personal loyalties, and friendships. The more bourgeois Social Democratic Party forms the government, with socialists and liberals in the opposition. Even though they diverge on domestic affairs and strive for different kinds of links with Britain, all parties strongly reject the Spanish claim to Gibraltar.

Social Problems and Control. The formal mechanisms for dealing with crime are British law, the police system, and the judiciary. Gibraltar can be described as a society of lawyers and trustees. The crime rate is low, and there are strong mechanisms of social control, owing to the small size of the territory and the face-to-face character of its society.

Military Activity. Gibraltar's function as a British military garrison has influenced all aspects of its society. This changed to some extent after the withdrawal of British forces in the 1990s. Today a local regiment of three hundred soldiers is stationed on the Rock.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Only citizens are entitled to social welfare; this policy excludes Spanish, Moroccan, and Indian workers. To counter the effects of the military cutback, conversion programs partly financed by the European Union have been instituted.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

The colony has many social, economical, sports, and leisure associations, such as the Parents Association, the Clergy Fraternal of Gibraltar, the Bankers Association, the Teachers Association, the Hindu Association, the Gibraltar Business Network, the Students Association, the Association of Accountants, the Woman Association, the Spear Fishing Federation, the Gibraltar Sub Aqua Club, the Association of Trust and Company Managers, GA/JPMS,

The status of being Gibraltarian is transferred through the male line.
The status of being Gibraltarian is transferred through the male line.
the Hotel Association, the Chamber of Commerce, TGWU/Acts, the Shipping Association, and the Bar Council. Apart from the nationalist movement Self-Determination For Gibraltar Group (SDGG), nongovernmental organizations are politically unimportant.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. The economy traditionally was gendered, with women keeping the household and men working in dockyards and offices. However, this pattern changed after the closing of the border, when women and Moroccan workers substituted for Spanish workers. Today many women work in the service sector. Women are underrepresented, in political positions, although many women are influential in the informal management of parties. In the field of religion, only Hindu community life is dominated by female specialists.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Women are still expected to keep out of political life and participate only in social, cultural, and charity affairs. Citizenship is viricentric; the status of being a Gibraltarian can be transferred only through the male line.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages usually are not arranged. People marry young (around age 20) and often divorce young. Increasingly within the Jewish community and decreasingly within the Hindu community, there is a trend toward arranged marriages. Gays and lesbians tend to cover their identities and marry. Homosexuality was a legal offense until 1992.

Domestic Unit. Until land reclamation began in the 1990s, housing was a major problem. It was common for couples to share an apartment with their in-laws. The household unit was the extended family.

Kin Groups. As Gibraltar is a face-to-face community, frequent contact between members of larger kin groups is unavoidable, though it is not necessarily intense.


Higher Education. Higher education is an avenue for upward mobility. An extensive grant system allows about 50 percent of high school graduates to study in British universities.


Religious Beliefs. The population consists of Catholics (77 percent), Church of England Protestants (7 percent), Muslims (7 percent), other Christians (3 percent), Jews (2.3 percent), and Hindus (2.1 percent).

Religious Practitioners. All the religious groups have seen a struggle for power and control between traditional and orthodox forces. The authority of the Catholic Church, led by a locally-born bishop, is strong. There are four synagogues and one rabbi. Although a Hindu temple was built in 1995, there are no locally based full-time Hindu specialists. The influence of an esoteric guru, Sri Swatchidananda, is especially strong, but there are also followers of the Radha Soami movement.

Rituals and Holy Places. The Rock itself is ascribed spiritual power by Gibraltarians of all religions. The typical Iberian Catholic celebrations (Easter Week, processions, and pilgrimages) are largely absent. Most holy sites for the Jewish community are located in nearby Morocco.

Fishing boats fill the harbor below the Rock of Gibraltar.
Fishing boats fill the harbor below the Rock of Gibraltar.

Medicine and Health Care

Gibraltar has one civilian hospital. Most health care practitioners have a British degree. Historically, the hospital was organized along religious lines with Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish wards.

Secular Celebrations

The most important celebrations are Commonwealth Day (the second Monday in March), Constitution Day on 30 May (commemorates the constitution of 1969), and, National Day on 9 October (celebrates the pro-British referendum in 1967).

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Most artists are self-supporting.

Literature. There are several local poets. As a result of a growing self-identity movement, more Gibraltarians have become interested in local history and biographies.

Graphic Arts. John Mackintosh Hall, the local community center, is the main location for exhibitions of local drawings, paintings, and sculpture.

Performance Arts. There are many dance groups, including Indian and Sevillana groups, as well as modeling and beauty contests. There is a local music scene, as well as some theater groups.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Many Gibraltarians are passionate ornithologists.


Benady, Mesod ("Tito"). "The Jewish Community of Gibraltar" In R. D. Barnett and W. M. Schwab, eds., The Western Sephardim: The Sephardi Heritage , vol. II, 1989.

Caruana, Charles. The Rock Under a Cloud , 1989.

Finlayson, Thomas J. The Fortress Came First , 1991.

Haller, Dieter. "Romancing Patios: Die Aneignung der Stadt im Rahmen der ethnischen und nationalen Neubestimmung in Gibraltar" In Kokot, Hengartner, and Wildner, eds., Kulturwissenschaftliche Sichtweisen auf die Stadt , 1999.

Jackson, Sir William G. F. The Rock of the Gibraltarians—A History of Gibraltar , 1987.

Kramer, Johannes. "Bevölkerung und Sprachen in Gibraltar." Europa Ethnica 42:88–96, 1985.

Moyer, Melissa Greer. Analysis of Code Switching in Gibraltar , 1993.

Stanton, Gareth. "Guests in the Dock—Moroccan Workers on Trial in the Colony of Gibraltar." Critique of Anthropology 11 (4):361–379, 1991.


User Contributions:

Hi, just looking for a bit of information about the reclaimed land in Gibraltar. I lived there myself for over 20 years. Thought I would mention that the photo that you have on your site claiming to be a farmhouse in Gibraltar, must in fact be in Spain. The Rock can be seen in the background. Great info anyway. thanks. on with my search
what contribution did the muslims make to gibraltar and where did they live at the time they first came
Kaushik Das
Very rarely is such detail provided with such simplicity.
This page had great information and was laid out great. Thanks!
I realy like the information on this site. I will suggest people come and visit to know about Gibraltar. Thanks
Do you know of any university department or academic specialising in the Llanito language of Gibraltar, please? If so, I would be grateful to receive full details and look forward to hearing from you.

Richard Durkan
I am a very proud Italian descendant and have researched my ancestry to Italy and found the following confirmantion of the fact.From a certificat or an entry in the Cathedral Marriage Register as follows. Giovanni Battista Bossino, Batezzato nella Parrocchia San Giovani Battista, Savona, Genova.
I have visited The Parrochia and spoken to the priest but unfortunetely with the lack of exact dates and information he said that it would to be possible to go back to those days, I am sure he did not have the will to do the research even though i offerd to pay. His name was Father Parodi which is the name of my grandmother. I have to following names in my family. Bossino, Galliano, Parody (Parodi).
In view of the above I would be pleased to see my name Bossino included in your list of italian names existing in Gibraltar at present. Many thanks
Angeles walford nee Berini
I too have struggle to find the exact place where my italian ancestors arrived from. The first being josephus Berini . On his death certificate his place of birth states Genoa. I was given Voltri by the archivist in The Cathedral. I have learnt italian and went to Voltri. The priest spoke fluent spanish, and introduced me to his archivist. The gentleman really helped me but what i f ound is that Berini is not a Ligurian name, it is from Schignano in Como. However, Josephs father Lorenzo married Maria Gaggero, and that is a Ligurian name.

I will be continuing with my search. In the cemetery in Voltri there were graves with all the common names found inGibraltar, Parodi, Bossano, Galliano, etc.

I would like the name Berini added to the list of italian names.
why do we celebrate so many things i really want to know
does gibraltar has an independence day? when? and what are the Political Culture of giblartar
Angeles. Walford
found my ancestor Josephus Berini Guiseppe who was baptised in Mele a small hillside village near to Genoa he was born in 1802 his father was Lorenzo from Voltri and his mother maria Gaggero from Mele I learnt italian and now have a book on Ligurian names written by Angelo Nests the archivist I Voltri so if anybody wants help in researching their Genoese name contar me and I can help my maiden name was Berini
National date is wrongly printed, National day is the 10th of September. Can you please change it
Ken Taylor
My grandmother was Maria Galliano was a native of Gibraltar, she married a Bacarisas and then Jose Massa. I had an aunt Isabel Bacarisas and my mother Marina Massa. My aunt was a spinster all her life and my mother married my father Tommy Taylor RAMC who had been posted to the Europa Point hospital. Gibraltar in 1937.

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