Contemporary Galicia: From Agrarian crisis to High-Speed Trains

Veiga, X. (2014): "Contemporary Galicia: From Agrarian Crisis to High-Speed Trains", in H. Miguélez-Carballeira (Ed.), A Companion to Galician Culture,  Boydell & Brewer, p. 35-52

The railway linking A Coruña in northern Galicia to inland Spain was completed in 1883. This link – after more than twenty years of construction work – gave rise to a rethink about Galicia's territorial isolation. The railway is a good metaphor for Galicia's recent history from the second half of the nineteenth century up until today: a metaphor that still poignantly chronicles how symbols of economic progress have appeared later in Galicia than in other parts of Spain. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the export of fattened calves to Great Britain, which had been the principal commercial activity in Galicia in the second half of the century, entered a period of steep decline as a result of competition with the arrival of frozen meat from Argentina. The English market was thus replaced by trade within the Iberian Peninsula which had been facilitated by the new railway – a clear sign of the changing times. This type of rapid transformation in the region's economic structure would partially bring about the agrarian crisis that took place in fin-de-siècle Galicia. For the purposes of this chapter on contemporary Galician history, we shall take this crisis as the starting point for our journey.