Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Culture of Andorra

Culture Name

Alternative Names
Principality of Andorra; Andorranos


Identification. The first reference to Andorra appears in the writings of the Greek historian Polybius (c.200–118B.C.E.), who tells of the military encounter between Andorrans and Carthaginian troops as Hannibal (247–183B.C.E.) passed through the Pyrenees Mountains en route to Rome. Andorra, historically, was a rural microstate whose population oscillated between four thousand and six thousand inhabitants. In the second half of the twentieth century, as it became a large international commercial center, the nation received larger migratory populations and developed into a multicultural society.

Location and Geography. Andorra has a total land surface of 181 square miles (468 square kilometers) making it slightly less than five times the size of the city of Barcelona. It is situated in the Pyrenees Mountains, bordered by Spain and France. The capital of the nation, Andorra la Vella (Old Andorra), lies in the geographic center of the country, where the two tributaries of the Valira River merge.

Demography. According to the 1998 census, the population stands at 65,877 of whom only 21.7 percent have Andorran citizenship. The rest of the inhabitants are Spanish (42.9 percent), Portuguese (10.7 percent), French (6.7 percent) or other nationalities (6.5 percent). Moreover, more than 7,589 persons, generally children or youth of immigrant families, have no formal citizenship. According to current legislation, foreigners can acquire citizenship after twenty years of residence in the country. Their children, born in Andorra, acquire citizenship at age eighteen.

Linguistic Affiliation. Catalan is the official language of Andorra. It is used throughout public administration, is taught in all schools, and is the language of all road signs. It is also the dominant language in communications media and is the language spoken by the national elites. In commercial signage, Catalan alternates with Spanish and French. Nevertheless, the dominant language of the street is Spanish. The Spanish population represents the largest immigrant community in Andorra and, in addition, the majority of visitors and merchants who come to Andorra are also Spanish. The use of French is limited to populations in the extreme southwest of the country. Portuguese and other languages are limited to private settings.

Symbolism. The Sanctuary of the Virgin of Meritxell, patron of the nation, constitutes the most important religious symbol for Andorrans and is also an attractive spot for tourist visits in the summer. Its thirty Romanesque churches and other treasures of medieval art serve as historical referents as well as emblems of identity.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The origins of Andorra can be situated between the Mesolithic and the Neolithic periods. The archaeological site of Balma Margineda dates back eight thousand years, although full territorial occupation was not achieved until 2000 B.C.E. During the Roman era, Andorra had a stable population. Until the epoch of Arab occupation in the eighth century, Iberian populations mixed with peoples arriving from central Europe. At the beginning of the ninth century, the area was repopulated. The first document that refers to Andorra is the Act of Consecration of the Cathedral of Urgel (839 C.E.). In the eighth and ninth centuries, Andorra belonged to the County of Barcelona, which ceded sovereignty over the valleys of Andorra in 988 to the Episcopal see of Urgel (Spain)

At the end of the thirteenth century, after conflicts between the bishop of Urgel and the count of Foix, a Judicial Decision (Pareatge) was signed in 1278 that established the regime of coprinces that remains today. Currently, the two coprinces of Andorra are the president of the French Republic and the bishop of Urgel. Medieval rights over Andorra passed from the count of Foix to the king of Navarre in the fifteenth century, and then to the king of France in the sixteenth century; in the nineteenth century, they passed to the president of the republic.

National Identity. Historically, Andorra has been a protectorate of France and Spain. This is manifest in several ways: (1) the currencies of the nation are the franc and the peseta; (2) the two systems of public education were, until 1982, the French and the Spanish; and (3) the two languages most commonly spoken are French and Spanish, in addition to Catalan. This dualism has been expressed in multiple ways in recent centuries; Andorran factionalism also always has a pro-Spanish front and a pro-French front.

Today, however, both state political powers and Andorran civil society have endeavored to consolidate a national identity that takes as its symbolic referents its medieval past, mythologizing the political peculiarity of the Pareatges. Andorrans also identify themselves as a mountain society and have a special interest in leading sociopolitical and economic movements of the Pyrenean regions. The third pillar of identity is "Catalanness" ( catalanitat ), which it shares with 11 million persons in the northeast of Spain and the southeast of France.

Ethnic Relations. As a culture shaped by transhumant (seasonally transient) shepherds in the past and international merchants in the present, Andorrans are open in character and interethnic relations are not conflictive. Moreover, almost all immigrants come from European nations; hence, cultural differences are not strident.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The diet in Andorra is based on consumption of meat, garden vegetables, and some fish. The most common winter dish, in rural and urban zones, is escudella, a soup of veal, chicken, potatoes, and vegetables. Some immigrant communities have different customs: Portuguese eat more cod and Indians, more vegetarian food. Normally, the midday meal is eaten near the workplace in a restaurant.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Many Catholic families still avoid eating meat on Fridays. At the feast of the Virgin of Meritxell, Andorran families often eat outdoors after the solemn midday mass: they consume cold cuts, chicken, and rabbit. The Christmas cycle is also an occasion for the organization of family meals.

Basic Economy. Until about the middle of the twentieth century, the Andorran economy was based on transhumant shepherding and the breeding of cattle and horses. Andorrans also grew some tobacco, while agriculture was oriented to the production of cereals, potatoes, and garden vegetables. Because of the climate, the rocky relief, and the small size of its territory, the country always ran a deficit in agricultural production. Today, due to the commercial orientation of its economy, agriculture has disappeared. Only tobacco survives, with its production tripling since the early 1970s. Coupled with enormous quantities of imported tobacco, this production feeds a strong tobacco industry serving visitors to the country (as well as smuggling). Almost all that Andorrans consume and sell to millions of visitors comes from importation, principally from Spain and France but also from Japan and other countries of the Far East. Yet another extremely important economic activity for the Andorran economy is the banking sector, because of the nation's condition as a "fiscal paradise."

Land Tenure and Property. Most Andorran land is of communal ownership, including the woods and alpine meadows that occupy more than 80 percent of the territory. This situation recurs throughout the Pyrenees, originating in medieval local codes. Private property is found near villages, constituted by homes, rural structures, cultivated fields, and gardens. The exploitation of goods is managed by local administrations ( comuns ) which, in addition, also exercise many functions typical of city halls. The benefits of the exploitation of these goods revert to citizens in the form of infrastructure, equipment, creation of work, scholarships for students, and social service endeavors. Today, four of the seven municipal units ( parroquies ) that form the country have one or more winter resorts, from which they also gain great benefits. The only properties of the state are the courses and banks of the rivers, and roads and highways.

Commercial Activities. Andorra has always had fluid commercial relations with France and Spain, including smuggling. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and the World War II (1939–1945), the volume of exchanges increased, since Andorra was a platform through which to supply belligerent nations. In addition, the economic isolation of Spain during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, from 1939 to 1975, favored the commercial activity of Andorra, which supplied equipment, machine parts, vehicles, and other consumer goods. The foundation of the new Andorran economy, however, is retail commerce in major consumer goods, oriented toward buyers in nearby regions of Spain and France.

Major Industries. Andorra's industrial development is extremely limited. Apart from tobacco, the most important industry is construction along with its derivative industries, hospitality industries, and semi-artisanal activities such as jewelry.

Trade. Commerce and tourism are based on the importation of all goods and services from third countries. There are sixty import-export companies handling such goods as gasoline, automobiles, beverages, tobacco, machinery, optical and electronic products, food, clothing, and shoes. Electronic goods come from Japan and other Asian sources, while the rest come from Europe.

Division of Labor. Large Andorran firms belong almost exclusively to Andorran citizens, although there are also some enterprises founded by Spaniards and Frenchmen who have acquired citizenship through their years of residence. Foreigners, Spanish and French, dominated professional positions until recently; high enrollments of university students have fostered a process of nationalization in this occupational level. Employment in construction, transport, commerce, and public services (police and sanitation), like work in hotels, tend to employ resident alien workers depending on their ability and level of instruction.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Class differences in Andorra are quite clear and possess marked characteristics, such as residence. Practically all the original Andorran population belongs to the high or medium-high stratum of society as the first group to arrive in the nation. The rest of the Spanish population is basically salaried, although there are executive groups and small entrepreneurs among them. Most Portuguese are found in less-skilled labor positions, especially in hostelry and construction. The French population comprises bureaucrats and small-scale entrepreneurs in hostelry or commerce.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Apart from evocative differences of residence, other indicators of class difference include fashion. The Andorran elite sport well-known international brands, which contrast with the sobriety of the rest of the society. Automobiles are also a highly visible indicator of consumption. Even though the entire society is motorized, only a minority has access to such luxury cars as Rolls-Royce, Mercedes, Audi, and BMW.

Gender Roles and Statuses

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Andorran society, with its strong rural origins, maintained a marked segregation on the basis of gender roles until the late twentieth century. All public activity was exercised by men, representing the family. Rapid urbanization, changes in lifestyle, and the commercial orientation of the economy have forced a rapid modification in the economic and work roles of women. Today, their public visibility is total, even if their presence in political spheres remains inferior to that of men, despite consistent progress.

Marriage, Family and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage is not controlled by any limits except class (and not always by that). Marriages between Andorrans and Spaniards or French are normal.

Domestic Unit. The family remains the basic social unit, more important than the individual, despite the accelerated evolution of Andorran society. Most enterprises and business are organized through the family, distributing functions according to capacities and the level of study of each member. These family groups, following the institution of the familia troncal (stem family), incorporate a married pair and their children.

Inheritance. Formerly, the inheritance system passed nearly all the patrimony to one of the sons: the hereu (heir). Today, this tendency is maintained only at a symbolic level through the transmission of the family home. In the case of rural holdings, only the inheriting son can marry and reside with his wife and children on the family land; however, current family businesses are different. Any child can remain tied to the family business after marriage, although there remains a tendency towards an heir who will follow the father in the operation of the business.

Kin Groups. Networks of kinship are only activated through rituals of sociability for reasons of alliance or political patronage.


Religious Beliefs. Even though Andorra lacks a formal religion, Roman Catholicism is hegemonic. One fundamental element of this presence rests on the role of the bishop of Urgel as coprince and, at the same time, head of the Andorran Church. Apart from the Jehovah's Witnesses, there are no public religious alternatives in Andorra.

Rituals and Holy Places. All public ceremonies, including some sessions of the parliament, are accompanied by a Catholic mass. The Andorran festive calendar adapts to the Catholic liturgical calendar, and the nation, like every parroquia, has a patron saint and a collection of religious and lay celebrations.

Secular Celebrations

In addition to the national festival of the Virgin of Meritxell (8 September), each parroquia has its own patronal festival. Given the commercial orientation of the nation (which remains open for business especially when neighboring nations have holidays), the only formal holidays are Christmas and New Year's Day.

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Every 2010. "Culture of Andorra". Every Posted: n/d. Available online:

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