History & Culture of the Region
The origins of Hospitality
The history of L’Hospitalet de l’Infant dates back many centuries. In fact, hospitality was a distinguishing feature of the village from its origins as the village owes its name to a hospice founded in 1344 by the Infante Pedro, the son of James II (1267 –1327) and Blanche of Anjou (1280 –1310). Its function was to provide shelter for the pilgrims and travellers passing through the nearby Coll de Balaguer.  The remains of the building are still prominent in the village and are located near Costalingua Language Academy.
 
Ancient settlements in the region
In its millennial history, the region was influenced by many different cultures, starting with the ancient indigenous populations of the Iberians, to the arrival of the Phoenicians and Greeks, to the Roman colonization, the invasion by the Visigoths and later by the Arabs. Many artifacts in the region bear witness to the presence of these ancient peoples, starting with cave paintings dating from the second millennium B.C. Phoenicians and Greeks reached the coasts of Catalonia in the 6th Century B.C. and established various trading posts (e.g the Greek settlement of Emporion).
 
History & Culture of the Region
Tarragona, Roman amphitheater

The Romans established their presence in the region in the 3nd century B.C., at the time of their conflict with the Carthaginians during the second Punic War (218-201 B.C.). During this conflict Spain was one of the main centers of war in the struggle for the supremacy over the Mediterranean between the two super-powers Rome and the Carthage. The main Roman protagonists in this conflict, the two brothers Publius Cornelius Scipio and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio (both died in 211 B.C.) converted the city of Tarraco, today’s Tarragona, into a fortress and arsenal against the Carthaginians. Subsequently Tarraco became the capital of the province named after it. In 45 B.C. Julius Caesar declared Tarraco a colony (i.e. land that was awarded to the veterans of the Roman legions), and under the emperor Augustus (63 B.C. – 19 A.D.) it became the capital of the Roman province Hispania Citerior. Thanks to its strategic position for commerce and the rich agriculture of the hinterland, Tarraco rose to become one of the wealthiest and most influential cities of the Roman Empire. Tarragonaand its environs still conserve some of the impressive Roman buildings which bear witness to its glorious ancient past, such as e.g. the Roman amphitheater with a spectacular view to the sea, the Roman forum, a large aqueduct, a triumphal arc and the remains of several Roman villas nearby.
 
History & Culture of the Region
Arc de Bará, some 20 km north of Tarragona, along the Via Augusta, still used as a main road today

As part of their infrastructure the Romans established a network of roads in the region, some of which still mark the landscape, as e.g. the Via Augusta, spanning all the way from Cadíz to the Pyrenees. In those times the road spanned approxiamtely 1,500 km, passing through the cities of Gades (Cádiz), Carthago Nova (Cartagena), Valentia (Valencia), Saguntum (Sagunto), Tarraco (Tarragona), Barcino (Barcelona), and Gerunda (Girona). Its path is currently followed by the N-340 road and the AP-7 motorway. It narrows to a village road in L’Hospitalet de l’Infant, passing right in front of Costalingua Language Academy. It was all along these ancient Roman roads that small Roman settlements and trading posts began to develop and expand over the centuries.  
 
The decline of the Western Roman Empire in the 4th century A.D. marked the beginning of a period of great destruction and social instability on the Iberian peninsula, due to the invasions by various Germanic peoples, mainly the Visigoths and West Goths. These peoples fought bitterly amongst themselves for supremacy over the Iberian peninsula. At the beginning of the 5th century A.D. the West Goths emerged victorious and subsequently dominated the majority of the Iberian peninsula until well into the 8th century, when their rule was ended by the Arab invasion. As is well known, the Arabs ruled over vast parts of Spain for several centuries, leaving a lasting cultural and linguistic influence, especially in the South. In the region of Tarragona the “Reconquista” by the Christians occurred relatively late compared to the northern parts of Catalonia, it was completed only around 1120.
 
The Rise of Catalonia
To this day Catalans are highly aware of their distinctive cultural heritage and of their history, marked by the dynastic struggles and shifting alliances in the region. National consciousness runs high, and separatist movements are as vital as ever in today’s globalized times. Catalan as a distinct language from the Castilian spoken in the majority of Spain serves as a catalyst for national identity, clearly marking the complicated cultural and political relation between Barcelona and Madrid.
 
The origins of a distinctive Catalan identity can be traced back to the Frankish period starting in 785 A.D., when Charlemagne began his rule over the northern part of Catalonia. This territory was then called the Spanish Mark and was to serve as a middle-European bastion against the Arab invasion. One of the Frankish counts, Wilfred the Hairy (Guifré el Pilós) first united several feudal entities under his control towards the end of the 9th century, thus establishing a precursor of today’s Catalonia. Catalonia’s official date of birth is the year 988, when under Borell II, Count of Barcelona (died 993), political independence was reached. It was around this time that the name Catalonia began to appear in reference to a territorial and political entity, and that the Senyera, to this day the national flag, made its first appearance.
 
History & Culture of the Region
Manuscript illustration showing a scene of the battle of Alarcos (1195)
The Reconquista in the 11th century marks the beginning of the glorious period of Catalonia as an independent “national” unit. A turning point came in 1137, when Ramón Berenguer IV (1113-1162) forged an alliance with the western realm of Aragón by marrying Petronilla of Aragón, the daughter of Ramiro II of Aragón (1075-1157). The treaty he achieved with his father-in-law is considered one of the masterstrokes of medieval history. A period of expansion and prosperity followed: Between 1229 and 1238 Jaime the Conqueror (1208 –1276) conquered the Balearic islands as well as the region of Valencia, which was still occupied by the Arabs at the time. Meanwhile a functioning administration was established and commerce throughout the Mediterranean began to flourish. 1262 Sicily was added through a marriage alliance, and 1323 Sardinia was conquered. The prosperous joint realm of Catalonia/Aragón dominated the entire western Mediterranean. With economic prosperity the arts and sciences also began to flourish. The poet and scholar Ramón Llull (approx. 1235-1316), who was born in Mallorca, is considered the most important Catalan representative of medieval poetry. It was him who established Catalan a literary language, as he wrote his poetry and scholarly treaties not in the then preferred erudite language of Latin but instead in the “common” language spoken by the people.
 
History & Culture of the Region
Catalan Court
 
Catalonia consisted of several feudal courts with their own jurisdictions. It was ruled not only by the king but rather had a court council, the Corts Catalans, through which the nobility, the church but also increasingly the rising urban guilds, exerted considerable influence. This distribution of power was rather uncommon in those times, even though the large majority of the people still did not yet have a say in political decisions. It is in this feudal context that L’Hospitalet de l’Infant developed as a stop-over for travelling pilgrims and merchants. In the year 1153 Ramón Berenguer IV, count of Barcelona, gave the territory to which L’Hospitalet belonged (Baronia Entença) to William of Castellvell. In 1304 began the re-population of the area of L’Hospitalet de l’Infant which had previously been abandoned. In the year 1346 the Infante Pedro, son of Ramón Berenguer and Blanca of Anjou built a hospice for pilgrims and travellers near the existing Via Augusta, the main road in the region. The favorable location of the village, between the planes of Tarragona to the north, the inland rural areas to the west and the Ebro delta to the south, promoted commerce with other peoples through various routes, favoring cultural exchange.
 
Catalonia’s Decline
Catalonia’s decline began in 1410, when Martin of Aragon (1356 –1410), also called the Humane, the last descendent of the old Catalonian dynasty, died. The previously successful cooperation of Catalonia/Aragon gave way to the predominance of the Crown of Aragon. Finally, when King Ferdinand II of Aragon (1452 –1516) married the throne successor Isabel of Castile (1451 –1504), the power relations changed dramatically. The rule of the “Catholic kings”, as they were henceforth called, relegated Catalonia to playing a subordinate role. The crown of Castile imposed its own administration as well as its own language on Catalonia. Furthermore, the region ceased to play a commercially important role when America was discovered in 1492 and commercial routes shifted from the enclosed Mediterranean coasts to the Atlantic and the New World. It was the Golden Age for Spain, in whose kingdom it was said that the sun never set.
 
Oppressed by heavy tax burdens, the Catalans revolted 1640-1652 against the Castilian crown with the support of France. This popular revolt is known as the “Revolt of the mowers” (segadors), from which the Catalan anthem Els Segadors is derived. The revolt failed due to the sheer overwhelming power of the Castilian army. In 1659 the Treaty of the Pyrenees between the Castilian monarchy and France deprived Catalonia of its territories across the mountains, of the Roussillon, and of parts of Sardinia.

History & Culture of the Region
Els Segadors

In the 18thcentury Catalonia fell once again victim of a struggle between super-powers. The Spanish succession war (1701-1714) saw the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg dynasty, with the support of the “Haag Alliance” of European states, in conflict with the French Bourbons. Catalonia confided in the Habsburgs as it hoped for better chances of realizing their hopes for a national entity and for reestablishment of their commercial presence in the region. However, these hopes were destroyed when the Bourbon king Philip V (1683 – 1746) conquered Barcelona, the city that had opposed his territorial claims the longest, after a violent siege on 11 September 1714. To this day, Catalans commemorate this event every year on their national holiday called the Diada on 11 September. Of course, what they celebrate on this day is not their defeat but rather their fierce resistance against the French as well as their ancient claim for national independence. Philip V punished the Catalans harshly for their revolt, imposing massive repressive measures. Catalan institutions were abolished and the Catalan language banned. Catalonia became a Spanish province completely under the rule of Castile.

Catalan Renaissance
Economic progress began again with a first wave of industrialization in 1741, especially with textiles. Ship building also flourished in Barcelona. Catalonia was granted access to the new markets in the New World. With the growing economic prosperity cultural identity began to reassert itself, giving rise to nationalist movements. In the mid nineteenth century first nationalist impulses began to be felt, no doubt under the influence of the Romantic movements spreading across Europe, propagating the unity of language, culture and national entity. In Catalonia a revivalist movement in Catalan language and culture called Renaixença arose. The aim of this movement was the full restoration of Catalan as a language of culture, not only through the promotion of various forms of art, theater, and literature but also attempting to establish a normative standard of language (the latter, however, not fully accomplished until the first quarter of the 20th century). As with most of the other Romantic movements, it was noted for its admiration of the Middle Ages, which was often reflected in art, and in Barcelona, the medieval literary contests known as Jocs Florals or Jocs de la Gaia Ciència were revived.
 
Towards modern Catalonia
History & Culture of the Region

Politically, it was only in 1932 during the so-called Second Republic, that Catalonia obtained almost complete autonomous status with its own Parliament. However, this was short-lived, and in 1934 all attempts to gain complete independence failed. Prolonged turmoil followed. This was also the time of great labor conflicts paralyzing the region with general strikes, thus exacerbating the conflict between Left and Right forces. Even after the electoral victory of the Popular Front in May 1936 the situation did not stabilize but on the contrary worsened. The whole country was overwhelmed by strikes and violence, Spain was in total chaos.
 
The murder of the right-wing parliament member Calvo Sotelo on 13 July 1936 marked the beginning of a military revolt that lead to the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), which in turn was to plunge Catalonia into possibly its darkest moment in history. Calling this conflict a civil war is actually a misnomer. The Spanish Civil War saw the “Nationalists”, a gang of professionally armed, anti-democratic military on one side, and on the other the so-called “Republicans” to which the majority of the civilian population belonged. The Nationalists won a decisive battle at the river Ebro on 6 November 1938, during which L'Hospitalet de l'Infant was bombed by German and Italian fighter planes. On on 26 January 1939 Franco’s troops occupied Barcelona. Franco’s regime marked a low point in the history of Catalonia. After the occupation of Barcelona the majority of those among the Catalan elite who had not fled into exile were murdered. Decades of systematic political and cultural repression followed, many people were maimed and crippled as alleged political subversives. The use of the Catalan language was banned and declared a crime.
 
It was only after Franco’s death in 1975 that the Catalans regained their confidence after decades of severe repression. After 40 years of Franco’s dictatorship, democratic elections were held in Spain for the first time again in 1977. Democracy brought a provisional autonomy to Catalonia. 1979 Catalonia was granted an official autonomous status with recognized bilinguism and at least partial self-determination in administrative and legal matters. Already the first regional elections were overwhelmingly won by the conservative coalition Convergencia I Unió (CiU) headed by Jordi Pujol, who remained president of the Generalitat into the new millennium.