Spanish word of the day: 'Patria'

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Spanish word of the day: 'Patria'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Wisegie/Flickr

Many people in Spain feel "patria" even though it's a particularly loaded sentiment to have in this country.


Why do I need to know this word?

Well, today is Spain’s National Day, also known as el Día de la Hispanidad, and “patria” is at the heart of this celebration but also the cause of many of the country’s problems with separatism over the past century.

"Patria" is the Spanish word for homeland, fatherland or mother country. 

Spain’s Royal Academy defines it as either the place or country where one is born or the native or adopted land which human beings feel attached to either through legal, historical or emotional links. 

You may have heard the word “patria” recently as it’s the title of the new HBO series which deals with the taboo subject of Basque separatist/terrorist group ETA

“Patria” has some compound uses in expressions such as “morir por la patria” (die for your country), “patria potestad” (child’s custody) or “por amor a la patria” (for the good of the country) but the most important thing to know about this word is that it’s fairly loaded with symbolism given Spain’s history.

When should I use this word?

“Patria” is used to denote that emotional connection to a particular place you’re proud to belong to rather than just referring to your country of origin. 

So if you’re meeting someone for the first time, they may think you’re a fervent nationalist if you use “patria” to tell them where you’re from. 

It’s more standard to say “mi país de nacimiento” to refer to one’s country of origin or birth, in the same way as you wouldn’t expect to see the words “motherland” on a form you’re filling in. 


But if you’re talking to a friend about the fact that you feel a bit homesick, referring to “mi patria” won’t necessarily raise any eyebrows. 

All this may seem a bit ridiculous but in Spain being “patriótico” - whether it’s hanging a Spanish flag from your balcony or referring to Cataluña as “mi patria” - could lead to disapproval as political views regarding nationalism and separatism run deep among Spaniards.

This contrasts with a famous quote in the 1997 Spanish-Argentinian film Martín (hache) in which lead character Federico Luppi tells his son that “la patria es un invento” (the concept of the mother country is made up) after he asks him if he ever misses home. 

Could you give me some examples?

Tengo DNI español pero Catalunya es mi patria.
I have Spanish ID but Catalunya is my homeland.

ETA estaba dispuesta a matar por la patria.
Eta was willing to kill for the fatherland.

Nací en Irlanda pero después de 40 años aquí España es mi patria.
I was born in Ireland but after 40 years here Spain is my homeland.

Se divorcian pero han acordado compartir la patria potestad.
They're getting divorced but they’ve agreed to share custody of their kids.  




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