Gibraltar Catalan Bay

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Catalan Bay is situated below the magnificent cliffs on the eastern side of the Rock, the bay has one of Gibraltar’s most popular small beaches. The village at Catalan Bay has historically been populated by Genoese fishermen. In the 18th century Genoese was so widely spoken in Gibraltar that government notices were published in this language (alongside English and Spanish).

Catalan Bay is situated below the magnificent cliffs on the eastern side of the Rock, the bay has one of Gibraltar’s most popular small beaches, referred to locally as ‘La Caleta’ meaning ‘small bay or cove’. It can be very overcrowded during the summer months but is still very much worth a visit.

The origin of the name Catalan Bay is a bit of a mystery. Some believe the Bay was named after a small Catalan population (from Catalonia in Spain) believed to have settled in the village after having assisted the Anglo-Dutch forces during and after the capture of the Rock in 1704.

However there is no evidence that Catalans ever settled in La Caleta and although it is regularly repeated as a supporting argument for the origin of the name it is only a supposition that they ever did. What is, however, beyond dispute is that it has historically been populated by Genoese fishermen who were part of a much larger settlement pattern along the coast during the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 18th century Genoese was so widely spoken in Gibraltar that government notices were published in this language (alongside English and Spanish). Genoese was spoken in La Caleta well into the 19th century, dying out in the early decades of the twentieth. There has been some discussion that the British may have mixed up Catalans with Genoese but it is by no means clear why they would suffer such a confusion especially since the British were perfectly aware that the residents of La Caleta were Genoese: the orders for the siege of 1727 refer to this bay as the ‘Genoese Cove’; and the numerous 18th and 19th century census record large numbers of people born in Genoa, not in Catalonia.

The name ‘La Caleta’ considerably pre-dates that of ‘Catalan Bay’. The fishing villages of La Tunara (Spain) and La Caleta are mentioned in a Royal Dispatch of the 6th of March, 1634 as being under the jurisdiction of the Tercio del Mar of Marbella and Estepona in the Kingdom of Granada. (Ref: Jose Carlos de Luna Historia de Gibraltar 1949). Note the old spelling of ‘La Tunara’. Since it has been called ‘La Caleta’ for much longer than it has ever been called Catalan Bay it is perhaps likely that ‘Catalan Bay’ is simply an English mispronunciation of ‘Caleta’.

During the nineteenth century only fisherman were permitted to live here. They were required to have a fishing permit granted to them by the Governor and only a limited number of permits were given. Many families, mostly descendants of Genoese fishermen, now live in Catalan Bay and the village still maintains some of the characteristics of a fishing village.

The Caleta Hotel is built on the rocks at the south end of the bay with the village extending northward along the line of the beach. There are a couple of beach restaurants which adds to the popularity of the beach during summer.

Our Lady of Sorrows Church is at the heart of the village facing the sea. The statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is carried to the beach each year during September when the Bishop of Gibraltar blesses the sea in what has become the villages main religious festival.

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