Xarnego (Catalan pronunciation: [ʃərˈnɛɣu]) in Catalan, or charnego in Spanish, is a pejorative or descriptive term used primarily in the 1950s–70s in the Catalonia region of Spain to refer to economic migrants from other—typically poorer—regions of Spain such as Andalusia or Extremadura. It can also refer to someone born in Catalonia of non-Catalan Spanish heritage. The word is never used to refer to the latest wave of immigrants from outside of Spain.
The term came into use in the 1950s and 1960s due to massive immigration from other Spanish speaking regions of Spain to Catalonia. About 1,800,000 people came into Catalonia during that period. While the immigrants were a welcome source of cheap labour, they were also seen by Catalans as a threat to their language, which was already repressed by the Francoist State. Immigrants who learned Catalan were more quickly integrated into the community.
The term went out of use in the 1980s, yet has over the years been replaced by a variety of terms which distinguish Catalans of Spanish immigrant origin from ethnic Catalans.
Revival of the term
The word "charnego" has always had a derogatory character, more related to the language than to the geographical origin, and today several personalities declare charnegas claiming a situation of social normality. One of the first to do so was Joan Manuel Serrat and, after the aforementioned incident, even Pasqual Maragall of the Socialists' Party of Catalonia and Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira of ERC, all three of which are of charnego origin on their maternal side. Currently many people consider the term derogatory and xenophobic. It is used disparagingly to refer to people who live in Catalonia and originate in other regions (which is normally its common use).
- The Bilingual Lover is a 1993 film in which the protagonist is a Catalan low-class man who reinvents himself as a charnego to recover his fetishist wife.