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Should we describe Sóller as a city or a town?

While Sóller may boast “ciudad” or “ciutat” status in its title, it is worth remembering that this word confers no legal status. “Ciudad” in Spanish is just too fuzzy. Legally speaking, it is meaningless. Sóller is a “municipio“. That is the only legally-recognized term in Spain for a population centre such as Sóller and its environs. And since normal people don’t say “I’m just nipping into the municipality to get some groceries”, we need another word.

In Spanish, of course, we’ve got “ciudad” and in Catalan, “ciutat“.

Which brings us to translation conundrums. Because the words “ciudad” or “ciutat” should not always be translated as “city”. “Ciudad” also means “town”. So, when translating, one must consider a term for a similar-sized group of people and houses.

In English, we have a continuum from hamlet to village to town to city. In Spanish, the word town is missing. That is, we have an aldea, a pueblo/villa and a ciudad. In English we’d designate Sóller as neither a village nor a city. Town it is then in English. It sounds silly to call it a city. In Spanish, it’s getting too big to be a pueblo…Pueblo has connotations of just a church, a town hall, a three-legged dog, an old toothless widow and a bar/grocery store. Sóller is streets ahead, with a traffic light or two. But no bookshop. (Can you have a city without a bookshop? Surely not.)

What other definitions are there out there in English to describe population centres? The UN has proposed a minimum population of 50,000 and population density of 1,500 people per square kilometre. Sóller, at around 14,000 inhabitants and 315 people per square kilòmetre, fails to make the grade. In Spain, the word “ciudad” is used more liberally and seems to stick with anything with a population of 10,000+.

So, according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Sóller is a “ciudad” to differentiate it from a “pueblo“. But remember, ciudad in English can mean either town or city. So it does depend on what language you are speaking. In English, Sóller is always a Town. If speaking in Spanish,it could be ciudad, and in Català, ciutat.

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