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Spain is a constitutional monarchy organised as a parliamentary
democracy, and has been a member of the European Union since 1986.
It is a developed country with the ninth largest economy in the
world and fifth largest in the EU, based on nominal GDP.
1.2 Prehistory and pre-Roman peoples in the Iberian Peninsula
1.3 Roman Empire and Germanic invasions
1.4 Muslim Iberia
1.5 Fall of Muslim rule and unification
1.6 Imperial Spain
1.7 Napoleonic rule and its consequences
1.8 Spanish-American War
1.9 20th century
1.10 21st century
2.1 Spanish Government
2.2 Spanish Constitution
2.3 Foreign relations of Spain
2.3.1 Territorial disputes
18.104.22.168 Territory claimed by Spain
22.214.171.124 Spanish territories claimed by other countries
3 Administrative divisions
5 Military of Spain
7.1 Immigration in Spain
7.2 Minority groups
7.3 Most populous urban regions
10.1 Education in Spain
10.2 Spanish Academy
10.3 Spanish art
10.4 Spanish literature
10.5 Spanish architecture
10.6 Music of Spain
10.7 Cinema of Spain
10.8 Spanish cuisine
10.9 Sports in Spain
10.10 Public holidays in Spain
11 International rankings
12 See also
14 Further reading
15 External links
Main article: History of Spain
Spain is a key site when it comes to studying both the arrival of
the first hominids recorded in Europe, and the prehistoric stage
of this continent. Under the Roman Empire, Hispania flourished and
became one of the empire's most important regions. During the early
Middle Age it came under Germanic rule. Later, nearly the entire
peninsula came under Muslim rulers. Through a long process Christian
kingdoms in the north gradually rolled back Muslim rule, which was
finally extinguished in 1492. That year Columbus reached the Americas,
the beginnings of a global empire. Spain became the strongest kingdom
in Europe in the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries but continued
wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. In
the middle decades of the 20th century it came under a dictatorship,
under which it went through many years of stagnation and then a
spectacular economic revival. Democracy was recovered in 1978 under
the form of a constitutional monarchy. In 1986 it joined the European
Union and has experienced an economic and cultural renaissance.
Prehistory and pre-Roman peoples in the Iberian Peninsula
Main article: Prehistoric Iberia
Archeological research at Atapuerca indicates that the Iberian Peninsula
was peopled more than a million years ago. Modern humans in the
form of Cro-Magnons began arriving in the Iberian Peninsula through
the Pyrenees some 35,000 years ago. The best known artifacts of
these prehistoric human settlements are the famous paintings in
the Altamira cave of Cantabria in northern Spain, which were created
about 15,000 BCE. Furthermore, archeological evidence in places
like Los Millares in Almería and in El Argar in Murcia suggest
that developed cultures existed in the eastern part of the Iberian
Peninsula during the late Neolithic and the Bronze Age.
The two main historical peoples of the peninsula were the Iberians
and the Celts, the former inhabiting the Mediterranean side from
the northeast to the southwest, the latter inhabiting the Atlantic
side, in the north and northwest part of the peninsula. In the inner
part of the peninsula, where both groups were in contact, a mixed,
distinctive, culture was present, known as Celtiberian. In addition,
Basques occupied the western area of the Pyrenees mountains. Other
ethnic groups existed along the southern coastal areas of present
day Andalusia. Among these southern groups there grew the earliest
urban culture in the Iberian Peninsula, that of the semi-mythical
southern city of Tartessos (perhaps pre-1100 BC) near the location
of present-day Cádiz. The flourishing trade in gold and silver
between the people of Tartessos and Phoenicians and Greeks is documented
in the history of Strabo and in the biblical book of king Solomon.
Between about 500 BC and 300 BC, the seafaring Phoenicians and Greeks
founded trading colonies all along the Spanish Mediterranean coast.
Carthaginians briefly took control of much of the Mediterranean
coast in the course of the Punic Wars until they were eventually
defeated and replaced by the Romans..
Roman Empire and Germanic invasions
Roman theater in MéridaMain article: Hispania
During the Second Punic War, an expanding Roman Empire captured
Carthaginian trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast (from
roughly 210 BC to 205 BC), leading to eventual Roman control of
nearly the entire Iberian Peninsula - a control which lasted over
500 years, bound together by law, language, and the Roman road.
The base Celt and Iberian population remained in various stages
of Romanisation, and local leaders were admitted into the Roman
The Romans improved existing cities, such as Lisbon (Olissis bona
or 'good for Ulysses') and Tarragona (Tarraco), and established
Zaragoza (Caesaraugusta), Mérida (Augusta Emerita), Valencia
(Valentia), León ("Legio Septima"), Badajoz ("Pax
Augusta"), and Palencia (?a??a?t?a, "Pallas Ateneia").
The peninsula's economy expanded under Roman tutelage. Hispania
served as a granary for the Roman market, and its harbors exported
gold, wool, olive oil, and wine. Agricultural production increased
with the introduction of irrigation projects, some of which remain
in use. Emperors Trajan, Theodosius I, and the philosopher Seneca
were born in Hispania. Christianity was introduced into Hispania
in the first century CE and it became popular in the cities in the
second century CE. Most of Spain's present languages and religion,
and the basis of its laws, originate from this period.
The first Germanic tribes to invade Hispania arrived in the 5th
century, as the Roman Empire decayed. The Visigoths, Suebi, Vandals
and Alans arrived in Spain by crossing the Pyrenees mountain range.
The Romanized Visigoths entered Hispania in 415. After the conversion
of their monarchy to Roman Catholicism, the Visigothic Kingdom eventually
encompassed a great part of the Iberian Peninsula after conquering
the disordered Suebic territories in the northwest and Byzantine
territories in the southeast.
Main article: Al-Andalus
In the 8th century, nearly all of the Iberian Peninsula was quickly
conquered (711-718) by mainly Berber Muslims (see Moors) from North
Africa. These conquests were part of the expansion of the Umayyad
Islamic Empire. Only a number of areas in the mountains to the
north of the Iberian Peninsula managed to cling to their independence,
occupying the areas roughly corresponding to modern Asturias, Navarre
Interior of the Mezquita in Córdoba, a Muslim mosque until
the Reconquest, after which it became a Christian cathedralUnder
Islam, Christians and Jews were recognised as "peoples of the
book", and were free to practice their religion, but faced
a number of mandatory discriminations and penalties as dhimmis.
Conversion to Islam proceeded at a steadily increasing pace. Following
the mass conversions in the 10th and 11th centuries it is believed
that Muslims came to outnumber Christians in the remaining Muslim
The Muslim community in the Iberian peninsula was itself diverse
and beset by social tensions. The Berber people of North Africa,
who had provided the bulk of the invading armies, clashed with the
Arab leadership from the Middle East. Over time, large Moorish
populations became established, especially in the Guadalquivir River
valley, the coastal plain of Valencia, and (towards the end of this
period) in the mountainous region of Granada.
Córdoba, the capital of the caliphate, was the largest,
richest and most sophisticated city of medieval Europe. Mediterranean
trade and cultural exchange flourished. Muslims imported a rich
intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim
and Jewish scholars played a great part in reviving and expanding
classical Greek learning in Western Europe. The Romanized cultures
of the Iberian peninsula interacted with Muslim and Jewish cultures
in complex ways, thus giving the region a distinctive culture.
Outside the cities, where the vast majority lived, the land ownership
system from Roman times remained largely intact as Muslim leaders
rarely dispossessed landowners, and the introduction of new crops
and techniques led to a remarkable expansion of agriculture.
However, by the 11th century, Muslim holdings had fractured into
rival Taifa kingdoms, allowing the small Christian states the opportunity
to greatly enlarge their territories and consolidate their positions.
The arrival of the North African Muslim ruling sects of the Almoravids
and the Almohads restored unity upon Muslim holdings, with a stricter,
less tolerant application of Islam, but ultimately, after some successes
in invading the north, proved unable to resist the increasing military
strength of the Christian states.
Fall of Muslim rule and unification
Main article: Reconquista
See also: Medieval demography
Equal partners: Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile,
the Catholic MonarchsThe term Reconquista ("Reconquest")
is used to describe the centuries-long period of expansion of Spain's
Christian kingdoms; the Reconquista is viewed as beginning after
the battle of Covadonga in 722. The Christian army victory over
the Muslim forces lead to the creation of the Christian Kingdom
of Asturias. Muslim armies had also moved north of the Pyrenees,
but they were defeated at the Battle of Poitiers in France. Subsequently,
they retreated to more secure positions south of the Pyrenees with
a frontier marked by the Ebro and Duero rivers in Spain. As early
as 739 Muslim forces were driven from Galicia, which was to host
one of medieval Europe's holiest sites, Santiago de Compostela.
A little later Frankish forces established Christian counties south
of the Pyrenees; these areas were to grow into kingdoms, in the
north-east and the western part of the Pyrenees. These territories
included Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia.
The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing Taifa kingdoms helped
the expanding Christian kingdoms. The capture of the central city
of Toledo in 1085 largely completed the reconquest of the northern
half of Spain. After a Muslim resurgence in the 12th century,
the great Moorish strongholds in the south fell to Christian Spain
in the 13th century—Córdoba in 1236 and Seville in
1248—leaving only the Muslim enclave of Granada as a tributary
state in the south. Marinid invasions from north Africa in the
13th and 14th centuries failed to re-establish Muslim rule. Also
in the 13th century, the kingdom of Aragon, still ruled by the Catalan
count of Barcelona, expanded its reach across the Mediterranean
In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon
were united (even though both kingdoms kept a high degree of political
and economical independence) by the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand.
In 1478 began the final stage of the conquest of Canary Islands
and in 1492, these united kingdoms captured Granada, ending the
last remnant of a 781-year presence of Islamic rule in the Iberian
Peninsula. The year 1492 also marked the arrival in the New
World of Christopher Columbus, during a voyage funded by Isabella.
That same year, Spain's Jews were ordered to convert into the Catholicism
or face expulsion from Spanish territories during the Spanish Inquisition.
As Renaissance New Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand centralized
royal power at the expense of local nobility, and the word España
- whose root is the ancient name "Hispania" - began to
be used to designate the whole of the two kingdoms. With their
wide-ranging political, legal, religious and military reforms, Spain
emerged as the first world power.
Main articles: Habsburg Spain and Enlightenment Spain
The unification of the kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, León,
and Navarre laid the basis for modern Spain and the Spanish Empire.
Spain became Europe's leading power throughout the 16th century
and most of the 17th century, a position later reinforced by trade
and wealth from colonial possessions. Spain reached its apogee during
the reigns of the first two Spanish Habsburgs, Charles I (1516–1556)
and Philip II (1556–1598). Included in this period are the
Italian Wars, the Dutch revolt, clashes with the Ottomans, the Anglo-Spanish
war and war with France.
The galleon became synonymous with the riches of the Spanish EmpireThe
Spanish Empire expanded to include most part of South and Central
America, Mexico, southern and western portions of today's United
States, the Philippines, Guam and the Mariana Islands in Eastern
Asia, the Iberian peninsula (including the Portuguese Empire (from
1580), southern Italy, Sicily, cities in Northern Africa, as well
as parts of modern Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
It was the first empire about which it was said that the sun did
not set. This was an age of discovery, with daring explorations
by sea and by land, the opening up of new trade routes across oceans,
conquests and the beginning of European colonial exploitation. Along
with the arrival of precious metals, spices, luxuries, and new agricultural
plants, Spanish explorers and others brought back knowledge, playing
a leading part in transforming the European understanding of the
Of note was the cultural efflorescence now known as the Spanish
Golden Age and the intellectual movement known as the School of
In the 16th and 17th centuries Spain was confronted by unrelenting
challenges from all sides. In the early 16th century Barbary pirates
under the aegis of the rapidly growing Ottoman empire, disrupted
life in many coastal areas through their slave raids and renewed
the threat of an Islamic invasion. This at a time when Spain
was often at war with France in Italy and elsewhere. Later the Protestant
Reformation schism from the Catholic Church dragged the kingdom
ever more into the mire of religiously charged wars. The result
was a country forced into ever expanding military efforts across
Europe and in the Mediterranean.
By the middle decades of the war-ridden 17th century the effects
of the strain began to show. The Spanish Habsburgs had enmeshed
the country in the continent wide religious-political conflicts.
These conflicts drained it of resources and undermined the European
economy generally. Spain managed to hold on to the majority of the
scattered Habsburg empire, and help the Imperial forces of the Holy
Roman Empire reverse a large part of the advances made by Protestant
forces, but it was finally forced to recognise the independence
of Portugal - with its empire - and the Netherlands, and eventually
began to surrender territories to France after the immensely destructive,
Europe-wide Thirty Years War. From the 1640s Spain went into
a gradual but seemingly irreversible decline for the remainder of
the century, however it was able to maintain and enlarge its vast
overseas empire which remained intact until the 19th century.
Controversy over succession to the throne consumed the first years
of the 18th century. The War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714),
a wide ranging international conflict combined with a civil war,
cost Spain its European possessions and its position as one of the
leading powers on the Continent (although it retained its overseas
During this war, a new dynasty—the French Bourbons—was
installed. Long united only by the Crown, a true Spanish state was
established when the first Bourbon king Philip V of Spain united
Castile and Aragon into a single state, abolishing many of the regional
The 18th century saw a gradual recovery and some increase in prosperity
through much of the empire. The new Bourbon monarchy drew on the
French system of modernising the administration and the economy.
Enlightenment ideas began to gain ground among some of the kingdom's
elite and monarchy. Towards the end of the century trade finally
began growing strongly. Military assistance for the rebellious British
colonies in the American War of Independence improved Spain's international
Napoleonic rule and its consequences
In 1793, Spain went to war against the new French Republic, which
had overthrown and executed its Bourbon king, Louis XVI. The war
polarised the country in an apparent reaction against the gallicised
elites. Defeated in the field, Spain made peace with France in 1795
and effectively became a client state of that country; the following
year, it declared war against Britain and Portugal. A disastrous
economic situation, along with other factors, led to the abdication
of the Spanish king in favour of Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte.
The Second of May, 1808: The Charge of the Mamelukes, by Francisco
de Goya (1814).This new foreign monarch was regarded with scorn.
On May 2, 1808, the people of Madrid began a nationalist uprising
against the French army, marking the beginning of what is known
to the Spanish as the War of Independence, and to the English as
the Peninsular War. Napoleon was forced to intervene personally,
defeating several badly-coordinated Spanish armies and forcing a
British Army to retreat to Corunna. However, further military action
by Spanish guerrillas and Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese army, combined
with Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia, led to the ousting
of the French from Spain in 1814, and the return of King Ferdinand
The French invasion proved disastrous for Spain's economy, and
left a deeply divided country that was prone to political instability
for more than a century. The power struggles of the early 19th century
led to the loss of all of Spain's colonies in Latin America, with
the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Further information: Mid-nineteenth century Spain
Main article: Spanish–American War
Amid the instability and economic crisis that afflicted Spain in
the 19th century there arose nationalist movements in the Philippines
and Cuba. Wars of independence ensued in those colonies and eventually
the United States became involved. Despite the commitment and ability
shown by some military units, they were so mismanaged by the highest
levels of command that the Spanish-American war of 1898 was soon
over. "El Desastre" (The Disaster), as the war became
known in Spain, helped give impetus to the Generation of 98 who
were already conducting much critical analysis concerning the country.
It also weakened the stability that had been established during
Alfonso XII's reign.
The 20th century brought little peace; Spain played a minor part
in the scramble for Africa, with the colonisation of Western Sahara,
Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea. The heavy losses suffered
during the Rif war in Morocco helped to undermine the monarchy.
A period of authoritarian rule under General Miguel Primo de Rivera
(1923-1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic.
The Republic offered political autonomy to the Basque Country, Catalonia
and Galicia and gave voting rights to women.
Guernica by Pablo Picasso, 1937The bitterly fought Spanish Civil
War (1936-39) ensued. Three years later the Nationalist forces,
led by General Francisco Franco, emerged victorious with the support
of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Republican side was supported
by the Soviet Union and Mexico, but it was not supported by the
Western powers due to the British-led policy of Non-Intervention.
The Spanish Civil War has been called the first battle of the Second
World War; under Franco, Spain was neutral in the Second World War
though sympathetic to the Axis.
The only legal party under Franco's regime was the Falange española
tradicionalista y de las JONS, formed in 1937; the party emphasised
anti-Communism, Catholicism and nationalism. Nonetheless, since
Franco's anti-democratic ideology was opposed to the idea of political
parties, the new party was renamed officially a National Movement
(Movimiento Nacional) in 1949.
After World War II, Spain was politically and economically isolated,
and was kept out of the United Nations until 1955, when due to the
Cold War it became strategically important for the U.S. to foment
a military presence on the Iberian peninsula, next to the Mediterranean
Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar, in order to protect southern Europe.
In the 1960s, Spain registered an unprecedented economic growth
in what was called the Spanish miracle, which rapidly rcsumed the
long interrupted transition towards a modern industrial economy
with a thriving tourism sector and a high degree of human development.
Upon the death of General Franco in November 1975, Prince Juan
Carlos assumed the position of king and head of state. With the
approval of the new Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the arrival
of democracy, the State devolved autonomy to the regions and created
an internal organization based on autonomous communities. In the
Basque Country, moderate Basque nationalism coexisted with a radical
nationalism supportive of the terrorist group ETA.
On February 23, 1981, rebel elements among the security forces
seized the Cortes and tried to impose a military-backed government.
However, the great majority of the military forces remained loyal
to King Juan Carlos, who used his personal authority and addressed
the usurpers via national TV as commander in chief to put down the
bloodless coup attempt.
In 1982, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) came to power,
which represented the return to power of a leftist party after 43
years. In 1986, Spain joined the European Community (which was to
become the European Union). The PSOE was replaced in government
by the Partido Popular (PP) after the latter won the 1996 General
Elections; at that point the PSOE had served almost 14 consecutive
years in office.
The Government of Spain has been involved in a long-running campaign
against the terrorist organization ETA ("Basque Homeland and
Freedom"), founded in 1959 in opposition to Franco and dedicated
to promoting Basque independence through violent means. They consider
themselves a guerrilla organization while they are listed as a terrorist
organization by both the European Union and the United States on
their respective watchlists. The current nationalist-led Basque
Autonomous government does not endorse ETA's nationalist violence,
which has caused over 800 deaths in the past 40 years.
On January 1, 2002, Spain terminated its historic peseta currency
and replaced it with the euro, which has become its national currency
shared with 15 other countries from the Eurozone. This culminated
the first phase of a period of economic growth, which has kept
the Spanish economy growing well over the EU average, but concerns
are growing that the extraordinary property boom and high foreign
trade deficits of recent years may bring this to an end.
On March 11, 2004, a series of bombs exploded in commuter trains
in Madrid, Spain. The bombings were claimed by al Qaeda, whereas
after a five months trial in 2007 it was concluded that the bombings
were perpetrated by a local Islamist militant group inspired by
al-Qaeda, but without direct links to that organisation. The
bombings killed 191 people and wounded more than 1800, and it has
been claimed that the intention of the perpetrators was to influence
the outcome of the Spanish general election, held three days later
on March 14. Although initial suspicions of responsibility for
the bombings focused on the Basque group ETA, evidence soon emerged
indicating possible Islamist involvement. Because of the proximity
of the election, the issue of responsibility quickly became a source
of political controversy, with the main competing parties PP and
PSOE crossing accusations over the handling of the aftermath.
A couple of days later, at the March 14 elections, PSOE, led by
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, obtained a relative
majority, enough to form the new cabinet with Rodríguez Zapatero
as the new Presidente del Gobierno or prime minister of Spain, thus
succeeding the former PP administration.
King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Queen Sofía of SpainMain
article: Politics of Spain
Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and
a bicameral parliament, the Cortes Generales. The executive branch
consists of a Council of Ministers presided over by the President
of Government (comparable to a prime minister), proposed by the
monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative
The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso
de los Diputados) with 350 members, elected by popular vote on block
lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms, and
a Senate (Senado) with 259 seats of which 208 are directly elected
by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures
to also serve four-year terms.
Chief of State
King Juan Carlos I, since November 22, 1975
Head of Government
President of the Government: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero,
elected 14 March 2004.
First Vice President and Minister of Presidency: María Teresa
Fernández de la Vega, elected 14 March 2004.
Second Vice President and Minister of Economy and Finance: Pedro
Solbes, elected 14 March 2004.
Council of Ministers (Spanish Consejo de Ministros) designated by
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, President of the GovernmentThe
Spanish nation is organizationally composed in the form of called
Estado de las Autonomías ("State of Autonomies");
it is one of the most decentralized countries in Europe, along Switzerland,
Germany and Belgium; for example, all Autonomous
Communities have their own elected parliaments, governments, public
administrations, budgets and resources, therefore, health and education
systems among others are managed regionally, besides, the Basque
Country and Navarre also manage their own public finances based
on foral provisions. In Catalonia and the Basque Country, a full
fledged autonomous police corps replaces some of the State police
functions (see Mossos d'Esquadra and Ertzaintza).
See also: List of Spanish monarchs and Monarchs of Spain family
Main article: Spanish Constitution of 1978
The Spanish Constitution of 1978 is the culmination of the Spanish
transition to democracy.
The constitutional history of Spain dates back to the constitution
of 1812. After the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, a general
election in 1977 convened the Constituent Cortes (the Spanish Parliament,
in its capacity as a constitutional assembly) for the purpose of
drafting and approving the constitution of 1978.
As a result, Spain is now composed of 17 autonomous communities
and two autonomous cities with varying degrees of autonomy thanks
to its Constitution, which nevertheless explicitly states the indivisible
unity of the Spanish nation.
Foreign relations of Spain
Main article: Foreign relations of Spain
After the return of democracy following the death of Franco in 1975,
Spain's foreign policy priorities were to break out of the diplomatic
isolation of the Franco years and expand diplomatic relations, enter
the European Community, and define security relations with the West.
As a member of NATO since 1982, Spain has established itself as
a major participant in multilateral international security activities.
Spain's EU membership represents an important part of its foreign
policy. Even on many international issues beyond western Europe,
Spain prefers to coordinate its efforts with its EU partners through
the European political cooperation mechanisms.
With the normalization of diplomatic relations with North Korea
in 2001, Spain completed the process of universalizing its diplomatic
Spain has maintained its special identification with Latin America.
Its policy emphasizes the concept of an Iberoamerican community,
essentially the renewal of the historically liberal concept of hispanoamericanismo
(or hispanism as it is often referred to in English), which has
sought to link the Iberian peninsula with Latin America through
language, commerce, history and culture. Spain has been an effective
example of transition from dictatorship to democracy, as shown in
the many trips that Spain's King and Prime Ministers have made to
Territory claimed by Spain
There is a territorial dispute with the United Kingdom over Gibraltar,
a 6 square km. Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom in the southernmost
part of the Iberian Peninsula which was conquered by Britain from
Spain in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession, along with
the Spanish island of Minorca (which had also been invaded but was
reconquered in 1782 and finally ceded back to Spain in 1802 by the
Treaty of Amiens).
The legal situation was regularized in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht,
in which Spain ceded the territory in perpetuity to the British
Spain has called for the return of Gibraltar. The overwhelming
majority of Gibraltarians strongly oppose this, along with any proposal
of shared sovereignty. UN resolutions call on the United Kingdom
and Spain, both EU members, to reach an agreement over the status
Spanish territories claimed by other countries
Morocco claims the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla and some
isles plazas de soberanía off the northern coast of Africa.
Portugal does not recognise Spain's sovereignty over the territory
of Olivenza / Olivença.
y LeónAsturiasCantabriaBasque CountryMurciaAndalusiaCeutaMelillaFranceBalearic
IslandsMediterranean SeaBay of BiscayAtlantic
Main articles: Autonomous communities of Spain and Provinces of
Spain is politically organized into 17 Autonomous Communities (comunidades
autónomas) and 2 autonomous cities (ciudades autónomas)
- Ceuta and Melilla.
Administratively Spain also comprises fifty provinces. Seven autonomous
communities are composed of only one province: Asturias, Balearic
Islands, Cantabria, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, and Navarre.
Historically, some provinces are also divided into comarcas (roughly
equivalent to a US "county" or an English district). The
lowest administrative division of Spain is the municipality (municipio).
See also: Comarcas of Spain and List of municipalities of Spain
Main article: Geography of Spain
At 194,884 mi² (504,782 km²), Spain is the world's 51st-largest
country. It is comparable in size to France, and is somewhat larger
than the U.S. state of California.
On the west, Spain borders Portugal, on the south, it borders Gibraltar
(a British overseas territory) and Morocco, through its cities in
North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla). On the northeast, along the Pyrenees
mountain range, it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra.
Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea,
the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and a number of uninhabited
islands on the Mediterranean side of the strait of Gibraltar, known
as Plazas de soberanía, such as the Chafarine islands, the
isle of Alborán, the "rocks" (peñones) of
Vélez and Alhucemas, and the tiny Isla Perejil. In the northeast
along the Pyrenees, a small exclave town called Llívia in
Catalonia is surrounded by French territory.
Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges,
such as the Sierra Nevada. Running from these heights are several
major rivers such as the Tagus, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana
and the Guadalquivir. Alluvial plains are found along the coast,
the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia.
Due to Spain's geographical situation and orographic conditions,
the climate is extremely diverse; it can be roughly divided in three
The moderate Continental climate takes place in the inland areas
of the Peninsula (largest city, Madrid).
The Mediterranean climate region, which roughly extends from the
Andalusian plain along the southern and eastern coasts up to the
Pyrenees, on the seaward side of the mountain ranges that run near
the coast (largest city, Barcelona).
An Oceanic climate takes place in Galicia and the coastal strip
by the Bay of Biscay (largest city, Bilbao). This area is often
called Green Spain.
Military of Spain
Main article: Spanish Armed Forces
The armed forces of Spain are known as the Spanish Armed Forces
(Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Españolas). Their Commander-in-Chief
is the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I.
The Spanish Armed Forces are divided into four branches:
Army (Ejército de Tierra)
Air Force (Ejército del Aire)
Guardia Civil (Military police) which serves for the most part as
a rural and general purpose police force.
Main article: Economy of Spain
According to the World Bank, Spain's economy is the ninth largest
worldwide and the fifth largest in Europe. As of 2007, absolute
GDP was valued at $1.362 trillion according to the CIA Factbook,
(see List of countries by GDP (nominal)). The per capita PPP is
estimated at $33,700 (2007), ahead of G7 countries like Italy and
placing Spain at a similar per capita basis as France or Japan (both
with an 2007 estimated at $33,800). The Spanish economy grew 3,8%
in 2007 outpacing all G7 members and all the big EU economies for
the 3rd consecutive year.
The centre-right government of former prime minister José
María Aznar worked successfully to gain admission to the
group of countries launching the euro in 1999. Unemployment stood
at 7.6% in October 2006, a rate that compares favorably to many
other European countries, and which is a marked improvement over
rates that exceeded 20% in the early 1990s. Perennial weak points
of Spain's economy include high inflation, a large underground
economy, and an education system which OECD reports place among
the poorest for developed countries, together with the United States
and UK. Nevertheless, it is expected that the Spanish economy
will continue growing above the EU average based on the strengthening
of industry, the growth of the global economy and increasing trade
with Latin America and Asia.
The Spanish economy is credited for having avoided the virtual
zero growth rate of some of its largest partners in the EU.
In fact, the country's economy has created more than half of all
the new jobs in the European Union over the five years ending 2005.
The Spanish economy has thus been regarded lately as one of the
most dynamic within the EU, attracting significant amounts of foreign
investment. During the last four decades the Spanish tourism
industry has grown to become the second biggest in the world,
worth approximately 40 billion Euros in 2006 More recently,
the Spanish economy has benefited greatly from the global real estate
boom, with construction representing 16% of GDP and 12% of employment.
According to calculations by the German newspaper Die Welt, Spain
is on pace to overtake countries like Germany in per capita income
by 2011. However, the downside of the real estate boom has been
a corresponding rise in the levels of personal debt; as prospective
homeowners struggle to meet asking prices, the average level of
household debt has tripled in less than a decade. Among lower income
groups, the median ratio of indebtedness to income was 125% in 2005.
Main article: Demography of Spain
Geographical distribution of the Spanish population in 2007In 2007
Spain officially reached 45.2 million people registered
at the Padrón municipal, an official record analogous to
the British Register office. Spain's population density, at 89.6/km²
(231/sq. mile), is lower than that of most Western European countries
and its distribution along the country is very unequal. With the
exception of the region surrounding the capital, Madrid, the most
populated areas lie around the coast.
The population of Spain doubled during the twentieth century, due
to the spectacular demographic boom by the 60's and early 70's.
The pattern of growth was extremely uneven due to large-scale internal
migration from the rural interior to the industrial cities during
the 60's and 70's. No fewer than eleven of Spain's fifty provinces
saw an absolute decline in population over the century. Then, after
the birth rate plunged in the 80's and Spain's population became
stalled, a new population increase started based initially in the
return of many Spanish who emigrated to other European countries
during the 70's and, more recently, it has been boosted by the large
figures of foreign immigrants, mostly from Latin America (38.75%),
Eastern Europe (16.33%), North Africa (14.99%) and Sub-Saharan Africa
(4.08%). In 2005, Spain instituted a 3-month amnesty program
through which certain hitherto undocumented aliens were granted
legal residency. Also some important pockets of population coming
from other countries in the European Union are found (20.77% of
the foreign residents), specially along the Mediterranean costas
and Balearic islands, where many choose to live their retirement
or even telework. These are mostly English, French, German, and
Dutch from fellow EU countries and, from outside the EU, Norwegian.
Immigration in Spain
Main article: Immigration to Spain
According to the Spanish government there were 4.5 million foreign
residents in Spain in 2007; independent estimates put the figure
at 4.8 million people, or 11% of the total population (Red Cross,
World Disasters Report 2006). According to residence permit data
for 2005, about 500,000 were Moroccan, another 500,000 were Ecuadorian,
more than 200,000 were Romanian, and 260,000 were Colombian. Other
important foreign communities are British (8.09%), French (8.03%),
Argentine (6.10%), German (5.58%) and Bolivian (2.63%). In 2005,
a regularisation programme increased the legal immigrant population
by 700,000 people. Since 2000, Spain has experienced high population
growth as a result of immigration flows, despite a birth rate that
is only half the replacement level. This sudden and ongoing inflow
of immigrants, particularly those arriving clandestinely by sea,
has caused noticeable social tension.
Based on 2004 figures, within the EU Spain has the second highest
immigration rate in percentage terms (after Cyprus), but by a great
margin the highest in actual numbers of immigrants.
There are a number of reasons to explain the high level of immigration,
including Spain's cultural ties with Latin America, its geographical
position, the porosity of its borders, the large size of its underground
economy and the strength of the agricultural and construction sectors
which demand more low cost labour than can be offered by the national
workforce. Another statistically significant factor is the large
number of residents of the EU origin typically retiring to Spain's
Mediterranean coast. In fact, Spain has been Europe's largest absorber
of migrants for the past six years, with its immigrant population
increasing fourfold as 2.8 million people have arrived. According
to the Financial Times, Spain is the most favoured destination for
West Europeans considering a move from their own country and seeking
jobs elsewhere in the EU. (see Immigration to Spain).
Spain has a number of descendants of populations from former colonies
(especially Equatorial Guinea) and immigrants from several Sub-Saharan
and Caribbean countries have been recently settling in Spain. There
are also sizeable numbers of Asian immigrants, most of whom are
of Chinese, Filipino, Middle Eastern, Pakistani and Indian origins;
the population of Spaniards of Latin American descent is sizeable
as well and a fast growing segment. Other growing groups are Britons
(761,000 in 2006), Germans and other immigrants from western and
Jewish emigration to Spain is primarily the result of three events:
after the 19th century, some Jews established themselves in Spain
as a result of migration from what was formerly Spanish Morocco,
the flight of Jews escaping from Nazi repression, and immigration
from Argentina. Spanish law allows Sephardi Jews to claim Spanish
The arrival of the Gitanos (Gypsies), a Roma people group, began
in the 16th century.
Most populous urban regions
See also: List of cities in Spain
Main articles: Spanish people and Nationalisms and regionalisms
The Spanish Constitution of 1978, in its second article, recognises
historic entities ("nationalities", a carefully chosen
word in order to avoid the more politically charged "nations")
and regions, within the context of the Spanish nation. For some
people, Spain's identity consists more of an overlap of different
regional identities than of a sole Spanish identity. Indeed, some
of the regional identities may even conflict with the Spanish one.
It is this last feature of "shared identity" between
the more local level or Autonomous Community and the Spanish level
which makes the identity question in Spain complex and far from
Main article: Languages of Spain
The languages of Spain (simplified) Spanish, official, spoken in
all the territory
Catalan, co-official, except in La Franja and Carxe
Basque, co-official, in Basque Country and Navarre
Galician, co-official, except in Asturias and Castile and Leon Asturian,
unofficial, but adopted as co-official in some municipalities of
Aranese, co-official (dialect of Occitan)
"Castilian", most commonly known in the English language
as "Spanish" (though called both español and castellano
in Spanish) is the official language in all Spain. Nonetheless,
other languages, proper to its constituent communities, have been
declared co-official with Spanish in the territories in which they
are spoken, namely:
Aranese (aranés) (a variant of Occitan), in Catalonia;
Basque (euskera) in the Basque Country;
Catalan (català) in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and in
the Valencian Community, known in the latter officially as Valencian;
Galician (galego) in Galicia.
Spain's legacy: a map of the Hispanophone worldAsturian (asturianu),
though not official, is "protected" in Asturias. There
are also some other surviving Romance minority languages such as
Astur-Leonese, Leonese, Extremaduran, Cantabrian, Aragonese, and
others. Unlike Aranese, Basque, Catalan/Valencian and Galician,
these do not have any official status because of their very small
number of speakers, lack of both a historic written tradition and
self-awareness as a language which has resulted in a lack of popular
demand for their recognition in the regions in which they are spoken.
In the tourist areas of the Mediterranean coast and the islands,
English and German are widely spoken by tourists, foreign residents,
and tourism workers.
Main article: Religion in Spain
Although Chapter 2 of the Constitution states that no religion shall
have a state character, Roman Catholicism is the main religion in
the country. About 76% of Spaniards identify themselves as Catholics,
about 2% identify with another religious faith, and about 19% identify
themselves as non-religious. A study conducted in October 2006 by
the Spanish Centre of Sociological Investigations shows that
of the 76% of Spaniards who identify themselves as Catholics or
with another religious faith, 54% hardly ever or never go to church,
15% go to church a few times per year, 10% a few times per month
and 19% attend church every Sunday or multiple times per week. About
22% of the entire Spanish population attends religious services
at least once per month.
Barcelona CathedralEvidence of the secular nature of contemporary
Spain can be seen in the widespread support for the legalisation
of same-sex marriage in Spain — over 66% of Spaniards support
gay marriage according to a 2004 study by the Centre of Sociological
Investigations. Indeed, in June 2005 a bill was passed by 187
votes to 147 to allow gay marriage, making Spain the third country
in the European Union to allow same-sex couples to marry after Belgium
and the Netherlands.
Protestant denominations are also present, all of them with less
than 50,000 members. Evangelism has been better received among Gypsies
than among the general population; pastors have integrated flamenco
music in their liturgy. Taken together, all self-described "Evangelicals"
slightly surpass Jehovah's Witnesses (105,000) in number. While
not Protestants, about 35,000 residents of Spain are members of
the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).
The recent waves of immigration have led to an increasing number
of Muslims, who have about 1 million members. Muslims had not lived
in Spain for centuries; however, colonial expansion in Northern
and Western Africa gave some number of residents in the Spanish
Morocco and the Western Sahara full citizenship. Presently, Islam
is the second largest religion in Spain, accounting for approximately
2.5% of the total population.
Along with these waves of immigration, a significant number of
Latin American people, who tend to be strong Catholic practitioners,
have helped the Catholic Church to recover.
Judaism was practically non-existent until the 19th century, when
Jews were again permitted to enter the country. Currently there
are around 50,000 Jews in Spain, all arrivals in the past century
and accounting for less than 1% of the total number of inhabitants.
Spain is believed to have been about 8% Jewish on the eve of the
Spanish Inquisition.
Further information: History of the Jews in Spain
The Hemispheric at the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències,
ValenciaMain articles: Culture of Spain and UNESCO World Heritage
Sites in Spain
Spain is known for its culturally diverse heritage, having been
influenced by many nations and peoples throughout its history. Spanish
culture has its origins in the Iberian, Celtiberian, Latin, Visigothic,
Roman Catholic, and Islamic cultures. The definition of a national
Spanish culture has been characterized by tension between the centralized
state (dominated in recent centuries by Castile) and numerous regions
and minority peoples. In addition, the history of the nation and
its Mediterranean and Atlantic environment have played strong roles
in shaping its culture.
After Italy, Spain is the country with the second highest number
of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, with a total of 40.
Education in Spain
Main article: Education in Spain
State Education in Spain is free and compulsory from the age of
6 to 16. The current education system is called LOGSE (Ley de Ordenación
General del Sistema Educativo).
Main article: Real Academia Española
The Real Academia Española (Spanish for "Royal Spanish
Academy"; RAE) is the institution responsible for regulating
the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, but is affiliated with
national language academies in 21 Spanish-speaking nations through
the Association of Spanish Language Academies. Its emblem is a fiery
crucible, and its motto is Limpia, fija y da esplendor ("It
cleans, sets, and gives splendor").
"Las Meninas" by Diego Velázquez, 1656–57Main
article: Spanish art
Spanish art is an important and influential type of art in Europe.
Spanish art is the name given to the artistic disciplines and works
developed in Spain throughout time, and those by Spanish authors
world-wide. Due to historical, geographical and generational diversity,
Spanish art has known a great number of influences. The Moorish
heritage in Spain, especially in Andalusia, is still evident today
in cities like Córdoba, Seville, and Granada. European influences
include Italy, Germany and France, especially during the Baroque
and Neoclassical periods.
Main article: Spanish literature
The Cantar de Mio Cid is the oldest preserved Spanish cantar de
gestaSpanish literature is the name given to the literary works
written in Spain throughout time, and those by Spanish authors world-wide.
Due to historic, geographic and generational diversity, Spanish
literature has known a great number of influences and it is very
diverse. Some major movements can be identified within it.
Main article: Spanish architecture
The Alhambra. View of the Court of the LionsSpanish architecture
refers to architecture carried out during any era in what is now
modern-day Spain, and by Spanish architects worldwide. The term
includes buildings within the current geographical limits of Spain
before this name was given to those territories (whether they were
called Hispania, Al-Andalus, or were formed of several Christian
kingdoms). Due to its historical and geographical diversity, Spanish
architecture has drawn from a host of influences.
For example, Córdoba was established as the cultural Capital
of its time under the Umayyad dynasty. Simultaneously, the Christian
kingdoms gradually emerged and developed their own styles, at first
mostly isolated from European architectural influences, and later
integrated into Romanesque and Gothic streams, they reached an extraordinary
peak with numerous samples along the whole territory. The Mudéjar
style, from the 12th to 17th centuries, was characterised by the
blending of cultural European and Arabic influences.
The arrival of Modernism in the academic arena produced figures
such as Gaudí and much of the architecture of the twentieth
century. The International style was led by groups like GATEPAC.
Spain is currently experiencing a revolution in contemporary architecture
and Spanish architects like Rafael Moneo, Santiago Calatrava, Ricardo
Bofill as well as many others have gained worldwide renown.
Music of Spain
Main article: Music of Spain
Spanish music is often considered abroad to be synonymous with flamenco,
an Andalusian musical genre, which, contrary to popular belief,
is not widespread outside that region. Various regional styles of
folk music abound in Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Castile, the Basque
Country, Galicia and Asturias. Pop, rock, hip hop and heavy metal
are also popular.
Cinema of Spain
Main article: Cinema of Spain
In recent years, Spanish cinema has achieved high marks of recognition
as a result of its creative and technical excellence. In the long
history of Spanish cinema, the great filmmaker Luis Buñuel
was the first to achieve universal recognition, followed by Pedro
Almodóvar in the 1980s. Spanish cinema has also seen international
success over the years with films by directors like Segundo de Chomón,
Florián Rey, Luis García Berlanga, Carlos Saura, Julio
Medem and Alejandro Amenábar.
Main article: Spanish cuisine
Spanish cuisine consists of a great variety of dishes which stem
from differences in geography, culture and climate. It is heavily
influenced by seafood available from the waters that surround the
country, and reflects the country's deep Mediterranean roots. Spain's
extensive history with many cultural influences has led to a unique
Sports in Spain
Main article: Sport in Spain
Sport in Spain has been dominated by football since the early 20th
century. Basketball, tennis, cycling, handball, motorcycling and,
lately, Formula 1 are also important due to presence of Spanish
champions in all these disciplines. Today, Spain is a major world
sports power, especially since the 1992 Summer Olympics that were
hosted in Barcelona and promoted a great variety of sports in the
country. The tourism industry has led to an improvement in sports
infrastructure, especially for water sports, golf and skiing.
Public holidays in Spain
Main article: Public holidays in Spain
Public holidays celebrated in Spain include a mix of religious (Roman
Catholic), national and regional observances. Each municipality
is allowed to declare a maximum of 14 public holidays per year;
up to nine of these are chosen by the national government and at
least two are chosen locally.
Reporters Without Borders world-wide press freedom index 2002: Rank
40 out of 139 countries.
The Economist Intelligence Units: Rank 10 out of 111 countries (ahead
of countries like the United States of America, the United Kingdom,
Nation Master's list by economic importance: Rank 9 of 25 countries,
only surpassed by G-8 members.
Nation Master's list by technological achievement: Rank 18 of 68