Kingdom of Spain: Wikis


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Kingdom of Spain
Reino de España
Flag Coat of arms
Motto"Plus Ultra"  (Latin)
"Further Beyond"
Anthem"Marcha Real"  (Spanish)[note 1]
"Royal March"
Location of  Spain  (dark green)

– on the European continent  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  —  [Legend]

(and largest city)
40°26′N 3°42′W / 40.433°N 3.7°W / 40.433; -3.7
Official language(s) Spanish[note 2]
Recognised regional languages Aranese, Basque, Catalan/Valencian and Galician
Ethnic groups  88.0% Spanish, 12.0% (Romanian, Moroccan, Ecuadorian) other (2009)[1]
Demonym Spanish, Spaniard
Government Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy
 -  King Juan Carlos I
 -  Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE)
Formation 15th century 
 -    Dynastic 1479 
 -    de facto 1516 
 -    de jure 1716 
 -    Constitutional democracy 1978 
EU accession 1 January 1986
 -  Total 504,030 km2 (51st)
195,364 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.04
 -  2009 estimate 46,661,950[2] (27th)
 -  Density 90 people/km2 (106th)
231/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $1.395 trillion[3] (12th)
 -  Per capita $30,588[3] (28th)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $1.602 trillion[3] (9th)
 -  Per capita $35,116[3] (25th)
Gini (2005) 32[4] 
HDI (2007) 0.955 (very high) (15th)
Currency Euro ()[note 3] (EUR)
Time zone CET[note 4] (UTC+1)
 -  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Date formats (Spanish; CE)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .es[note 5]
Calling code 34

Spain (pronounced /ˈspeɪn/ ( listen) spayn; Spanish: España, pronounced [esˈpaɲa]  ( listen)), officially the Kingdom of Spain (Spanish: Reino de España), is a member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula.[note 6] Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the northwest and west by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal.

Spanish territory also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast, and two autonomous cities in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, that border Morocco. With an area of 504,030 km², Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union after France. Since January 1, 2010, Spain has held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Because of its location, the territory of Spain was subject to many external influences, often simultaneously, since prehistoric times and through the dawn of Spain as a country. Conversely, the country itself has been an important source of influence to other regions, chiefly during the Modern Era, when it became a global empire that has left a legacy of over 400 million Spanish speakers today—making it the world's second most spoken language by native speakers.

Spain is a democracy organised in the form of a parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy. It is a developed country with the ninth or tenth largest economy in the world by nominal GDP, and very high living standards (15th highest Human Development Index), including the seventeenth-highest quality of life index rating in the world[5]. It is a member of the United Nations, European Union, NATO, OECD, and WTO.


The true origins of the name España and its cognates "Spain" and "Spanish" are disputed. The ancient Roman name for Iberia, Hispania, may derive from poetic use of the term Hesperia to refer to Spain, reflecting Greek perception of Italy as a "western land" or "land of the setting sun" (Hesperia) and Spain, being still further west, as Hesperia ultima.[6]

It may also be a derivation of the Punic Ispanihad meaning "land of rabbits" or "edge", a reference to Spain's location at the end of the Mediterranean; Roman coins struck in the region from the reign of Hadrian show a female figure with a rabbit at her feet.[7] There are also claims that España derives from the Basque word Ezpanna meaning "edge" or "border", another reference to the fact that the Iberian peninsula constitutes the southwest of the European continent.[6]

The humanist Antonio de Nebrija proposed that the word Hispania evolved from the Iberian word Hispalis, meaning "city of the western world". According to a new research by Jesús Luis Cunchillos published in 2000 with the name of Gramática fenicia elemental (Basic phoenician grammar), the root of the term span is spy, meaning "to forge metals". Therefore i-spn-ya would mean "the land where metals are forged".[8]


Llívia, Catalonia

At 504,782 km2 (194,897 sq mi), Spain is the world's 51st-largest country. It is some 47,000 km2 (18,000 sq mi) smaller than France and 81,000 km2 (31,000 sq mi) larger than the U.S. state of California.

El Sardinero, Santander, Cantabria

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. Along the Pyrenees in Catalonia, a small exclave town called Llívia is surrounded by France. The little Pheasant Island in the River Bidasoa is a Spanish-French condominium.

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.



Spain's climatic areas.

Due to Spain's geographical situation and orographic conditions, the climate is extremely diverse; discounting the mountain climate, it can be roughly divided into five areas:

The rain in Spain does not stay mainly in the plain. It falls mainly in the northern mountains.[9]


After a long and hard conquest, the Iberian Peninsula became a region of the Roman Empire known as Hispania. During the early Middle Ages it came under Germanic rule but later was conquered by Muslim invaders. Through a very long and fitful process, the Christian kingdoms in the north gradually rolled back Muslim rule, finally extinguishing its last remnant in Granada in 1492, the same year Columbus reached the Americas. A global empire began which saw Spain become the strongest kingdom in Europe and the leading world power in the 16th century and first half of the 17th century.

Continued wars and other problems however, eventually led to a diminished status. The French invasion of Spain in the early 19th century led to chaos, triggering independence movements that tore apart most of the empire and left the country politically unstable. In the 20th century it suffered a devastating civil war and came under the rule of an authoritarian government, leading to years of stagnation, but finishing in an impressive economic surge. Democracy was restored in 1978 in the form of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. In 1986, Spain joined the European Union; experiencing a cultural renaissance and steady economic growth.

Prehistory and pre-Roman peoples

Archaeological research at Atapuerca indicates the Iberian Peninsula was populated by hominids 1.2 million years ago.[11] Modern humans first arrived in Iberia, from the north on foot, about 32,000 years ago.[12] 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 by cro-magnons.[10]

Archaeological and genetic evidence strongly suggests that the Iberian Peninsula acted as one of three major refugia from which northern Europe was repopulated following the end of the last ice 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—known as Celtiberian—was present. 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) in the location of present-day triangle between Seville, Huelva and Jerez. 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.[13]

Roman Empire and the Gothic Kingdom

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; this lasted over 500 years, bound together by law, language, and the Roman road.[14]

The base Celt and Iberian population remained in various stages of Romanisation, and local leaders were admitted into the Roman aristocratic class.[note 7][13] 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.[note 8]

Christianity was introduced into Hispania in the 1st century CE and it became popular in the cities in the 2nd century CE.[13] Most of Spain's present languages and religion, and the basis of its laws, originate from this period.[14] Rome's loss of jurisdiction in Hispania began in 409, when the Germanic Suevi and Vandals, together with the Sarmatian Alans crossed the Rhine and ravaged Gaul until the Visigoths drove them into Iberia that same year. The Suevi established a kingdom in what is today modern Galicia and northern Portugal.

The Alans' allies, the Hasdingi Vandals, established a kingdom in Gallaecia, too, occupying largely the same region but extending farther south to the Duero river. The Silingi Vandals occupied the region that still bears a form of their name – Vandalusia, modern Andalusia, in Spain. The Byzantines established an enclave, Spania, in the south, with the intention of reviving the Roman empire throughout Iberia. Eventually, however, Hispania was reunited under Visigothic rule.

Muslim Iberia

In the 8th century, nearly all of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered (711–718) by Muslim armies (see Moors) from North Africa. These conquests were part of the expansion of the Umayyad Islamic Empire.[note 9] Only a number of areas in the mountainous north of the Iberian Peninsula managed to resist the initial invasion and they were the starters of the Reconquista. These areas roughly correspond to modern Asturias, Cantabria, Navarre, northern Aragon and northern Catalonia.

Under 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.[15] Conversion to Islam proceeded at a steadily increasing pace. The muladies (Muslims of ethnic Iberian origin) are believed to have comprised the majority of the population of Al-Andalus by the end of the 10th century.[16][17]

La Giralda, the bell tower of Seville Cathedral.

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.[note 10] Over time, large Moorish populations became established, especially in the Guadalquivir River valley, the coastal plain of Valencia, the Ebro River valley and (towards the end of this period) in the mountainous region of Granada.[17]

Córdoba, the capital of the caliphate, was the largest, richest and most sophisticated city in western Europe.[note 11] Mediterranean trade and cultural exchange flourished. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim and Jewish scholars played an important 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.[17] 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.[17] 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, and saw a revival in Muslim fortunes, but after more than a century of successes, including invading the north of the country, finally fell to the increasing military strength of a Christian alliance.[13]

Fall of Muslim rule and unification

Ávila city walls

The Reconquista ("Reconquest") is the centuries-long period of expansion of Spain's Christian kingdoms; Reconquista is viewed as beginning with the battle of Covadonga in 722 and being concurrent with the period of Muslim rule on the Iberian peninsula. The Christian army's victory over the Muslim forces led to the creation of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias along the northern coastal mountains. 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 valleys 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.[18]

In 842, another group of Germanic tribe, Vikings or Norsemen, invaded the peninsula. They attacked Cadiz in 844.

The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing Taifa kingdoms helped the expanding Christian kingdoms. The capture of Toledo in 1085 was soon followed by the completion of the Christian powers reconquest of Spain's northern half.[note 12] 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.[19]

Marinid invasions from north Africa in the 13th and 14th centuries failed to re-establish Muslim rule. Also in the 13th century, the Crown of Aragon, formed by Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands expanded its reach across the Mediterranean to Sicily.[20] Around this time the universities of Palencia (1212/1263) and Salamanca (1218/1254) were established; among the earliest in Europe. The Black Death of 1348 and 1349 devastated Spain.[21]

In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were united by the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. 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 Iberia. The Treaty of Granada guaranteed religious tolerance toward Muslims.[22]

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 to Catholicism or face expulsion from Spanish territories during the Spanish Inquisition.[23] Not long after, Muslims were also expelled under the same conditions.[note 13][24]

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 commonly used to designate the whole of the two kingdoms.[24] With their wide-ranging political, legal, religious and military reforms, Spain emerged as the first world power.

Imperial Spain

Spanish Empire

The unification of the crowns of Aragon and Castile laid the basis for modern Spain and the Spanish Empire.[25] Spain was Europe's leading power throughout the 16th century and most of the 17th century, a position reinforced by trade and wealth from colonial possessions. Spain reached its apogee during the reigns of the first two Spanish HabsburgsCharles I (1516–1556) and Philip II (1556–1598). This period also saw the Italian Wars, the revolt of the comuneros, the Dutch revolt, the Morisco revolt, clashes with the Ottomans, the Anglo-Spanish war and wars with France.[26]

The Spanish Empire expanded to include great parts of the Americas, islands in the Asia-Pacific area, areas of Italy, cities in Northern Africa, as well as parts of what are now France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It was the first empire about which it was said that the sun never 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 beginnings of European colonialism. Along with the arrival of precious metals,[note 14] spices, luxuries, and new agricultural plants, Spanish and other explorers brought back knowledge from the New World, playing a leading part in transforming European understanding of the globe.[27] The cultural efflorescence witnessed is now referred to as the Spanish Golden Age. The rise of humanism, the Protestant Reformation and new geographical discoveries raised issues addressed by the influential intellectual movement now known as the School of Salamanca.

A sixteenth century Spanish galleon.

In the late 16th century and first half of the 17th century, Spain was confronted by unrelenting challenges from all sides. 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.[note 15] This at a time when Spain was often at war with France in Italy and elsewhere.

The Protestant Reformation schism from the Catholic Church dragged the kingdom ever more deeply into the mire of religiously charged wars. The result was a country forced into ever expanding military efforts across Europe and in the Mediterranean.[28] During the 17th century, the Spanish Catholic church kept nearly 20% of the land in the kingdom, and the Castilian clergy were as much as 10% of adult males.[29]

By the middle decades of a war- and plague-ridden 17th century Europe (see Great Plague of Seville),[29] the effects of the strain began to show.[note 16] 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 most 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 separation of Portugal (with whom it had been united in a personal union of the crowns from 1580 to 1640) and the Netherlands, and eventually suffered some serious military reverses to France in the latter stages of the immensely destructive, Europe-wide Thirty Years War.[30]

El Escorial, built in Philip II's reign.

In the latter half of the 17th century, Spain went into a gradual relative decline, during which it surrendered a number of small territories to France. However Spain maintained and enlarged its vast overseas empire, which remained intact until the beginning of the 19th century.

The decline culminated in a controversy over succession to the throne which consumed the first years of the 18th century. The War of Spanish Succession, 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.[31]

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 the crowns of Castile and Aragon into a single state, abolishing many of the regional privileges (fueros).[32]

The 18th century saw a gradual recovery and an 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. Military assistance for the rebellious British colonies in the American War of Independence improved Spain's international standing.[33]

Napoleonic rule and its consequences

Second of May, 1808: the people revolt against the Napoleonic regime

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.

This foreign puppet monarch was widely regarded with scorn. The 2nd of May 1808 revolt, was one of many nationalist uprisings against the Napoleonic regime across the country.[34] These revolts marked the beginning of what is known to the Spanish as the War of Independence, and to the British as the Peninsular War.[35] Napoleon was forced to intervene personally, defeating several badly coordinated Spanish armies and forcing a British army to retreat. However, further military action by Spanish guerrillas, armies and Wellington's British-Portuguese forces, combined with Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia, led to the ousting of the French imperial armies from Spain in 1814, and the return of King Ferdinand VII.[36]

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.

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, fought in the Spring of 1898, did not last long. "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.

20th century

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.

Evacuees give the republican salute.

The 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 and International Brigades, including the American Abraham Lincoln Brigade, but it was not supported officially 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.[note 17] The conflict had claimed the lives of over 500,000 people[37] and had caused the flight of up to a half-million citizens.[38]

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 create 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 resumed the long interrupted transition towards a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector and a high degree of human development.

With Franco's death in November 1975, Juan Carlos assumed the position of King of Spain and head of state in accordance with the law. 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 separatist group ETA, which was formed during Franco's rule.

On 23 February 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.

On 30 May 1982, NATO gained a new member when, following a referendum, the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance. Also in 1982, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) came to power, representing the return of a left-wing government after 43 years. In 1986, Spain joined the European Community; what has now 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 separatist and 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 Basque Autonomous government does not endorse ETA's nationalist violence, which has caused over 800 deaths in the past 40 years.

21st century

A Spanish issued euro

On 1 January 2002, Spain ceased to use the peseta as currency replacing it with the euro, which it shares with 15 other countries in the Eurozone. Spain has also seen strong economic growth, well above the EU average, but well publicised concerns issued by many economic commentators at the height of the boom that the extraordinary property prices and high foreign trade deficits of the boom were likely to lead to a painful economic collapse were confirmed by a severe property led recession that struck the country in 2008/9.[39]

A series of bombs exploded in commuter trains in Madrid, Spain on 11 March 2004. After a five month trial in 2007 it was concluded the bombings were perpetrated by a local Islamist militant group inspired by al-Qaeda.[40] The bombings killed 191 people and wounded more than 1800, and the intention of the perpetrators may have been to influence the outcome of the Spanish general election, held three days later.[41]

Though initial suspicions 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 political controversy, with the main competing parties PP and PSOE exchanging accusations over the handling of the aftermath.[42] At the 14 March elections, PSOE, led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, obtained a large plurality, enough to form a new cabinet with Rodríguez Zapatero as the new Presidente del Gobierno or prime minister of Spain, thus succeeding the former PP administration.[43]



José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, President of the Government.

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. Impatient with the pace of democratic political reforms in 1976 and 1977, Spain's new King Juan Carlos, known for his formidable personality, dismissed Carlos Arias Navarro and appointed the reformer Adolfo Suárez as President of the Government.[44][45] The resulting 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.[46] After a national a referendum on 6 December 1978, 88% of voters approved of the new constitution.

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 as well as that Spain has today no official religion but all are free to practice and believe as they wish.

Branches of government

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), nominated and appointed by the monarch and confirmed by the Congress of Deputies following legislative elections. By political custom established by King Juan Carlos since the ratification of the 1978 Constitution, the king's nominees have all been from parties who maintain a plurality of seats in the Congress.

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.

The 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 with Switzerland, Germany and Belgium;[47] 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).

Gender equality in Government

As of November 2009, the Government of Spain keeps a balanced gender equality ratio. Nine out of the 18 members of the Government are women. Under the administration of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain has been described as being "at the vanguard" in gender equality issues and also that "[n]o other modern, democratic, administration outside Scandinavia has taken more steps to place gender issues at the centre of government".[48] The Spanish administration has also promoted gender-based positive discrimination by approving gender equality legislation in 2007 aimed to provide equality between genders in the Spanish political and economic life (Gender Equality Act).[49][50] However, in the legislative branch, only 127 out of the 350 members of the Congress are women (36,3%). Nowadays, it positions Spain as the 13th country with more women in its lower house. In the Senate, the ratio is even lower, since there are only 79 women out of 263 (30.0%).[51] The Gender Empowerment Measure of Spain in the United Nations Human Development Report is 0.794, the 12th in the world.[52]

Administrative divisions

The basic institutional law of the autonomous community is the Statute of Autonomy. The Statutes of Autonomy establish the denomination of the community according to its historical identity, the limits of their territories, the name and organization of the institutions of government and the rights they enjoy according the constitution.[53]

The government of all autonomous communities must be based on a division of powers comprising:

  • a Legislative Assembly whose members must be elected by universal suffrage according to the system of proportional representation and in which all areas that integrate the territory are fairly represented;
  • a Government Council, with executive and administrative functions headed by a president, elected by the Legislative Assembly and nominated by the King of Spain;
  • a Supreme Court of Justice, under the Supreme Court of the State, which head the judicial organization within the autonomous community.

Besides Andalusia, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia, which identified themselves as nationalities, other communities have also taken that denomination in accordance to their historical regional identity, such as the Valencian Community,[54] the Canary Islands,[55] the Balearic Islands,[56] and Aragon.[57]

The autonomous communities have wide legislative and executive autonomy, with their own parliaments and regional governments. The distribution of powers may be different for every community, as laid out in their Statutes of Autonomy. There used to be a clear de facto distinction between so called "historic" communities (Basque Country, Catalonia, Galicia, Andalusia) and the rest. The "historic" ones initially received more functions, including the ability of the regional presidents to choose the timing of the regional elections (as long as they happen no more than four years apart). As another example, the Basque Country, Navarre and Catalonia have full-range police forces of their own: Ertzaintza in the Basque Country, Policía Foral in Navarre and Mossos d'Esquadra in Catalonia. Other communities have a more limited force or none at all (like the Policía Autónoma Andaluza[58] in Andalusia or the BESCAM in Madrid). However, the recent amendments made to their respective Statute of Autonomy by a series of "ordinary" Autonomous Communities such as the Valencian Community or Aragon have quite dilluted this original de facto distinction.


Autonomous communities are composed of provinces (provincias), which serve as the territorial building blocks for the former. In turn, provinces are composed of municipalities (municipios). The existence of these two subdivisions is granted and protected by the constitution, not necessarily by the Statutes of Autonomy themselves. Municipalities are granted autonomy to manage their internal affairs, and provinces are the territorial divisions designed to carry out the activities of the State.[59]

The current fifty province structure is based—with minor changes—on the one created in 1833 by Javier de Burgos. The communities of Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja, the Balearic Islands, Madrid, Murcia and Navarre, having been granted autonomy as single-provinces for historical reasons, are counted as provinces as well.

Foreign relations

Spain is a founding member of the European Union in 1993 and signed the Maastricht Treaty.

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 relations.

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 for formerly non-democratic South American states, as shown in the many trips that Spain's King and Prime Ministers have made to the region.

Territorial disputes

Territory claimed by Spain

Spain claims Gibraltar, a 6 square km Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom in the southernmost part of the Iberian Peninsula. Then a Spanish town, it was conquered by an Anglo-Dutch force in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession on behalf of the Archduke Charles, pretender to the Spanish throne.

The legal situation concerning Gibraltar was settled in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht, in which Spain ceded the territory in perpetuity to the British Crown[60] stating that, should the British abandon this post, it would be offered to Spain first. Ever since the 1940s Spain has called for the return of Gibraltar. The overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians strongly oppose this, along with any proposal of shared sovereignty.[61] UN resolutions call on the United Kingdom and Spain, both EU members, to reach an agreement over the status of Gibraltar.[62][63]

However, the Spanish claim handles in a different way the Rock and the city of Gibraltar, ceded by the Treaty of Utrecht, and, on the other hand, the isthmus that connects the Rock to the Spanish mainland. Spain notes that this territory was not ceded by said Treaty and therefore asserts that the "occupation of the isthmus is ilegal and against the principles of the International Law".[64] The United Kingdom relies on de facto arguments of possession by prescription in relation to the isthmus,[65] as there has been "continuous possession [of the isthmus] over a long period".[66]

Spain claims the sovereignty over the Perejil Island, a small, uninhabited rocky islet located in the South shore of the Strait of Gibraltar. The island lies 250 meters just off the coast of Morocco, 8 km from Ceuta and 13.5 km from mainland Spain. Its sovereignty is disputed between Spain and Morocco. It was the subject of an armed incident between the two countries in 2002. The incident ended when both countries agreed to return to the status quo ante which existed prior to the Moroccan occupation of the island. The islet is now deserted and without any sign of sovereignty.

Spanish territories claimed by other countries

Morocco claims the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the plazas de soberanía islets off the northern coast of Africa. Portugal does not recognise Spain's sovereignty over the territory of Olivenza.

Emblem of 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.[67]

The Spanish Armed Forces are divided into three branches:[68]


Barcelona: finance center
The city of Valencia
Zaragoza on the Ebro, at sunset.

According to the World Bank, Spain's economy is the ninth largest worldwide and the fifth largest in Europe. It is also the third largest world investor.[69]

The centre-right government of former prime minister José María Aznar had 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 compared favorably to many other European countries, and especially with the early 1990s when it stood at over 20%. Perennial weak points of Spain's economy include high inflation,[70] a large underground economy,[71] and an education system which OECD reports place among the poorest for developed countries, together with the United States and UK.[72]

However, the property bubble that had begun building from 1997, fed by historically low interest rates and an immense surge in immigration, imploded in 2008, leading to a rapidly weakening economy and soaring unemployment. By the end of May 2009 unemployment had already reached 18.7% (37% for youths).[73][74]

The Spanish economy had been credited for having avoided the virtual zero growth rate of some of its largest partners in the EU.[75] In fact, the country's economy had created more than half of all the new jobs in the European Union over the five years ending 2005, a process that is rapidly being reversed.[76] The Spanish economy had been until recently regarded as one of the most dynamic within the EU, attracting significant amounts of foreign investment.[77] During the last four decades the Spanish tourism industry has grown to become the second biggest in the world, worth approximately 40 billion Euros, about 5% of GDP, in 2006.[78][79]

More recently, the Spanish economy had benefited greatly from the global real estate boom, with construction representing an astonishing 16% of GDP and 12% of employment in its final year.[78] According to calculations by the German newspaper Die Welt, Spain had been on course to overtake countries like Germany in per capita income by 2011.[80] However, the downside of the now defunct real estate boom was a corresponding rise in the levels of personal debt; as prospective homeowners had struggled to meet asking prices, the average level of household debt tripled in less than a decade. This placed especially great pressure upon lower to middle income groups; by 2005 the median ratio of indebtedness to income had grown to 125%, due primarily to expensive boom time mortgages that now often exceed the value of the property.[81]

In 2008/2009 the credit crunch and world recession manifested itself in Spain through a massive downturn in the property sector. Fortunately, Spain's banks and financial services avoided the more severe problems of their counterparts in the USA and UK, due mainly to a stringently enforced conservative financial regulatory regime. The Spanish financial authorities had not forgotten the country's own banking crisis of 1979 and an earlier real estate precipitated banking crisis of 1993. Indeed, Spain's largest bank, Banco Santander, took part in the UK government's bail-out of part of the UK banking sector.[82]

A European Commission forecast had predicted Spain would enter a recession by the end of 2008.[83] According to Spain’s Finance Minister, “Spain faces its deepest recession in half a century”.[84] Spain's government forecast the unemployment rate would rise to 16% in 2009. The ESADE business school predicts 20%.[85]


Spanish road system is mainly centralized, with 6 highways connecting Madrid to Basque Country, Catalonia, Valencia, Andalusia, Extremadura and Galicia. Additionally, there are highways along the Atlantic (Ferrol to Vigo), Cantabrian (Oviedo to San Sebastián) and Mediterranean (Girona to Almeria) coasts.

Spain currently has a total of 1272 km of high speed train linking Málaga, Seville, Madrid, Barcelona and Valladolid. Should the aims of the ambitious AVE program (Spanish high speed trains) be met, by 2020 Spain will have 7000 km (4300 mi) of high-speed trains linking almost all provincial cities to Madrid in less than 3 hours and Barcelona within 4 hours.

The busiest airport in Spain is the airport of Madrid (Barajas), with 50,8 million passengers in 2008, being the world's 11th busiest airport. The airport of Barcelona (El prat) is also important with 30 million passangers in 2008. Other airports are located in Zaragoza, Málaga, Valencia, Seville, Asturias (near Avilés) and Bilbao.

Spain aims to put 1 million electric cars on the road by 2014 as part of the government’s plan to save energy and boost energy efficiency.[86] The Minister of Industry Miguel Sebastian said that "the electric vehicle is the future and the engine of an industrial revolution." [87]


Geographical distribution of the Spanish population in 2008

Native Spaniards have a culture and ancestry similar to other south-western European peoples, particularly to neighbouring Portugal. There are clear historical and cultural connections with other Mediterranean peoples as well as with those of Atlantic, Western, and Northern Europe.

In 2008 the population of Spain officially reached 46 million people, as recorded by the Padrón municipal.[88] Spain's population density, at 91/km² (235/sq mi), is lower than that of most Western European countries and its distribution across 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 20th century, principally due to the spectacular demographic boom in the 1960s and early 1970s. The pattern of growth was extremely uneven, however, due to large-scale internal migration from the rural interior to the industrial cities during this period. Eleven of Spain's fifty provinces saw an absolute decline in population over the century.

After the birth rate plunged in the 1980s and Spain's population growth rate dropped, the population again trended upward, based initially on the return of many Spaniards who had emigrated to other European countries during the 1970s, and more recently, fueled by large numbers of immigrants, mostly from Latin America (39%), Eastern Europe (15%), North Africa (16%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (4%).[89] In 2005, Spain instituted a three-month amnesty program through which certain hitherto undocumented aliens were granted legal residency.

A sizeable portion of foreign residents in Spain (21%) also comes from other Western and Central European countries. These are mostly British, French, German, Dutch, and Norwegian. These people reside primarily on the Mediterranean costas and Balearic islands, where many are choosing to live their retirement or telework.

Substantial populations descended from Spanish colonists and immigrants exist in other parts of the world, most notably in Latin America. Beginning in the late 15th century, large numbers of Iberian colonists settled in what became Latin America and at present most white Latin Americans (about one-third of the total population) are of Spanish or Portuguese origin. In the 16th century perhaps 240,000 Spaniards emigrated, mostly to Peru and Mexico.[90] They were joined by 450,000 in the next century.[91] Between 1846 and 1932 nearly 5 million Spaniards went to the Americas, especially to Argentina and Brazil.[92] From 1960 to 1975, approximately two million Spaniards migrated to other Western European countries. During the same time period, about 300,000 people left Spain for Latin America.[93]

Metropolitan areas

Map of the main metropolitan areas
The city of Seville.
The city of Girona.
The city of Burgos.
The city of Toledo.
The city of Palma of Mallorca.
The city of Alicante.

See also List of metropolitan areas in Spain by population Source: ESPON, 2007[94]

Pos. City(ies) Region Prov. population
1 Madrid Madrid Madrid 5,263,000
2 Barcelona Catalonia Barcelona 4,251,000
3 Valencia Valencian Community Valencia 1,499,000
4 Seville Andalusia Seville 1,262,000
5 Bilbao Basque Country Biscay 947,000
6 Málaga Andalusia Málaga 844,000
7 OviedoGijón Asturias Asturias 844,000
8 AlicanteElche Valencian Community Alicante 793,000
9 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Canarias Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 640,000
10 Zaragoza Aragon Zaragoza 639,000

Main cities

Pos. City Region Prov. population
1 Madrid Madrid Madrid 3,213,271
2 Barcelona Catalonia Barcelona 1,615,908
3 Valencia Valencian Community Valencia 810,064
4 Seville Andalusia Seville 699,759
5 Zaragoza Aragon Zaragoza 666,129
6 Málaga Andalusia Málaga 566,447
7 Murcia Murcia Murcia 430,571
8 Palma de Mallorca Balearic Islands Palma de Mallorca 396,570
9 Las Palmas Canary Islands Las Palmas 381,123
10 Bilbao Basque Country Biscay 353,340


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. Distinct cultural groups within Spain include the Basques, Catalans, Galicians and Castilians, between others.[95]

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 univocal.

Minority groups

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, 760,000 in 2006, Germans and other immigrants from the rest of Europe.[96]

The arrival of the Gitanos, a Romani people, began in the 16th century; estimates of the Spanish Gitano population fluctuate around 700,000.[97] The Mercheros (also Quinquis) are a minority group, formerly nomadic, that share a lot of the way of life of Gitanos. Their origin is unclear.


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.[98] 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 sizeable foreign communities are British (8%), French (8%), Argentine (6%), German (6%) and Bolivian (3%). Spain has more than 200,000 migrants from West and Central Africa.[99] 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.[100]

Within the EU, Spain has the second highest immigration rate in percentage terms after Cyprus, but by a great margin, the highest in absolute numbers.[101] There are a number of reasons for 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 EU origin typically retiring to Spain's Mediterranean coast. In fact, Spain was Europe's largest absorber of migrants from 2002 to 2007, with its immigrant population more than doubling as 2.5 million people arrived.[102] 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.[103]

The number of immigrants in Spain has grown up from 500,000 people in 1996 to 5.2 million in 2008 out of a total population of 46 million.[104][105] In 2005 alone, a regularisation programme increased the legal immigrant population by 700,000 people.[106] Unemployment among immigrants has risen 67% in 2007. Spain's new Plan of Voluntary Return encourages immigrants to leave Spain for three years and offers up to €25,000, but so far, only 186 Ecuadorans have signed up to return.[107][108] In the program's first two months last year, just 1,400 immigrants took up the offer.[109]

The languages of Spain (simplified)
     Spanish official and spoken all over the country      Catalan/Valencian, co-official      Basque, co-official      Galician, co-official      Aranese, co-official (dialect of Occitan)      Asturian, recognised      Aragonese, unofficial      Leonese, unofficial      Extremaduran, unofficial      Fala, unofficial


Spanish (español or castellano, Castilian) is spoken all over the country and so is the only language with official status nationwide. But a number of regional languages have been declared co-official, along with Spanish, in the constituent communities where they are spoken:

There are also some other surviving Romance minority languages such as the Astur-Leonese group, which includes two languages in Spain: Asturian (officially called "Bable") which has protected status in Asturias, and Leonese, which is protected in Castile and León. Aragonese is vaguely recognized in Aragon.[111] Unlike Basque, Catalan/Valencian and Galician, these languages do not have any official status. This might be due to their very small number of speakers, a less significant written tradition in comparison to Catalan or Galician, and lower self-awareness of their speakers which traditionally meant lack of strong popular demand for their recognition in the regions in which they are spoken.[112]

In the North African Spanish city of Melilla, Tarifit is spoken by a significant part of the population. In the tourist areas of the Mediterranean coast and the islands, English and German are widely spoken by tourists, foreign residents, and tourism workers.


The Hemispheric at the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Valencia.

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 has the second highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, with a total of 40.[113]


Spain religiosity
Irreligion / others

Roman Catholicism has long been the main religion of Spain, though it no longer has official status. According to a July 2009 study by the Spanish Center of Sociological Research about 76% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholics, 2% other faith, and about 20% identify with no religion. Most Spaniards do not participate regularly in religious services. This same study shows that of the Spaniards who identify themselves as religious, 58% hardly ever or never go to church, 17% go to church some times a year, 9% some time per month and 15% every Sunday or multiple times per week.[114]

But according to a December 2006 study, 48% of the population declared a belief in a supreme being, while 41% described themselves as atheist or agnostic.[115] Altogether, about 22% of the entire Spanish population attends religious services at least once per month.[116] Though Spanish society has become considerably more secular in recent decades, the influx of Latin American immigrants, who tend to be strong Catholic practitioners, has helped the Catholic Church to recover.

Several Protestant denominations exist in the country, all of them with fewer 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. In addition, about 41,000 residents of Spain are members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[117]

A view of the Segovia Cathedral with its old walls.

The recent waves of immigration have also led to an increasing number of Muslims, who number approximately one million in Spain. Presently, Islam is the second largest religion in Spain, accounting for approximately 2.3% of the total population.[118] Since their expulsion in 1492, Muslims did not live in Spain for centuries. Late 19th-century colonial expansion in northwestern Africa gave some number of residents in the Spanish Morocco and the Western Sahara full citizenship. Their ranks have since been bolstered by recent immigration, especially from Morocco.

Judaism was practically non-existent in Spain from the 1492 expulsion until the 19th century, when Jews were again permitted to enter the country. Currently there are around 62,000 Jews in Spain, or less than 1% of the total population. Most are arrivals in the past century, while some are descendants of earlier Spanish Jews. Approximately 80,000 Jews are thought to have lived in Spain on the eve of the Spanish Inquisition.[119] This figure seems too low. Compare with estimates in the Wikipedia article, "Jews in Spain."


State education in Spain is free and compulsory from the age of 6 to 16. The current education system was established by an educational law of 1990, Ley Orgánica de Ordenación General del Sistema Educativo - Law on the General Organization of the Educational System.[120]


The term Spanish literature refers to literature written in the Spanish language, including literature composed in Spanish by writers not necessarily from Spain. For Spanish American literature specifically, see Latin American literature. Due to historic, geographic and generational diversity, Spanish literature has known a great number of influences and it is very diverse. Some major literary movements can be identified within it.

Miguel de Cervantes is probably Spain's most famous author and his Don Quixote is considered the most emblematic work in the canon of Spanish literature and a founding classic of Western literature.[121]

Institut d'Estudis Catalans

The Institut d'Estudis Catalans (Institute for Catalan Studies, or IEC, in Catalan) is an academic institution which seeks to undertake research and study into "all elements of Catalan culture." The IEC is known principally for its work in standardizing the Catalan language. The IEC is based in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. Officially the IEC provides standards for Catalonia proper, Northern Catalonia (located in France), the Balearic Islands, and the Principality of Andorra (the only country where Catalan is the sole official language). The Valencian Region south of Catalonia has its own language academy, the Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua. In an area known as the Franja de Ponent, the eastern edge of Aragon adjacent to Catalonia where Catalan is spoken, the rules are used de facto although Catalan is not an official language.

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").[122]


Artists from Spain have been highly influential in the development of various European artistic movements. 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.


Spanish cinema has achieved major international success including Oscars for recent films such as Pan's Labyrinth and Volver.[123] In the long history of Spanish cinema, the great filmmaker Luis Buñuel was the first to achieve world 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.


The Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid

Spanish 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.

Nativity facade of the Sagrada Família Temple in Barcelona

Due to its historical and geographical diversity, Spanish architecture has drawn from a host of influences. An important provincial city founded by the Romans and with an extensive Roman era infrastructure, Córdoba became the cultural capital, including fine Arabic style architecture, during the time of the Islamic Umayyad dynasty.[124] Later Arab style architecture continued to be developed under successive Islamic dynasties, ending with the Nasrid, which built its famed palace complex in Granada.

Simultaneously, the Christian kingdoms gradually emerged and developed their own styles; developing a pre-Romanesque style when for a while isolated from contemporary mainstream European architectural influences during the earlier Middle Ages, they later integrated the Romanesque and Gothic streams. There was then an extraordinary flowering of the gothic style that resulted in numerous instances being built throughout the entire territory. The Mudéjar style, from the 12th to 17th centuries, was developed by introducing Arab style motifs, patterns and elements into European architecture.

El Capricho, in the rural town of Comillas, Cantabria

The arrival of Modernism in the academic arena produced much of the architecture of the 20th century. An influential style centered in Barcelona, known as modernisme, produced a number of important architects, of which Gaudí is one. 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.


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.

In the field of classical music, Spain has produced a number of noted composers such as Isaac Albéniz, Manuel de Falla and Enrique Granados and singers and performers such as José Carreras, Montserrat Caballé, Plácido Domingo, Alicia de Larrocha, Alfredo Kraus, Pau Casals, Ricardo Viñes, José Iturbi, Pablo de Sarasate, Jordi Savall and Teresa Berganza. In Spain there are over forty professional orchestras, including the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona, Orquesta Nacional de España and the Orquesta Sinfonica de Madrid. Major opera houses include the Teatro Real,the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Teatro Arriaga and the El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía.


The cochinillo in a Spanish bar.

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 cuisine. In particular, three main divisions are easily identified:

  • Mediterranean Spain – all such coastal regions, from Catalonia to Andalusia: heavy use of seafood, such as pescaíto frito. Several cold soups like gazpacho and also many rice-based dishes like paella and arroz negro.
  • Inner Spain – Castile and Madrid: hot, thick soups such as the bread and garlic-based Castilian soup, along with substantious stews such as cocido madrileño. Food is traditionally conserved by salting, like Spanish ham, or immersed in olive oil, like Manchego cheese.
The Churros are famous desserts, usually eaten alongside hot chocolate.
  • Atlantic Spain – the whole Northern coast, from Galicia to Navarre: vegetable and fish-based stews like pote gallego and marmitako. Also, the lightly cured lacón ham.


Sport in Spain has been dominated by football since the early 20th century. Basketball, tennis, cycling, handball, motorcycling and, lately, Formula One 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

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.[125]

See also


  1. ^ Also serves as the Royal anthem
  2. ^ In some autonomous communities, Aranese (Occitan), Basque, Catalan/Valencian, and Galician are co-official languages. Bable and Leonese are officially recognised
  3. ^ Prior to 1999 (by law, 2002) : Spanish Peseta.
  4. ^ Except in the Canary Islands, which are in the WET time zone (UTC, UTC+1 in summer).
  5. ^ The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states. Also, the .cat domain is used in Catalan-speaking territories.
  6. ^ The Spanish constitution does not establish any official denomination of the country, even though España (Spain), Estado español (Spanish State) and Nación española (Spanish Nation) are used interchangeably. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in an Ordinance published in 1984, declared that "denominations "Spain" and "Kingdom of Spain" are equally valid to designate the Spain in international treaties..."
  7. ^ The latifundia (sing., latifundium), large estates controlled by the aristocracy, were superimposed on the existing Iberian landholding system.
  8. ^ The poets Martial, Quintilian and Lucan were also born in Hispania.
  9. ^ The Moorish armies continued northwards until they were defeated in central France at the Battle of Tours in 732.
  10. ^ The Berbers soon gave up attempting to settle the harsh lands in the north of the Meseta Central handed to them by the Arab rulers.
  11. ^ It was not until the 13th century that western medieval Christendom began reaching comparable levels of sophistication, and this was due in to a great extent to the stimulus coming from Muslim Al-Andalus.
  12. ^ Initially, as the Reconquista advanced south, different religions were respected and several Castilian kings in subsequent years (Ferdinand III, Alfonso X, Peter I) named themselves 'king of the three peoples' or 'king of the three religions'. Only rarely mosques and synagogues were converted into churches before 1492, and some areas of Christian Spain had large Muslim and Jewish populations that were a substantial component in the economic activity. Indeed they brought many of the Moorish influences in art, architecture and food with them.
  13. ^ For the related expulsions that followed see Morisco.
  14. ^ By the late 16th century American silver accounted for one-fifth of Spanish government's total revenue (the rest came mainly from taxes in Spain, especially Castile) [1]. From Europe, American silver was shipped to India, China, Levant and the Ottoman Empire. The silver was used to purchase goods, as European manufactured goods were not in demand in Asia and the Middle East. From the mid-17th Century around 28 million kilograms of silver was imported to China. The Manila Galleon brought in far more silver direct from South American mines to China than the overland Silk Road, or even European trade routes in the Indian oceans could.
  15. ^ The coastal villages and towns of Spain and Mediterranean islands were frequently attacked by Barbary pirates from North Africa, who were under the aegis of the Ottoman empire. The Formentera was even temporarily left by its population and long stretches of the Spanish and Italian coasts were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants. In 1514, 1515 and 1521 coasts of the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland were raided by the Turkish privateer and Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa. According to Robert Davis between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by North African pirates and sold as slaves during the 16th and 17th centuries. These slaves were captured mainly from seaside villages in Spain, Italy and Portugal.
  16. ^ At the end of the 16th century, the Spain had nearly 8,500,000 inhabitants, but in 1700 only about 7,000,000. Epidemic disease was the major cause for this decline, especially the bubonic plague but also typhus, smallpox, and other diseases. The other principal causes of population loss were emigration to America, deaths from warfare, and the expulsion of the Moriscos.
  17. ^ Over a hundred thousand Spanish Civil War veterans were to give both sides the benefit of their experience throughout the Second World War in Europe, the Eastern Front and North Africa. Many in the French Resistance and French Foreign Legion were Spanish as was the 9th Armoured Company that spearheaded Général Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division's liberation of Paris. On the other side, some 47,000 Spaniards fought against the Soviet Union in the Wehrmacht's Blue Division (División Azul).


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