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Built in 1957, the 142m high Torre de Madrid heralded the advent of the Spanish Miracle

The Spanish miracle (Spanish: el milagro español) was the name given to a broadly based economic boom in Spain between 1959 and 1973. It ended with the oil shocks (1973 and 1979) of the 1970s. The boom was bolstered by economic reforms promoted by the so-called technocrats, accepted by dictator Francisco Franco, who put in place development policies from the International Monetary Fund. The technocrats were a new breed of politicians who replaced the old falangist guard.

The implementation of these policies took the form of development plans (Spanish: Planes de desarrollo) and it was largely a success: Spain enjoyed the second highest growth rate in the world, slightly behind Japan, and became the ninth largest economy in the world, just after Canada. Spain joined the industrialized world, leaving behind the poverty and endemic underdevelopment it had experienced since the loss of the Spanish Empire at the beginning of the 19th century.

The recovery was heavily based on public investment in infrastructure development[citation needed] and the opening of Spain as a tourist destination. The "miracle" ended the period of autarky (closed economy) and could be considered to be the response to the economic crisis of Spain after the Spanish Civil War and the challenges of World War II. The economic growth saw noticeable improvements in Spanish living standards and the development of a middle class in Spain, though Spain remained less economically advanced relative to the rest of Western Europe (with the exception of Portugal and Ireland). At the heyday of the Miracle, 1974, Spanish income per capita was 79% of the western European average, only to be reached again 25 years later, in 1999; while the economic indicator par excellence, electricity production, went from 3.61 in 1940 to 90.82 millions of Megawatt-hours in 1976. Because of the country's limited fossil fuel resources and unreliable hydroelectric potential, the period saw the first stages in establishing a network of nuclear power stations.

1963 Spanish peseta coin with the image of Francisco Franco, Caudillo de España, por la gracia de Dios (Leader of Spain, by grace of God)

The Spanish miracle fed itself on a rural exodus which created a new class of industrial workers, similar to the French banlieue or, more recently, China's recent economic takeoff. The economic boom led to an increase in mostly fast, ugly, largely unplanned building on the periphery of the main Spanish cities to accommodate the new workers arriving from the countryside. Some cities preserved their beautiful historic centres, but many others were ruined by haphazard commercial and residential developments that took advantage of greedy municipal governments. The same fate befell long stretches of the most scenic coastlines as mass tourism exploded.

Being short of natural resources, the opening up of Spain to mass tourism provided the country with a large source of foreign exchange that was used to pay for the capital imports (machinery, etc) needed for a rapid expansion of infrastructure and industry. This labour intensive industry also provided much employment. Further foreign exchange was brought in by many workers who worked in the factories and construction sites of the postwar boomtime countries of Europe, especially France and Germany.

The expansion reinvigorated old industrial areas: the Basque country and Ferrol northern coast (iron and steel, shipbuilding), in and around Barcelona (machinery, textiles, chemicals) it also drove an enormous expansion in refining, petrochemicals, chemicals and engineering, and saw the emergence of the Madrid region as a major industrial and commercial zone. In less than twenty years, from being a largely rural country with just a few centres of industry and some scattered light industry slowly recovering from war, Spain had become a major industrialised country manufacturing most things ranging from shoes to aircraft. Most of this production supplied the domestic market which was heavily protected from international competition. Even after considerable liberalisation, many government controls of the economy and ownership of a number of large companies remained.

The icon of the Desarrollo was the SEAT 600 car, produced by the Spanish company SEAT under FIAT licence. More than 794,000 of them were made between 1957 and 1973, and if at the beginning of this period it was the first car for many Spanish working class families, at its end it was indeed the first second one for many more.

The automotive industry was one of the most powerful locomotives of the Spanish Miracle: from 1958 to 1972 it grew at a yearly compound rate of 21.7%; in 1946 there were 72,000 private cars in Spain, in 1966 there were 1 million.[1] This astonishing growth rate had no equal in the world.


  1. ^ J.L. García Ruiz, "Barreiros Diesel y el desarrolo de la automoción en España"

See also



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