Kingdom of Spain

Reino de España
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Latin)
“Further Beyond”
Anthem: Spanish)
“Royal March”
Location of  Spain  (dark green)

– in Europe  (green & dark grey)
– in the Legend]

(and largest city)
40°26′N 3°42′W / 40.433°N 3.7°W / 40.433; -3.7
Official languages Spanish[a]
Recognised regional languages Occitan.
Demonym Spaniard
Government constitutional monarchy
 -  King Juan Carlos I
 -  Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
Legislature Cortes Generales
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house Congress of Deputies
Formation 15th century 
 -    Traditional date 569 (accession to the throne of Liuvigild
 -    Dynastic 1479 
 -    De facto 1516 
 -    De jure 1715 
 -    Nation state 1812 
 -    Constitutional democracy 1978 
 -  Total 505,992 km2 (52nd)
195,364 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.04
 -  2011 estimate 47,190,49327th)
 -  2001 census 40,847,371[3] 
 -  Density 93/km2 (106th)
231/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $1.407 trillion[4] 
 -  Per capita $30,412[4] 
GDP (nominal) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $1.340 trillion[4] 
 -  Per capita $28,976[4] 
Gini (2005) 32[5] 
HDI (2011) Increase 0.87823rd)
Currency EUR)
Time zone UTC+1)
 -  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Except the UTC+1 during summer time)
Date formats (Spanish; CE)
Drives on the right
ISO 3166 code ES
Internet TLD .es[b]
Calling code 34

Spain (Portugal.

Spanish territory also includes the exclave situated inside French territory. With an area of 505,992 square kilometres (195,365 sq mi), it is the fourth largest country in Europe.

Because of its location, the territory of Spain was subject to many external influences since prehistoric times and through to its dawn as a country. Spain emerged as a unified country in the 15th century, following the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs and the completion of the reconquest, or Reconquista, of the Iberian peninsula in 1492. Conversely, it 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 500 million Spanish speakers today, making it the world’s second most spoken first language.

Spain is a democracy organised in the form of a parliamentary government under a constitutional 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 the Greek perception of Italy as a “western land” or “land of the setting sun” (Hesperia, Ἑσπερία in Greek) and Spain, being still further west, as Hesperia ultima.[8]

It may also be a derivation of the [8]

The humanist Antonio de Nebrija proposed that the word Hispania evolved from the Iberian word Hispalis, meaning “city of the western world”. Jesús Luis Cunchillos argues that the root of the term span is the Phoenecian word spy, meaning “to forge metals”. Therefore i-spn-ya would mean “the land where metals are forged”.[10]


The Iberian peninsula enters written records as a land populated largely by the Iberians, Basques and Celts. After an arduous conquest, the peninsula came under the rule of Rome. During the early Middle Ages it came under Germanic rule but later, it was conquered by Moorish invaders from North Africa. In a process that took centuries, the small Christian kingdoms in the north gradually regained control of the peninsula. The last Moorish kingdom fell in 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 for a century and a half and the largest overseas empire for three centuries.

Continued wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. The Napoleonic invasions of Spain led to chaos, triggering independence movements that tore apart most of the empire and left the country politically unstable. Prior to the Second World War, Spain suffered a devastating civil war and came under the rule of an authoritarian government, whose rule oversaw a period of stagnation but that finished with a powerful economic surge. Eventually democracy was peacefully restored 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 [14]

Archaeological and genetic evidence strongly suggests that the Iberian Peninsula acted as one of several 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 Basques occupied the western area of the Pyrenees mountain range and adjacent areas.

In the south of the peninsula appeared the semi-mythical city of [15]

Roman Empire and the Gothic Kingdom

During the Roman Empire captured Carthaginian trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast from roughly 210 BC to 205 BC. It took the Romans nearly two centuries to complete the conquest of the Iberian peninsula, though they had control of it for over six centuries.

A Recceswinth (653–672)

Roman rule was bound together by law, language, and the Roman road.[16]

The cultures of the Celtic and Iberian populations were gradually [16]

The weakening of the Western Roman Empire’s jurisdiction in Hispania began in 409, when the Portugal. As the western empire disintegrated, the social and economic base became greatly simplified: but even in modified form, the successor regimes maintained many of the institutions and laws of the late empire, including Christianity.

The Alans’ allies, the Visigothic rule.

Muslim Iberia

The Granada.

In the 8th century, nearly all of the Caliphate. Only a small area in the mountainous north-west of the peninsula managed to resist the initial invasion.

Under [18]

Conversion to [20]

Hypostyle hall inside of Great Mosque of Córdoba.

The Muslim community in the Iberian peninsula was itself diverse and beset by social tensions. The [20]

Córdoba, the capital of the caliphate, was the largest, richest and most sophisticated city in western 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 an important part in reviving and expanding classical Greek learning in Western Europe. The Romanised cultures of the Iberian peninsula interacted with Muslim and Jewish cultures in complex ways, thus giving the region a distinctive culture.[20] 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 an expansion of agriculture.[citation needed]

In the 11th century, the Muslim holdings fractured into rival Taifa kingdoms, allowing the small Christian states the opportunity to greatly enlarge their territories.[20] The arrival from North Africa of the Islamic ruling sects of the Almoravids and the Almohads restored unity upon the Muslim holdings, with a stricter, less tolerant application of Islam, and saw a revival in Muslim fortunes. This re-united Islamic state, experienced more than a century of successes that partially reversed Christian gains.

Fall of Muslim rule and unification

Alcázar of Toledo, the city hosted the Royal Court during the fifteenth century.

The Reconquista (“Reconquest”) was the centuries-long period of expansion of Iberia’s Christian kingdoms. The Reconquista is viewed as beginning with the Battle of Covadonga in 722, and was concurrent with the period of Muslim rule on the Iberian peninsula. The Christian army’s victory over Muslim forces led to the creation of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias along the northwestern coastal mountains. Shortly after, in 739, Muslim forces were driven from Galicia, which was to eventually host one of medieval Europe’s holiest sites, Santiago de Compostela and was incorporated into the new Christian kingdom. Muslim armies had also moved north of the Pyrenees, but they were defeated by Frankish forces at the Battle of Poitiers, Frankia. Later, Frankish forces established Christian counties on the southern side of the Pyrenees. These areas were to grow into the kingdoms of Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia.[21] For several centuries, the fluctuating frontier between the Muslim and Christian controlled areas of Iberia was along the Ebro and Duero valleys.

The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing taifa kingdoms helped the long embattled Iberian Christian kingdoms gain the initiative. The capture of the strategically central city of Toledo in 1085 marked a significant shift in the balance of power in favour of the Christian kingdoms. Following a great 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.[22]

In the 13th and 14th centuries, the [24]

In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of [27]

As world power.

Imperial Spain

The Iberian Union, 1581

The unification of the crowns of Aragon and Castile by the marriage of their sovereigns laid the basis for modern Spain and the Spanish Empire, although each kingdoms of Spain remain as separate countries, in social, political, laws, currency and language.[30]

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 of which it was said that the sun never set.

A 17th century Spanish galleon

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, spices, luxuries, and new agricultural plants, Spanish explorers brought back knowledge from the New World, and played a leading part in transforming the European understanding of the globe.[31] 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.

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.[32] This at a time when Spain was often at war with France.

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.[33]

El Escorial, central Spain.

By the middle decades of a war- and [34]

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, it 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 [36]

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 the kingdom’s international standing.[37]

Napoleonic rule and its consequences

In 1793, Spain went to war against the new Joseph Bonaparte.

This foreign [40]

Independence of Americas

The French invasions devastated the economy, and left Spain a deeply divided country prone to political instability. The power struggles of the early 19th century led to the Spanish American wars of independence, losing all dominions which stretched from Las Californias to Patagonia, with the sole exception of the Caribbean, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Disaster of ’98

A satirical Catalan cartoon from La Campana de Gràcia (1896), criticising U.S. behaviour regarding Cuba.

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, 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.

Spanish Civil War

The 20th century brought little peace; Spain played a minor part in the Second Spanish Republic. The Republic offered political autonomy to the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia and gave voting rights to women.

Francisco Franco and US President Eisenhower, Madrid, 1959

The Spanish Civil War (1936–39) ensued. Three years later the rebel 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, 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 Civil War claimed the lives of over 500,000 peopleby whom?]

Spain under Franco

The Movimiento Nacional) in 1949.

After World War II Spain was politically and economically isolated, and was kept out of the Spanish miracle, which resumed the much interrupted transition towards a modern economy.

Post Franco

With Franco’s death in November 1975, Juan Carlos succeeded to 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 restoration of democracy, the State devolved much authority to the regions and created an internal organisation based on autonomous communities.

In the Basque Country, moderate ETA. The group was formed in 1959 during Franco’s rule but has continued to wage its violent campaign even after the restoration of democracy and the return of a large measure of regional autonomy.

On 23 February 1981, rebel elements among the security forces seized the Cortes in an attempt to impose a military backed government. King Juan Carlos took personal command of the military and successfully ordered the coup plotters, via national television, to surrender.

On 30 May 1982 Spain joined Partido Popular (PP) after the latter won the 1996 General Elections; at that point the PSOE had served almost 14 consecutive years in office.

On 1 January 2002, Spain ceased to use the peseta as currency replacing it with the euro, which it shares with 16 other countries in the Eurozone. Spain has also seen strong economic growth, well above the EU average; however, 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.[44]

A [46]

Though initial suspicions focused on the Basque group [48]

The bursting of the 2008–2012 Spanish financial crisis.


Pyrenean town

At 505,992 km2 (195,365 sq mi), Spain is the world’s Tenerife) has the highest mountain peak of Spain and the third largest volcano in the world from its base.

Spain lies between latitudes 5° E.

On the west, Spain borders Llívia is surrounded by France.


Spain also includes the condominium.

Islander population:[49]

Canary Islands, is Spain’s tallest mountain

Mountains and rivers

Mainland Spain is a mountainous country, dominated by high plateaus and mountain chains. After the Pyrenees, the main mountain ranges are the Cordillera Cantábrica, Sistema Ibérico, Sistema Central, Montes de Toledo, Sierra Morena and the Sistema Penibético whose highest peak, the 3,478 m high Mulhacén, located in Sierra Nevada, is the highest elevation in the Iberian peninsula, while the highest point in Spain is the Teide, a 3,718-metre (12,198 ft) active volcano in the Canary Islands. The Meseta Central is a vast plateau in the heart of peninsular Spain.

There are several major rivers in Spain such as the Andalusia.


Three main climatic zones can be separated, according to geographical situation and [52]

  • The Mediterranean climate, characterized by dry and warm summers. According to the Köppen climate classification, it is dominant in the peninsula, with two varieties: Csa and Csb. The Köppen-Geiger classification (Csb), extends to additional areas not typically associated with a typical Mediterranean climate, with a climate more extreme, hot in summer and cold in winter, such as much of central and northern-central of Spain (Ex. Madrid, Burgos, Leon).
  • The Ebro valley. In contrast with the Mediterranean climate, the dry season extends beyond the summer.
  • The Galicia. In contrary to the Mediterranean climate, winter and summer temperatures are influenced by the ocean, and have no seasonal drought.

Apart from these main types, other sub-types can be found, like the subtropical climate in the Canary Islands.


The Spanish Constitution of 1978 is the culmination of the [55] After a national 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. The constitution also specifies that Spain has no state religion and that all are free to practice and believe as they wish.

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 [61]

Branches of government

Mariano Rajoy, Prime minister.

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 of Spain presided over by the 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 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.

Spain is organizationally structured as a so-called Estado de las Autonomías (“State of Autonomies“); it is one of the most decentralized countries in Europe, along with Switzerland, Germany and Belgium;[62] for example, all Autonomous Communities have their own elected parliaments, governments, public administrations, budgets, and resources. Health and education systems among others are managed regionally, and in addition, 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, Ertzaintza, Policía Foral and Policía Canaria).

Administrative divisions

The Spanish State is integrated by 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities, both groups being the highest or first-order administrative division in the country. Autonomous communities are integrated by provinces, of which there are 50 in total, and in turn, provinces are integrated by municipalities. In Catalonia, two additional divisions exist, the comarques (sing. comarca) and the vegueries (sing. vegueria) both of which have administrative powers; comarques being aggregations of municipalities, and the vegueries being aggregations of comarques. The concept of a comarca exists in all autonomous communities, however, unlike Catalonia, these are merely historical or geographical subdivisions.

Autonomous communities and autonomous cities

Autonomous communities are the first level administrative division in the country. These were created after the 1979 and current constitution came into effect in recognition of the right to self-government to the “nationalities and regions of Spain“.[63] Autonomous communities were to be integrated by adjacent provinces with common historial, cultural, and economical traits. This territorial organization, based on devolution, is known in Spain as the “State of Autonomies”.

The basic institutional law of each autonomous community is the Statute of Autonomy. The Statutes of Autonomy establish the name 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.[64]

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

  • a Legislative Assembly whose members must be elected by 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.

Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country, which identified themselves as “nationalities” were granted self-government through a rapid process. Andalusia also took that denomination in its first Statute of Autonomy, even though it followed the longer process stipulated in the constitution for the rest of the country. Progressively, other communities in revisions to their Statutes of Autonomy have also taken that denomination in accordance to their historical regional identity, such as the Valencian Community,[68]

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, since devolution was intended to be asymmetrical. Only two communities—the Basque Country and Navarre—have full fiscal autonomy. Aside of fiscal autonomy, the “historical” nationalities—Andalusia, the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Galicia—were devolved more powers than the rest of the communities, amongst them the ability of the regional president to dissolve the parliament and call for elections at any time. In addition, the Basque Country, Catalonia and Navarre have police corps of their own: Ertzaintza, Mossos d’Esquadra and the Policía Foral respectively. Other communities have more limited forces or none at all, like the Policía Autónoma Andaluza[69] in Andalusia or the BESCAM in Madrid.

Nonetheless, recent amendments to existing Statutes of Autonomy or the promulgation of new Statutes altogether, have reduced the asymmetry between the powers originally granted to the “historical nationalities” and the rest of the regions.

Finally, along with the 17 autonomous communities, two autonomous cities are also part of the State of Autonomies and are first-order territorial divisions: Ceuta and Melilla. These are two exclaves located in the northern African coast.

Provinces and municipalities

Autonomous communities are subdivided into provinces (provincias), which served as their territorial building blocks. In turn, provinces are integrated by municipalities (municipios). The existence of both the provinces and the municipalities is guaranteed 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.[70]

The current provincial division structure is based—with minor changes—on the Javier de Burgos, and in all, the Spanish territory is divided into 50 provinces. The communities of Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja, the Balearic Islands, Madrid, Murcia and Navarre are the only communities that are integrated by a single province, which is coextensive with the community itself. In this cases, the administrative institutions of the province are replaced by the governmental institutions of the community.

European Union membership, 1986

Foreign relations

After the return of democracy following the death of European Community, and define security relations with the West.

As a member of NATO since 1982, Spain has established itself as a 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.

Spain has maintained its special relation with Hispanism“, as it is often referred to in English, which has sought to link the Iberian Peninsula with Hispanic America through language, commerce, history and culture.

Territorial disputes

Archduke Charles, pretender to the Spanish throne.

The legal situation concerning Gibraltar was settled in 1713 by the [74]

However, the Spanish claim makes a distinction between the [77]

Another claim by Spain is about the Savage Islands, not recognized by Portugal.

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 metres (820 ft) just off the coast of Morocco, 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from Ceuta and 13.5 kilometres (8.4 mi) 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.

Besides the Perejil Island, the Spanish-held territories claimed by other countries are two: Morocco claims the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the Olivenza.

Spanish soldiers in Afghanistan.


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.[78]

The Spanish Armed Forces are divided into three branches:[79]


Barcelona: finance centre

Valencia: finance centre

Spain’s capitalist mixed economy is the twelfth largest worldwide and the fifth largest in the European Union, as well as the Eurozone’s fourth largest.

The centre-right government of former prime minister [82]

However, the [84]

Before the current crisis, the Spanish economy was credited for having avoided the virtual zero growth rate of some of its largest partners in the EU.[87]

The most recent economic growth benefited greatly from the global real estate boom, with construction representing 16% of GDP and 12% of employment in its final year.[88]

According to calculations by the German newspaper [90]

Research about quality of life by the Economist Intelligence Unit‘s quality of life survey placed Spain as the country among the top 10 best quality of life in the world for 2005, ahead of other economically and technologically advanced countries like France, Germany, the United Kingdom and South Korea.[91]

Before the collapse of the real estate boom there had been a corresponding rise in the levels of personal debt as prospective home owners struggled to meet asking prices. The average level of household debt tripled in less than a decade. This placed 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.[92]

The 2008/2009 credit crunch and world recession manifested itself in Spain through a massive downturn in the property sector. At first, 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, participated in the UK government’s bail-out of part of the UK banking sector.[93]

A European Commission forecast predicted Spain would enter a [97]

Port of Málaga.


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.[99]

Seville solar power tower


Spain is one of the world’s leading countries in the development and production of renewable energy. In 2010 Spain became the [107]

Non-renewable energy sources used in Spain are oil.


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

Spain has the most extensive high-speed rail network in Europe, and the second most extensive in the world after China.[108][109][110] As of October 2010 Spain has a total of 3,500 km (2,174.80 mi) of high speed tracks linking Málaga, Seville, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Valladolid, with the trains reaching speeds up to 300 km/h (187 mph). On average, the Spanish high-speed train is the fastest one in the world followed by the Japanese bullet train and the French TGV.[111] Regarding punctuality, it is the second one in the world (98.54% on-time arrival) after the Japanese Shinkansen (99%). [112] 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.

There are 47 public airports in Spain. The busiest one is the Fuerteventura. Also, more than 30 airports with the number of passengers below 4 million.

Spain aims to put 1 million [114]


Geographical distribution of the Spanish population in 2008

In 2008 the population of Spain officially reached 46 million people, as recorded by the Padrón municipal.[115] 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 more than doubled since 1900, when it stood at 18.6 million, principally due to the spectacular demographic boom in the 1960s and early 1970s.[116]

Native Spaniards make up 88% of the total population of Spain. 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, fuelled by large numbers of immigrants who make up 12% of the population. The immigrants originate mainly in Latin America (39%), North Africa (16%), Eastern Europe (15%), and Sub-Saharan Africa (4%).[117] In 2005, Spain instituted a three-month amnesty program through which certain hitherto undocumented aliens were granted legal residency.

In 2008, Spain granted citizenship to 84,170 persons, mostly to people from Ecuador, Colombia and Morocco.[118] A sizeable portion of foreign residents in Spain also comes from other Western and Central European countries. These are mostly British, French, German, Dutch, and Norwegian. They reside primarily on the Mediterranean coast and the Balearic islands, where many choose to live their retirement or telecommute.

Substantial populations descended from [122]


Metropolitan areas

Map of the main metropolitan areas

Source: ESPON, 2007[123]

Pos. City Region Province Population
1 Madrid Community of Madrid Madrid 6,501,717
2 Barcelona Catalonia Barcelona 5,511,147
3 Valencia Valencian Community Valencia 2,575,362
4 Seville Andalusia Seville 1,927,109
5 Bilbao Basque Country Biscay 1.152.658
6 Málaga Andalusia Málaga 1,624,145
7 OviedoGijónAvilés Asturias Asturias 844,000
8 AlicanteElche Valencian Community Alicante 793,000
9 Las Palmas Canarias Las Palmas 750,000
10 Zaragoza Aragon Zaragoza 730,000


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.[clarification needed] Distinct traditional regional identities within Spain include the Basques, Catalans, Galicians and Castilians, among others.[124]

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, Indian, Filipino, Middle Eastern and South Asian origins; the population of Latin Americans is sizable 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.[125]

The arrival of 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 5.7 million foreign residents in Spain in 2011, or 12.2% of the total population. According to residence permit data for 2011, more than 860,000 were [129]

Britons —who are the third immigrant community in Spain— reside in large numbers.

Within the EU, Spain had the second highest immigration rate in percentage terms after 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.[135]

In 2008, the government instituted a [138]


The languages of Spain (simplified)

  Spanish official and spoken all over the country
  Catalan/Valencian, co-official
  Basque, co-official
  Galician, co-official
  Asturian, recognised
  Aragonese, recognised
  Leonese, unofficial
  Extremaduran, unofficial
  Fala, unofficial

Spain is openly multilingual,[140]

Spanish (español) — officially recognized in the constitution as Castilian (castellano) — is the official language of the entire country, and it is the right and duty of every Spaniard to know the language. The constitution also establishes that “all other Spanish languages” — that is, all other languages of Spain — will also be official in their respective autonomous communities in accordance to their Statutes, their organic regional legislations, and that the “richness of the distinct linguistic modalities of Spain represents a patrimony which will be the object of special respect and protection.”[141]

The other official languages of Spain, co-official with Spanish are:

As a percentage of the general population, Basque is spoken by 2%, Catalan (or Valencian) by 17%, and Galician by 7% of all Spaniards.[142]

In Catalonia, Aranese, a local variety of the Occitan language, has been declared co-official along with Catalan and Spanish since 2006. It is spoken only in the comarca of Val d’Aran by roughly 6,700 people. Other Romance minority languages, though not official, have special recognition, such as the Astur-Leonese group (Asturian, also called “Bable” in Asturias[143] and Leonese in Castile and León) and Aragonese in Aragon.

In the North African Spanish autonomous city of Melilla, Riff Berber 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.


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 2006, Ley Orgánica de Educación, or Fundamental Law of Education.[144]


Religions in Spain
No religion
Other faith
No answer
Numbers from the following source:[145]

Roman Catholicism has long been the main religion of Spain, and although it no longer has official status by law, in all public schools in Spain students have to choose either religion or ethics and Catholic is the only religion officially taught. According to an April 2012 study by the Spanish Center of Sociological Research about 71% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholics, 2.7% other faith, and about 24% identify with no religion among which 9.4% are atheists. Most Spaniards do not participate regularly in religious services. This same study shows that of the Spaniards who identify themselves as religious, 59% hardly ever or never go to church, 15% go to church some times a year, 8% some time per month and 14% every Sunday or multiple times per week.[145]

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.[147] 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.


The recent waves of immigration have also led to an increasing number of [151]



Culturally, Spain is a Latin country. Nevertheless, there have been many influences on many aspects of Spanish life, from art and architecture to cuisine and music, from many countries across Europe and from around the Mediterranean, through its long history.

The number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain, 40, is exceeded only by the number in Italy.[153]


Sancho Panza and Don Quixote, main characters in Miguel de Cervantes‘ novel Don Quixote.[154]

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.[154]

Language institutions

The Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Española or 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.[155]

With the same policy, the Royal Galician Academy (Real Academia Galega or RAG, in Galician) was created in 1906 in A Coruña with the help of Havana emigrated Galicians. Its work is based in a Lexicography (the main results are the official and standard Dicionario da Real Academia and the Vocabulario ortográfico da lingua galega), Terminology (through Termigal since 1997), Sociolinguistics, Onomastics and Grammar approaches from the Linguistics point of view, and another two sections for History and Literature.[156] The Academy works closely with the government as an advice institution, and its resolutions are almost binding about language standard. It had though recently demonstrated criticism about the development of the Galician language policy by the Government.[157]

Self-portrait in the Studio (1790-1795), Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.

The Institute of Catalan Studies (Institut d’Estudis Catalans 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 Community 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.


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 and 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.[158] 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, Madrid

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.[159] 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 Mudéjar style, from the 12th to 17th centuries, was developed by introducing Arab style motifs, patterns and elements into European architecture.

The Sagrada Família, Barcelona

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.

Music and dance

The guitar, an iconic Spanish instrument, is now popular worldwide.

Spanish music is often considered abroad to be synonymous with El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía.

Thousands of music fans also travel to Spain each year for internationally recognised summer music festivals Sónar which often features the top up and coming pop and techno acts, and Benicàssim which tends to feature alternative rock and dance acts.[160] Both festivals mark Spain as an international music presence and reflect the tastes of young people in the country.

The most popular traditional musical instrument, the guitar, originated in Spain.[161] Typical of the north are the traditional bag pipers or gaiteros, mainly in Asturias and Galicia.


Paella, a traditional Valencian dish[162]

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 [163]

Inner Spain – Castile.- hot, thick soups such as the bread and garlic-based Castilian soup, along with substantious stews such as Manchego cheese.

Atlantic Spain – the whole Northern coast, including polbo á feira and shellfish dishes.

Science and technology

In the 19th and 20th centuries science in Spain was held back by severe political instability and consequent economic underdevelopment. Despite the conditions, some noted scientists and engineers emerged. Among the most notable were Severo Ochoa.


Camp Nou, Barcelona: the largest football stadium in Europe

Sport in Spain has been dominated by 2010, and is the first team to ever win three back-to-back international tournaments.

Basketball, tennis, cycling, handball, futsal, motorcycling and, lately, Formula One are also important due to the presence of Spanish champions in all these disciplines. Today, Spain is a major world sports powerhouse, especially since the 1992 Summer Olympics that were hosted in Barcelona, which stimulated a great deal of interest in sports in the country. The tourism industry has led to an improvement in sports infrastructure, especially for water sports, golf and skiing.

Tour de France titles.

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.[164] Spain’s National Day (Fiesta Nacional de España) is 12 October, the anniversary of the Discovery of America and commemorate Our Lady of the Pillar feast, patroness of Aragon and throughout Spain.

The city of Gipuzkoa

See also


  1. ^ In some autonomous communities, Catalan, Galician and Basque are co-official languages. Aragonese, Asturian and Leonese have some degree of official recognition
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ In Spain, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous (regional) languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain’s official name is as follows:
  4. ^ The latifundia (sing., latifundium), large estates controlled by the aristocracy, were superimposed on the existing Iberian landholding system.
  5. ^ The poets Martial, Quintilian and Lucan were also born in Hispania.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ For the related expulsions that followed see Morisco.


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Books referenced
  • Gates, David (2001). The Spanish Ulcer: A History of the Peninsular War. Da Capo Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-306-81083-1.

External links


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