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Reino de España
Flag of Spain Spain: Coat of Arms
(In Detail) Coat of Arms
National motto: Plus Ultra (further beyond)
Official languages Spanish (Castilian)
(in some autonomous communities, Catalan, Basque or Galician are co-official; in the Val d'Aran, the Aranese dialect of Occitan is co-official)
Capital Madrid
Largest City Madrid
Capital´s coordinates
40° 24' N, 3° 41' W
King Juan Carlos I (since 1975)
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 50th
504,782 km²
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 29th
Currency Euro (€)¹
Time zones Mainland: UTC+1 (Canary Islands UTC 0). DST.
National anthem Marcha Real
Internet TLD .es
Calling Code 34
(1) Prior to 1999: Spanish peseta

The Kingdom of Spain is a country located in the southwest of Europe. It shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal, Gibraltar and Andorra. To the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range, it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra. It includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, the cities of Ceuta and Melilla in the north of Africa, and a number of minor uninhabited islands on the Mediterranean side of the strait of Gibraltar, such as the Chafarine islands, the "rocks" (es: peñones) of Vélez and Alhucemas, and the tiny Parsley Island.

Although the official name of Spain is Reino de España, the same can be translated into the other languages of Spain, as in Regne d'Espanya (Catalan), Espainiako Erresuma (Basque), and Reino de España (Galician).

Spain has been a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy since the Spanish Constitution was approved in 1978.



Main article: History of Spain

The original peoples of the Iberian peninsula (in the sense that they are not known to have come from elsewhere), consisting of a number of separate tribes, are given the generic name of Iberians. This may have included the Basques, the only pre-Celtic people in Iberia surviving to the present day as a separate ethnic group. The most important culture of this period is that of the city of Tartessos. Beginning in the 9th century BC, Celtic tribes entered the Iberian peninsula through the Pyrenees and settled throughout the peninsula, becoming the Celt-Iberians.

The seafaring Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians successively settled along the Mediterranean coast and founded trading colonies there over a period of several centuries.

Around 1,100 BC Phoenician merchants founded the trading colony of Gadir or Gades (modern day Cádiz) near Tartessos. In the 8th century BC the first Greek colonies, such as Emporion (modern Empúries), were founded along the Mediterranean coast on the East, leaving the south coast to the Phoenicians. The Greeks are responsible for the name Iberia, after the river Iber (Ebro in Spanish). In the 6th century BC the Carthaginians arrived in Iberia while struggling with the Greeks for control of the Western Mediterranean. Their most important colony was Carthago Nova (Latin name of modern day Cartagena).

The Romans arrived in the Iberian peninsula during the Second Punic war in the 2nd century BC, and annexed it under Augustus after two centuries of war with the Celtic and Iberian tribes and the Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian colonies becoming the province of Hispania. Some of Spain's present languages, religion, and laws originate from this Roman period.

As the Roman empire declined, the Suebi, Vandals and Alans each took control of part of Hispania. In the 5th century AD the Visigoths, a romanized germanic tribe, conquered all of Hispania and established a relatively stable kingdom lasting until 711, when it fell to an invasion by Islamic North African Moors and became part of the expanding Umayyad empire, under the name of Al-Andalus. When the Umayyad empire gave way to the Abbaside empire, an Umayyad exile established the Caliphate of Cordoba, effectively making Al-Andalus independent from the empire.

Modern Spain began to take form during the Reconquista, the struggle between the Christian kingdoms arising in the northern regions left unconquered by the Moors and the Muslim kingdoms into which Al-Andalus eventually split.

Two states came to dominate Christian Spain: Aragon and Castile.During the last half of the XV century the heirs of both kingdoms married.In 1492, Granada, the last of the Moorish kingdoms, was conquered by the Catholic monarchs, Isabel I of Castile (Isabel La Católica) and Fernando II of Aragon (Fernando el Católico or Ferran el Catòlic).

The kingdom of the Catholic monarchs then imposed the Christian religion; in 1492, Isabel and Fernando ordered the expulsion of all Jews from their dominions, having imposed physical segregation in 1480 (two years after the establishment of the Inquisition) and, in 1502, Muslims were forced to convert to Christianity or be banished.

After the reconquest of Granada, Isabel funded Christopher Columbus in his attempts to reach Asia through a western route across the Atlantic Ocean -- resulting in the "discovery" of the "New World".

In 1499, about 50,000 Moors in Granada were coerced into taking part in a mass baptism. During the uprising that followed, people who refused the choices of baptism or deportation to Africa, were systematically eliminated. What followed was a mass flight of Moors, Jews and Gitanos from the city of Granada and the surrounding villages to the mountain regions (and their hills) and the rural country. It was in this socially and economically difficult situation that the musical cultures of the Moors, Jews and Gitanos started to form the basics of flamenco music.

By 1512, most of the kingdoms of present-day Spain were politically unified, although not as a modern centralized state. The grandson of Isabel and Fernando, Carlos I, extended his crown to other places in Europe and the rest of the world. And the unification of Iberia was complete when Charles I'Philip_II_of_Spain" title ="Philip II of Spain">Felipe II, became King of Portugal in 1580, as well as of the other Iberian Kingdoms (collectively known as "Spain").

During the 16th century,with Carlos I and Felipe II, Spain became the most powerful European nation, its territory covering most of South and Central America, the Iberian peninsula, southern Italy, Germany, and the Low Countries. This was later known as the Spanish Empire.

It was also the wealthiest nation but the uncontrolled influx of goods and minerals from Spanish colonisation of the Americas resulted in rampant inflation and economic depression.

In 1640, under Felipe IV, the centralist policy of the Count-Duke of Olivares provoked wars in Portugal and Catalonia. Portugal became an independent kingdom again and Catalonia enjoyed some years of French-supported independence but was quickly returned to the Spanish Crown.

A series of long and costly wars and revolts followed in the 17th century, beginning a steady decline of Spanish power in Europe. Controversy over succession to the throne consumed the country during the first years of the 18th century (see War of the Spanish Succession). It was only after this war ended and a new dynasty was installed -- the French Bourbons (see House of Bourbon) -- that a centralized Spanish state was established.

Spain was occupied by Napoleon in the early 1800s, but the Spaniards raised in arms. After the War of Independence (1808-1812), a series of revolts and armed conflicts between Liberals and supporters of the ancien régime lasted throughout much of the 19th century, complicated by a dispute over dynastic succession by the Carlists which led to three civil wars. After that, Spain was briefly a Republic, from 1871 to 1873, a year in which a series of coups reinstalled the monarchy.

In the meantime, Spain lost most of its colonies in the Americas during the 19th century, a trend which ended with the loss of Cuba and the Philippines after the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The 20th century initially brought little peace; colonisation of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea was attempted as a substitute for the loss of the Americas. A period of dictatorial rule (1923-1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. The Republic offered political autonomy to the Basque Country and Catalonia and gave voting rights to women. However, with increasing political polarisation and pressure from all sides, coupled with growing and unchecked political violence, the Republic ended with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936. Following the victory of the nationalist forces in 1939, General Francisco Franco ruled a nation exhausted politically and economically until his death in 1975.

After World War II, being one of few surviving fascist regimes in Europe, Spain was politically and economically isolated and was kept out of the United Nations until 1955, when it became strategically important for U.S. president Eisenhower to establish a military presence in the Iberian peninsula. This opening to Spain was aided by Franco's rabid anti-communism.

In the 1960s, more than a decade later than other western European countries, Spain began to enjoy economic growth and gradually transformed into a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector. Growth continued well into the 1970s, with Franco'Oil_crisis" title ="Oil crisis">oil crisis.

Upon the death of the dictator General Franco in November 1975, his personally-designated heir Prince Juan Carlos assumed the position of king and head of state. He played a key role in guiding Spain further in its growth into a modern democratic state, notably in opposing an attempted coup d'etat in 1981. Spain joined NATO in 1982 and became a member of the European Union in 1986.

With the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the arrival of democracy, the old historic nationalities — Basque Country, Catalonia, Andalusia and Galicia — were given far-reaching autonomy, which was then soon extended to all Spanish regions, resulting in one of the most decentralized territorial organizations in Western Europe.

See also: List of Spanish monarchs, Kings of Spain family tree, List of Prime Ministers of Spain


Main article: Politics of Spain

Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes or National Assembly. The executive branch consists of a Council of Ministers presided over by the President of Government (comparable to a prime minister), proposed by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative elections.

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 or 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, at present, what is called a State of Autonomies, formally unitary but, in fact, functioning as a Federation of Autonomous Communities, each one with different powers (for instance, some have their own educational and health systems, others do not) and laws. There are some problems with this system, since some autonomous governments (especially those dominated by nationalist parties) are seeking a more federalist—or even confederate—kind of relationship with Spain, while the Central Government is trying to restrict what some see as excessive autonomy of some autonomous communities (e.g. Basque Country and Catalonia).

Terrorism is a problem of present-day Spain, since ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom) is trying to achieve Basque independence through violent means, including bombings and murders. Although Basque Autonomous government does not condone any kind of violence, the different approaches to the problem are a source of tension between Central and Basque governments.

Administrative divisions

Administratively, Spain is divided into 50 provinces, grouped into 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities with high degree of autonomy.

Autonomous communities

Main article: Autonomous communities of Spain

Autonomous communities of Spain

Spain consists of 17 autonomous communities (comunidades autónomas) and 2 autonomous cities (ciudades autónomas; Ceuta and Melilla).

The Spanish constitution recognises historic nationalities, but does not grant a special status for them. Navarre and the Basque Country have a special tax revenue system.


Main article: Provinces of Spain

The Spanish kingdom is also divided in 50 provinces (provincias). Autonomous communities group provinces (for instance, Extremadura is made of two provinces: Cáceres and Badajoz). The autonomous communities of Asturias, the Balearic Islands, Cantabria, La Rioja, Navarre, Murcia, and Madrid are each composed of a single province.

Places of sovereignty

There are also five places of sovereignty (plazas de soberanía) on and off the African coast: the cities of Ceuta and Melilla are administered as autonomous cities, an intermediate status between cities and communities; the islands of the Islas Chafarinas, Peñón de Alhucemas, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera are under direct Spanish administration.

The Canary islands, Ceuta and Melilla, although not officially historic communities, enjoy a special status.


Main article: Geography of Spain

Map of Spain

Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges such as the Pyrenees or 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, in the east there are alluvial plains with medium rivers like Segura, Júcar and Turia. Spain is bound to the east by Mediterranean Sea (containing the Balearic Islands), to the north by the Bay of Biscay and to its west by the Atlantic Ocean, where the Canary Islands off the African coast are found.

Spain'Climate" title ="Climate">climate can be divided in four areas:

  • The Mediterranean: mostly temperate in the eastern and southern part of the country; rainy seasons are spring and autumn. Mild summers with pleasant temperatures. Hot records: Murcia 47,2º, Malaga 44,2º, Valencia 42,5º, Alicante 41,4º, Palma of Mallorca 40,6º, Barcelona 39,8º.
  • Inner spain: Very cold winters (frequent snow in the north) and hot summers. Hot records: Sevilla 47,0º, Cordoba 46,6º, Badajoz 45,0º, Zaragoza 42,6º, Madrid 42,2º, Valladolid 40,2º.
  • Northern Atlantic coast: precipitations mostly on winter, with mild summers (slightly cold). Hot records: Bilbao 42,0º, La Coruña 37,6º, Gijón 36,4º.
  • The Canary Islands: subtropical weather, with mild temperatures (18º to 24 º celsius) throughout the year.

Biggest metropolitan areas

  1. Madrid 5.603.285
  2. Barcelona 4.667.136
  3. Valencia 1.465.423
  4. Sevilla 1.294.081
  5. Malaga 1.019.292

For a more complete list, please see List of cities in Spain#Biggest cities

Territorial disputes

Spain has called for the return of possession of Gibraltar, a tiny British possession on its southern coast. It changed hands during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1704. The most recent talks dealt with the idea of "total shared sovereignty" over Gibraltar, subject to a constitutional referendum by Gibraltarians, who have expressed opposition to any form of cession to Spain. The talks have been frozen, after the result of a referendum in Gibraltar where 98% of the people opposed them. See Gibraltar for more information.

Morocco claims the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla and the uninhabited Vélez, Alhucemas, Chafarinas, and Perejil ("Parsley") islands, all on the northern coast of Africa.

The town of Olivenza (Extremadura) and its adjoining countryside is claimed by Portugal, but the Spanish public is not generally aware of that claim.


Main article: Economy of Spain

The following is from the CIA World factbook

Economy - overview: Spain's mixed capitalist economy supports a GDP that on a per capita basis is 80% that of the four leading West European economies. The center-right government of former President AZNAR successfully worked to gain admission to the first group of countries launching the European single currency (the euro) on 1 January 1999. The AZNAR administration continued to advocate liberalization, privatization, and deregulation of the economy and introduced some tax reforms to that end. Unemployment fell steadily under the AZNAR administration but remains high at 11.7%. Growth of 2.4% in 2003 was satisfactory given the background of a faltering European economy. Incoming President RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO, whose party won the election three days after the Madrid train bombings in March, plans to reduce government intervention in business, combat tax fraud, and support innovation, research and development, but also intends to reintroduce labor market regulations that had been scraped by the AZNAR government. Adjusting to the monetary and other economic policies of an integrated Europe - and reducing unemployment - will pose challenges to Spain over the next few years.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $885.5 billion (2003 est.) GDP - real growth rate:

2.4% (2003 est.) GDP - per capita:

purchasing power parity - $22,000 (2003 est.) GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 3.6% industry: 28.6% services: 67.8% (2003 est.) Investment (gross fixed): 25.6% of GDP (2003) Population below poverty line: NA Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.8% highest 10%: 25.2% (1990) Distribution of family income - Gini index: 32.5 (1990) Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3% (2003 est.) Labor force: 18.82 million (2003) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 7%, manufacturing, mining, and construction 29%, services 64% (2001 est.) Unemployment rate: 11.3% (2003 est.) Budget: revenues: $330.7 billion expenditures: $335.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $12.8 billion (2003 est.) Public debt: 62.7% of GDP (2003) Agriculture - products: grain, vegetables, olives, wine grapes, sugar beets, citrus; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; fish Industries: textiles and apparel (including footwear), food and beverages, metals and metal manufactures, chemicals, shipbuilding, automobiles, machine tools, tourism

  • Industrial production growth rate:

1.6% (2003 est.)

  • Electricity - production:

222,500 GWh (2001)

  • Electricity - consumption:

210,400 GWh (2001)

  • Electricity - exports:

4,138 GWh (2001)

  • Electricity - imports:

7,588 GWh (2001)

  • Oil - production:

7,099 bbl (1,129 m³) per day (2001 est.)

  • Oil - consumption:

1,497,000 bbl (238,000 m³) per day (2001 est.)

  • Oil - exports:

135,100 bbl (21,500 m³) per day (2001)

  • Oil - imports:

1,582,000 bbl (251,500 m³) per day (2001)

  • Oil - proved reserves:

10,500,000 bbl (1,700,000 m³) 1 January 2002

  • Natural gas - production:

516,000,000 m³ 2001 est.

  • Natural gas - consumption:

17.96 km³ (2001 est.)

  • Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2001 est.)

  • Natural gas - imports:

17.26 km³ (2001 est.)

  • Natural gas - proved reserves:

254,900,000 m³ (1 January 2002)

  • Current account balance:

$-23.77 billion (2003)

  • Exports:

$159.4 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)

Exports - commodities: machinery, motor vehicles; foodstuffs, other consumer goods Exports - partners: France 19.2%, Germany 11.9%, Italy 9.7%, UK 9.4%, Portugal 9.3%, US 4.2% (2003 est.) Imports: $197.1 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.) Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, fuels, chemicals, semifinished goods; foodstuffs, consumer goods Imports - partners: France 16.8%, Germany 16.6%, Italy 8.8%, UK 6.5%, Netherlands 4.9% (2003 est.) Reserves of foreign exchange & gold: $26.81 billion (2003) Debt - external: $718.4 billion (2003 est.) Economic aid - donor: ODA, $1.33 billion (1999)


euro (EUR) note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by the financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions with the member countries

Currency code:

EUR Exchange rates:

euros per US dollar - 0.886 (2003), 1.0626 (2002), 1.1175 (2001), 1.0854 (2000), 0.9386 (1999)

Fiscal year:

calendar year


Languages of Spain and their dialects
Languages of Spain and their dialects

Main article: Demographics of Spain

The Spanish Constitution, although affirming the sovereignty of the Spanish Nation, recognises historical nationalities.

The Castilian-derived Spanish (called both Español and Castellano in the language itself) is the official language throughout Spain, but other regional languages are also spoken. Without mentioning them by name, the Spanish Constitution recognizes the possibility of regional languages being coofficial in their respective autonomous communities. The following languages are coofficial with Spanish according to the appropriate Autonomy Statutes.

Catalan, Galician, Aranese (Occitan) and Spanish (Castilian) are all descended from Latin and have their own dialects, some championed as separate languages by their speakers (the Valencià of València, a dialect of Catalan, is one example).

There are also some other surviving Romance minority languages: Asturian, in Asturias and parts of Leon, Zamora and Salamanca, and the Extremaduran in Caceres and Salamanca, both descendents of the historical Astur-Leonese dialect; the Aragonese or fabla in part of Aragon; the xalimegian or a fala in Extremadura; and some Portuguese dialectal towns in Extremadura and Castile-Leon. However, unlike Catalan, Galician, and Basque, these do not have any official status.

Berber language is spoken among Muslims in Ceuta and Melilla.

In the touristic areas of the Mediterranean costas and the islands, German and English are spoken by tourists, foreign residents and tourism workers.

Many linguists claim that most of the Spanish language variants spoken in Latin America (Mexican, Argentinian, Columbian, etc. variants) descended from the Spanish spoken in southwestern Spain (Andalusia and Extremadura).


Spain is considered by many, including a large part of Spanish population, to be a group of nations unified under a single State, much like Belgium, Switzerland or the United Kingdom. Despite this, the policy of many Spanish governments has led to a "Spanish nationhood" which is the one people identify with Spain internationally.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 recognizes historic entities ("nationalities", not "nations") such as Catalonia, Galicia, the Basque Country or Navarre. In the 19th and 20th centuries, similar recognition was rare and short-lived.

But Spain's identity is, in fact, an overlap of different national identities, some of them even conflicting.

Castile is considered to be by many the "core" of Spain. However, this may just be a reflection of the fact that the Castilian national identity was the first one to be quashed by the Spanish Empire in the revolt of the Communards (comuneros). Today, Castilians generally consider themselves to be Spanish first, with regional identity being of lesser importance.

The opposite is the case of Galicians, Asturians, Catalans and Basques, who quite frequently identify primarily with Galicia, Asturias, Catalonia and the Basque Country first, with Spain only second, or even third, after Europe.

The situation is even more confusing, since there are regions with ambiguous identities, like Navarre, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, etc. There has been a lot of internal migration (rural exodus) from regions like Galicia, Andalusia and Extremadura to Madrid, Catalonia, Basque Country and the islands.

Until 1714, Spain was a loose confederation of kingdoms and statelets, under the same king, until King Philip V removed the autonomous status of the Aragonese crown. Moreover, the creation of a unified state in the 19th and 20th centuries has lead to the present situation, apparently simple, but sometimes extremely confusing. During the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1936), the Basque and Catalan were given limited self-government, which was lost after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and restored in 1978 during the transition to democracy.

Yet, relationships betweeen Hispanic peoples have created strong ties between them, which are more apparent to foreigners than differences.

Minority groups

The most important minority group in the country are the Gitanos. Other indigenous minorities are Mercheros (or Quinquis) and Vaqueiros de alzada.- The later, meaning "Mountain cow-breeders" dwell in mountain ranges in the Principality of Asturias and have kept historically apart from the valley dwellers. Foreign minorities include Arabs and Berbers mainly from Morocco and other countries of North Africa, and South-Americans mainly from Ecuador and Colombia.


Roman Catholicism is, by far, the most popular religion in the country, with four in five Spaniards (80%) self-identifying as Catholics. The next group (one in eight, or 12%) is represented by atheists or agnostics. Minority religions account for one in seventy (1.4%) of all Spaniards.

According to membership missing source?, the second religion of Spain is the organization of the Jehovah's Witnesses; there are also many protestant branches, all of them with less than 50,000 members, and about 20,000 Mormons. 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 in number.

The recent waves of immigration have led to an increasing number of Muslims, who still acccount for only a fraction of a percent. Muslims were forcibly converted n 1492 and then expelled in the 16th century. Since the expulsion of the Sephardim in 1492, Judaism was practically nonexistent until the 19th century.

During the last thirty years, Spain is becoming a secularised society. The number of believers has decreased significantly and for those who believe the degree of accordance and practice to their church is quite diverse.

According to the latest official poll (CIS, 2002), 80% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholic, 12% as non-believer, and 1% as other (the remaining 7% declined to state). Of the 1.4% identifying as other, 29% identified as Evangelical Christian, 26% as Jehovah's Witnesses and 3% as Muslim (the rest either mentioned smaller religions or declined to state). According to the same poll, 73% believe in God, 14% don'Heaven" title ="Heaven">Heaven. 24% of the Spaniards think that the Bible is just a fable. Only 25% of Catholics go to church at least once a week.

According to the CIA World Factbook, 94% of Spaniards are Roman Catholic. This is consistent with the Catholic Church's practice to claim all baptized as Catholic regardless of self-identification, and with the CIS poll's finding that 91% to 96% of all parents are remembered as being catholics. Despite only 80% of Spaniards self-describing as catholics, 94% report having baptized their children but only 79% being inclined to baptize new children. 90% had a religious wedding.


Main article: Culture of Spain

International rankings

Further reading

John Hickman and Chris Little, "Seat/Vote Proportionality in Romanian and Spanish Parliamentary Elections" Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans Volume 2, Number 2, November 2000.

Miscellaneous topics

External links

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