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Monday, March 31, 2008

Interesting Facts About SPAIN

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Before we go to the interesting facts about Spain, a brief introduction of SPAIN to add some spice. Spain (Spanish España), parliamentary monarchy in southwestern Europe, occupying the greater part of the Iberian Peninsula, and bounded on the north by the Bay of Biscay, France, and Andorra; on the east by the Mediterranean Sea; on the south by the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean; and on the west by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. The British dependency of Gibraltar is situated at the southern extremity of Spain. The Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa are governed as provinces of Spain. Also, Spain administers two small exclaves in Morocco—Ceuta and Melilla—as well as three island groups near Africa—Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera and the Alhucemas and Chafarinas islands. The area of Spain, including the African and insular territories, is 505,990 sq km (195,364 sq mi). Madrid is the capital and largest city.


* Teenagers usually begin dating in groups around age 14 and as couples at age 18.
* Rather than call on a girl at her home, a boy often meets a girl at a prearranged site
* More women than men are currently enrolled in Spain's universities.
* About 40 percent of Spaniards between the ages of 17 and 24 are smokers.
* Spain has one of Europe's highest rates of AIDS.
* In Spain, people eat lunch at 2 pm, and dinner at 9-10 pm
* It is slightly more than twice the size of Oregon.
* Spain occupies 85% of the Iberian Peninsula
* In World War I, Spain maintained a position of neutrality. In 1923, Gen. Miguel Primo de Rivera became dictator.
* In June 2005, despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church, Spain legalized gay marriage.
* Spain gained independence from the Moors in Granada (The Moors' Last Stronghold) in 1492.
* Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain in order to find the New World.
* 94 percent of the population is Roman Catholic.
* In Spain, the official currency is the euro since January of 2002.
* In Spain, prescription medications can be obtained "over-the-counter" at pharmacies.
* Spain has 40,217,413 Inhabitants.
* During the 16th century, Spain was one of the most powerful empires in the world.
* Spaniards stand close and frequently touch one another on the arm while conversing.
* Team sports are not part of school programs, so people join private clubs.
* Accepting a second serving is one of the best ways to show appreciation to the cook
* Low birthrates stem in part from high unemployment and steep housing costs, which make it impossible for most people to buy houses large enough for more than two children
* Spaniards place a high value on what others think of them.
* Soccer (fútbol) is the most popular spectator sport in Spain. Fans often crowd homes and local bars to watch important matches
* Bullfighting, considered an art and a popular attaction, is the biggest and most controversial sport in Spain and is an integral part of Spanish history, art and culture with bull rings in all major cities and quite a few minor ones.
* Spain has become one of the most legally liberal and progressive countries in Europe in recent years.
* Same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005.
* Personal consumption and home cultivation of cannabis are legal in Spain.
* Spain was one of the first European countries to ban smoking in in all workplaces, and bars and restaurants (from 2006), following the lead of Ireland and Norway two years earlier.
* Not all Spaniards are native speakers of (Castilian) "Spanish". There are in fact four official languages in Spain (Castilian, Catalan, Basque and Galician), three unofficial regional languages (Asturian, Aragonese and Aranese), and several more dialects of these (Andalucian, Valencian...). Almost all Spaniards can speak Castilian Spanish though.
* Spain is traditionally a strongly religious country (Roman Catholocism). However, only 76% of Spaniards now identify themselves as Catholics, and only about 20% are regular church-goers. Due to recent immigration, 3% of the population is now Muslim.
* Spanish-speaking cultures have been very propicious for the development of new dance styles, such as Flamenco (inspired by Andalusian, Islamic, Sephardic, and Gypsy cultures), Merengue (Hispano-African), Salsa, Mambo and Cha-cha-cha (African and Cuban), Rumba (African, Amerindian and Spanish), etc.
* Spanish culture greatly influenced modern art from the late 1800's, with artists like Antoni Gaudí (Art Nouveau), Pablo Picasso (expressionism, cubism, surrealism), Joan Miró (surrealism), or Salvador Dalí (surrealism).
* Most of Spain was under Muslim domination from 711 to the mid 11th century. The full peninsula was not reconquered by the Christian powers until 1492.
* The Spanish Inquisition, which aimed at converting non-Christians to Christian Catholicism, started in 1478, and was not abolished until 1834. It is estimated that the Inquisition processed some 350,000 people, of whom at least 10% were executed (most famously burnt at the stake).
* Under Philip II's reign (1556-1598), and until 1640, Spain ruled over an empire comprising Spain, the Spanish Netherlands (most of present Belgium, and Northern France), Southern Italy, most of South and Central America (Brazil included), about half of the present USA, the Philippines (named after Philip II), as well as various smaller colonies in Asia and Africa (Macao, Malacca, Goa, Daman, Diu...).
* Tomatoes, potatoes, avocadoes, tobacco, and cacao, were all brought to Europe (then spread around the world) by the Spaniards from their American colonies. All these words were imported from Spanish language into English, which explains why they end in "-o".
* The Spanish colonies in the Americas (except Cuba and Puerto Rico, lost to the USA in 1898) became independent between 1809 and 1825, mostly due to Napoleon's occupation of Spain between 1808 and 1814.
* Spain did not participate in either the First or Second World War.
* Spain has twice as many bank branches as the EU average, although...
* the Spanish guard a comparatively high amount of cash at home (EUR 1.531,- on average).
* There are more cars than mobile phones around.
* The population has grown by 7.4% since 1999, with the Balearean population growing by 16.2% in the same period of time.
* The economic standard is highest in the Basque country and Navarra, with a disposable income of about EUR 14.000,- per family, comparing to the province with the lowest economic level of EUR 1.075,- of an average family in Extremadura.


The Spanish call their country España. The name comes from the ancient word Span, which means hidden or remote land. It’s a fitting name, since Spain stands somewhat apart from the rest of Europe.

Facts About Spain

Official name Kingdom of Spain
Capital Madrid
Official language Castilian Spanish
Population 40,400,000 people
Rank among countries in population 30th
Major cities Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville
Area 195,000 square miles
506,000 square kilometers
Rank among countries in area 50th
Highest point Pico de Teide
12,188 feet/3,715 meters
Currency Euro


Spain is on a peninsula, a piece of land that juts into water. It’s called the Iberian Peninsula, and it lies between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Spain covers most of the peninsula, apart from a small area occupied by the country of Portugal to the west.

The steep Pyrenees Mountains cross the neck of the peninsula. For centuries, the Pyrenees isolated Spain from its European neighbors to the north.

In the south, Spain almost touches northern Africa. Only a narrow strip of water called the Strait of Gibraltar separates Spain from the African continent. For this reason, African influences are an important part of Spain’s history.


Spain has numerous islands, too. They include the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa.


A huge, rocky plateau called the Meseta Central rises in central Spain. It’s a high, mostly treeless region that covers more than half the country. The best farmland lies along a narrow coastal plain in the north. Even here, rocky ridges come right to the ocean. They cut the plain into short strips.


Spain has sunny weather and a dry climate. Spanish farmers herd animals such as sheep and cattle. They grow crops such as olives, grapes, and almonds. Spain is the world’s biggest producer of olives. They are picked for eating and used to make olive oil. Spain also grows plenty of cork oak trees. Cork is cut from the bark of this tree.

The sunny weather, sandy Mediterranean beaches, and scenic islands make Spain a playground for visitors. In fact, Spain is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.


Spain’s capital and largest city is Madrid. It stands near the very heart of the Iberian Peninsula. Madrid is a modern city that’s home to about 3 million people. It’s also filled with famous old landmarks, such as the Plaza Mayor, a huge public square lined with impressive buildings.

Barcelona, on the northeast coast, is Spain’s second largest city. Barcelona is Spain’s chief port and main industrial center. The city’s most famous landmark is the Church of the Holy Family. The ornate spires of the cathedral rise more than 328 feet (100 meters).


Perhaps no sport is more Spanish than bullfighting. The Spanish consider it an art form. Bullfighters, called matadors, seek to show bravery and dignity in the bullfighting ring. The danger and excitement of the sport inspired American author Ernest Hemingway to write about bullfighting in two books, The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon.

Every summer, Spaniards celebrate the beginning of bullfighting season with a week of festivities. In the city of Pamplona, celebrations include the running of the bulls. Each morning, bulls are set loose in the city streets. Those who dare get in front of the bulls and try to race ahead of them. Sometimes, people are wounded or even killed by the bulls.


In ad 711, Muslim invaders from Africa captured Spain. The Muslims had conquered their way across North Africa before invading Spain. Spain remained a Muslim-ruled land for hundreds of years.

The Muslim rulers built dazzling cities such as Granada and Córdoba. Muslim palaces such as Alhambra in Granada still amaze visitors. Spain became a center of learning under Muslim rule. Philosophers, scientists, and artists produced important works.


Christian kingdoms in northern Spain fought the Muslims fiercely. Slowly, Christian forces recaptured Spain. In the late 1400s, two Roman Catholic monarchs got married—Ferdinand of Aragón and Isabella of Castile. In 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella drove the last Muslim rulers from Spain.

Afterward, Spain became a Catholic nation. In fact, the Spanish government set up a court called the Spanish Inquisition. This court caught and punished people who refused to convert to Catholicism.


Ferdinand and Isabella made Spain a great power. In 1492, Isabella sponsored a voyage led by a sailor named Christopher Columbus. Columbus was seeking a westward route to Asia. Instead of finding Asia, Columbus found the Americas. It proved to be a turning point in Spanish history.

Spain got to the Americas ahead of most other European countries. It quickly built an empire in parts of North and South America. Spanish ships carted huge amounts of silver and gold back to Europe. Spain became Europe’s richest country. It ruled a world empire.


Spain’s great wealth led to a Golden Age in Spain. In the 1500s and 1600s, Spanish writers and artists reached great heights of achievement. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra wrote Don Quixote, a masterpiece of European literature. Artists such as El Greco produced brilliant paintings.


Spain used most of its wealth to build military power, including a great navy called the Spanish Armada. When the gold and silver ran out, it had little to fall back on. Spain grew poor and weak. Its colonies broke away.

In 1898, Spain lost a war with the United States. That forced Spain to give up Cuba, Guam, and Puerto Rico, its last holdings in the Americas.


In 1936, a terrible civil war broke out in Spain. It ended with a general named Francisco Franco taking over. This tough dictator executed thousands of people and put thousands more in prison. Franco died in 1975.


After Franco’s death, Spain appointed a king. They chose Juan Carlos I, who was descended from Spain’s last king. But Spain also adopted a new constitution that made the king a symbol rather than the ruler. It gave real power to an elected prime minister. Today, Spain is a vibrant democracy.

Source: MS Encarta 2007