SPAIN

Date of establishment: December 6, 1978

Brief history:

3rd century BCE – 5th century CE: The Roman Empire controlled the territory of present-day Spain and called it Hispania, establishing cities, infrastructure, and governance that left a lasting legacy on the region.

711: Muslim expansion led by the Moors conquered large parts of the Iberian Peninsula, including most of Spain. Various Muslim taifas (states) emerged, significantly influencing Spanish culture, science, and architecture.

1492: The Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, completed the Reconquista by conquering the last Muslim state, Granada. That same year, Christopher Columbus, under the Spanish flag, embarked on his voyage that led to the discovery of the Americas.

16th and 17th centuries: The Spanish Empire reached its zenith, becoming one of the most powerful empires in the world. It acquired vast territories in the Americas, parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia, leading to immense wealth and cultural exchange.

18th century: The Spanish Empire began to weaken due to political conflicts, economic problems, and wars, including the War of Spanish Succession, which resulted in the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and loss of European territories.

1808-1814: The Peninsular War (part of the Napoleonic Wars) saw French invasion and occupation, leading to widespread uprisings and a war for independence.

1812: The first Spanish Constitution, known as the Constitution of Cádiz, was adopted but was soon revoked after the return of Ferdinand VII.

1833-1874: A period marked by internal strife, including the Carlist Wars, as well as persecution of liberal and democratic movements.

1931: The Second Spanish Republic was declared, bringing significant social and political reforms.

1936-1939: The Spanish Civil War erupted between Republicans and Nationalists, leading to immense devastation and the eventual victory of General Francisco Franco’s Nationalist forces.

1939-1975: Spain was under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, characterized by repression, censorship, and isolation from the broader international community.

1975: The death of Francisco Franco marked the beginning of Spain’s transition to democracy. King Juan Carlos I played a crucial role in this transition.

1978: A new democratic Spanish Constitution was adopted, establishing Spain as a parliamentary monarchy and guaranteeing various freedoms and rights.

1982: Spain joined NATO, signaling its integration into Western defense and political structures.

1986: Spain became a member of the European Economic Community, now the European Union, which significantly boosted its economic development and modernization.

 

International abbreviation: E

 

Currency: Euro (EUR)

Spain adopted the euro as its official currency in 2002, becoming one of the founding members of the Eurozone, a group of European Union countries that use the euro as a common currency.

 

Internet domain: .es

 

Dialing code: +34

 

Time zone: GMT+1

 

Geography:

The Pyrenees mountains form the natural border between Spain and France in the north. The northwest is dominated by the Cantabrian Mountains, not the Pyrenees. The interior is characterized by the Central System (Sistema Central), which includes mountain ranges like the Sierra de Guadarrama near Madrid and the Sierra Morena in the south. The Sierra Nevada mountain range is located in the southeast, in the region of Andalusia.

Between the mountain ranges, there are wide valleys and plains, such as the Ebro Valley in the northeast and the Guadalquivir Basin in the south.

Spain has extensive coastlines, including the Mediterranean Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest, and the Cantabrian Sea to the north.

Spain also includes several significant islands, with the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic.

The largest rivers in Spain are the Ebro in the northeast, the Guadalquivir in Andalusia, the Tagus (Tajo) which flows through central Spain into Portugal, and the Duero which also flows from Spain into Portugal.

 

Highest peak: Teide 3 718 meters (12 198 feet) above sea level

This stratovolcano is located on the island of Tenerife, part of the Canary Islands. It’s not only the highest point in Spain but also the highest in all Spanish territories. It is part of the Teide National Park.

 

Climate:

The eastern and southern coasts, including regions like Andalusia, Catalonia, and Valencia, have a Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot and dry, with high temperatures averaging around 30-35°C (86-95°F), while winters are mild and moist with temperatures around 10-15°C (50-59°F).

The northern regions, including Galicia, Asturias, and the Basque Country, have an oceanic climate. Summers are cooler and more humid, with temperatures averaging 20-25°C (68-77°F), while winters are generally mild with temperatures around 5-10°C (41-50°F). Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year.

Inland areas, especially the central regions like Madrid and Castilla-La Mancha, have a continental climate. Summers are hot with temperatures around 30-35°C (86-95°F), and winters are cold with temperatures often below freezing, averaging around 0-5°C (32-41°F), with significant temperature variations between day and night.

 

Fauna and flora:

Endangered species like the Iberian lynx can be found in Spanish forests and wilderness, particularly in Andalusia and the Doñana National Park. Efforts to protect and restore its habitat have led to a slow increase in its population.

The Iberian wolf inhabits the northwestern regions of Spain, particularly in Castilla y León, Galicia, and Asturias. Conservation efforts are in place to ensure their survival, as their population faces various threats.

In mountainous and rocky areas like the Pyrenees and the Cantabrian Mountains, rare species such as the bearded vulture (also known as the lammergeier) and the Golden eagle can be found.

The Iberian hare, once considered at risk, is now more abundant and can be found in various regions across the country.

Chameleons, known for their color-changing abilities, can be found in the south, particularly in Andalusia and parts of the Mediterranean coast.

Spain’s landscape is rich with diverse plant species. Cork oak (Quercus suber), which grows primarily in the south and west, holds economic significance as its bark is used for cork production.

Cypress and juniper trees are common in central and warmer areas, including Andalusia and Extremadura.

Fields in spring bloom with wildflowers such as poppies, creating a beautiful sight. Lavender is another significant plant, especially in regions like Catalonia and Provence, cultivated for its aromatic oil.

In the semi-arid regions, such as Almeria and the Tabernas Desert, cacti and other succulents adapted to dry conditions can be observed.

 

Agriculture:

Intensive agriculture is practiced mainly in the central and southeastern regions. This includes the cultivation of fruits (such as tomatoes, peppers, and avocados) and vegetables (such as lettuce and broccoli). Modern irrigation systems and greenhouses are commonly used.

Extensive crops, such as cereals (especially wheat), olives, grapevines, and almonds, are grown in the south and inland regions.

Pastoralism remains an important part of the agricultural sector in mountainous areas. Local breeds of livestock, such as the Andalusian bull, are characteristic.

However, agriculture faces several challenges and opportunities. Water scarcity is a problem in some southern regions, making efficient water resource management crucial.

Traditional agricultural production holds cultural and historical significance. The production of Spanish olive oils, cheeses, and wine remains important for preserving cultural identity.

Spain is also a significant exporter of agricultural products. The export of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and wine is helped by strong international demand.

 

Resource extraction:

Historically, coal mining was significant in regions like Asturias, León, and Aragon. Although coal production has declined in recent years due to a shift towards more sustainable energy sources, it remains an important part of Spain’s mining history.

Spain also has reserves of metals like lead, zinc, and copper, primarily in regions such as Andalusia, Galicia, and the Pyrenees. Notably, the Riotinto mines in Andalusia are famous for their copper production, and Linares was historically significant for lead mining.

Construction materials like limestone, marble, and granite are abundant and widely extracted across the country. Notable regions for marble include Macarena in Andalusia and Carrara in Catalonia. Granite is commonly found in Galicia.

Salt is another important resource, with significant salt flats located in Torrevieja (Valencian Community) and San Pedro del Pinatar (Murcia), where salt has been extracted since Roman times.

Additionally, Spain has notable deposits of gypsum, potash, and sepiolite. The potash mines in Catalonia are among the largest in Europe, and sepiolite is extensively mined in the Madrid area.

 

Industry:

Spain is one of the leading European automobile producers, with several car manufacturing plants from companies such as SEAT (part of the Volkswagen Group), Nissan, and PSA Peugeot Citroën, producing vehicles and components for both domestic and international markets.

The food, beverage, and tobacco processing industries are significant in Spain. The country is renowned for its excellent wines (especially from regions like Rioja and Ribera del Duero), olive oils (notably from Andalusia), cheeses (such as Manchego), and other traditional products.

Spain is a leader in renewable energy production. The industry includes generating electricity from wind, solar, and hydroelectric sources, alongside traditional fossil fuels. Spain has some of the largest solar power plants and wind farms in Europe.

The construction industry is vital, with projects ranging from residential buildings to infrastructure and tourist facilities. Spain’s construction sector also includes significant international operations.

The textiles and clothing industry involves the production of garments, footwear, and textile products. While this industry historically played a significant role, it has faced challenges due to global competition. However, Spain remains a hub for fashion, with notable brands such as Zara, Mango, and Desigual.

Spain also has a pharmaceutical industry, producing medications and medical equipment, and a significant chemical industry producing a wide range of products including fertilizers and industrial chemicals.

 

Services and other economic sectors: transportation, services, tourism, banking and insurance, telecommunications, and trade

 

Natural and historical attractions:

Coasts like Costa del Sol, Costa Brava, and Costa Blanca are known for their beautiful beaches and recreational facilities.

The country boasts a rich cultural heritage with numerous landmarks, such as cathedrals, fortifications, palaces, and historic towns. Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, the Alhambra in Granada, and the cathedral in Toledo are just a few iconic sites.

Spanish cuisine is internationally renowned for its delightful dishes. Tapas, paella, jamón ibérico, and wine are part of the Spanish culinary tradition that attracts gourmets worldwide.

Barcelona is famous for its artistic heritage, including the works of the renowned architect Antoni Gaudí.

 

 

Form of government: Constitutional monarchy

The monarchy in Spain is primarily symbolic and representative, with the king serving as the head of state. The king’s duties include representing Spain in diplomatic matters, ratifying laws, and performing ceremonial functions.

The parliamentary system is a crucial element of the Spanish political system. Parliament, known as the Cortes Generales, consists of two chambers: the Senate (Senado) and the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados). The Congress of Deputies plays a key role in creating and approving laws and holds more power than the Senate. The Senate acts as a revising chamber and represents the autonomous communities.

The government is led by the prime minister (Presidente del Gobierno) and is made up of ministers. The prime minister, appointed by the King and approved by the Congress of Deputies, has substantial responsibility for managing state affairs. While the prime minister holds significant powers, these are subject to parliamentary control.

The lawmaking process is based on parliamentary approval. The Congress of Deputies plays a crucial role in the creation and approval of laws. Spain is also divided into 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities, which have varying levels of autonomy. Some of these communities have their own parliaments and governments with powers over internal affairs, such as education, health, and transportation.

The judicial system in Spain is independent of the executive and legislative branches. The Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) ensures that laws and acts comply with the constitution. The Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo) is the highest judicial body for all matters except constitutional issues. Below these courts are the National Court (Audiencia Nacional), regional high courts (Tribunales Superiores de Justicia), provincial courts (Audiencias Provinciales), and lower courts that handle civil, criminal, and administrative cases.

 

Capital City: Madrid

Madrid is located in the central part of Spain, in the region called the Community of Madrid (Autonomous Community of Madrid). It lies close to the geographic center of the Iberian Peninsula.

The city is home to the Royal Palace (Palacio Real), the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at Zarzuela Palace, the Spanish government, the Cortes Generales (Spain’s bicameral parliament, including the Congress of Deputies and the Senate), and other significant institutions.

The renowned Prado Museum is among the most important art institutions in the world.

Its streets are filled with cafes, restaurants, shops, and nightclubs. The city hosts various festivals and cultural events throughout the year.

Madrid is a major transportation hub with an international airport (Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport) and a dense network of public transport, including metro, buses, and trains.

The city has a population of about 3 340 000.

 

Area: 506 030 km2 (195 379 square miles)

 

Population: 47 560 000 (2022 estimate)

The main ethnic group in Spain is the Spaniards, who have diverse roots, including Celtiberians, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. Spain is a multinational state with significant regional identities. Important regional groups include Catalans, Basques, and Galicians, who have distinct cultural and linguistic traditions.

The official language of Spain is Spanish (often called Castilian). Additionally, several regional languages have co-official status in their respective regions, such as Catalan in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, Galician in Galicia, and Basque in the Basque Country and parts of Navarre.

Catholicism is the dominant religion in Spain, with a significant majority of the population identifying as Roman Catholic. However, Spain is a secular country with freedom of religion, and there are also communities of Muslims, Protestants, Jews, and other religious groups.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 49

 

  1. Alhambra, Generalife, and Albayzín, Granada (1984) – A complex of the Alhambra, Generalife, and Albayzín fortified palaces, and their gardens.
  2. Burgos Cathedral (1984) – A cathedral with the most beautiful Gothic elements in both its exterior and interior.
  3. The Historic Centre of Cordoba (1984) – The historic center features countless palaces and mosques.
  4. El Escorial (1984) – Complex of monastery, seminary, church, and palace with an exceptionally beautiful location and clean architecture.
  5. The Works of Antoni Gaudí (1984) – Unique works of architect Antoni Gaudí: Palacio Güell, Casa Milá, and Park Güell.
  6. Altamira Cave and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain (1985) – Prehistoric cave paintings.
  7. The Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of the Asturias (1985) – Churches from the 9th century in the Asturian kingdom in a pre-Romanesque style.
  8. The Old Town of Avila (1985) – An example of a medieval fortified city with numerous churches.
  9. Segovia and its Aqueduct (1985) – Old town and Roman aqueduct.
  10. Santiago de Compostela (1985) – Internationally renowned pilgrimage city. Its old part with monuments of all styles ranks it among the most beautiful cities.
  11. Garajonay National Park (1986) – A national park with laurel forests.
  12. Toledo (1986) – A city with a two-thousand-year history. Its monuments reflect the influence of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions.
  13. The Mudejar Architecture of Aragon (1986) – This art is rooted in Islam but also shows European styles that were developing at that time, mainly Gothic. It’s characterized by the use of bricks and glazed ceramics in architecture.
  14. Cáceres (1986) – Old town where Roman, Islamic, Gothic, and Renaissance influences blend in architecture.
  15. The Cathedral, Alcázar, and Archivo de Indias in Seville (1987) – A gothic cathedral, Moorish Alcázar palace, and Archivo de Indias in the Casa Lonja form a monumental complex in the heart of Seville.
  16. Salamanca (1988) – An old university city with Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance, and Baroque monuments.
  17. Poblet Monastery (1991) – Old Cistercian abbey, one of the largest in Spain.
  18. The Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida (1993) – Remains of an ancient Roman city include an amphitheater, theater, bridges, and an aqueduct system.
  19. The Way of St. James – Route to Santiago de Compostela (1993) – A route from the French-Spanish border lined with religious and secular buildings of great historical value.
  20. Santa María de Guadalupe (1993) – A royal monastery illustrating four centuries of Spanish architecture’s evolution.
  21. Doñana National Park (1994) – An Andalusian national park consisting mainly of lagoons and marshes, home to many bird species.
  22. Cuenca (1996) – A preserved fortified city built by the Moors, known for its houses hanging on cliffs.
  23. Llotja de la Seda in Valencia (1996) – La Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange) in Valencia, a group of buildings from 1482 to 1533.
  24. Las Médulas (1997) – The remains of Roman gold mines.
  25. Monte Perdido in the Pyrenees (1997) – A mountain landscape on the border of France and Spain with deep canyons, massive circular walls, and the third highest peak in the Pyrenees.
  26. San Millán de Yuso and Suso Monasteries (1997) – A monastic community founded by Saint Millán in the mid-6th century.
  27. Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona (1997) – Famous buildings by Catalan Art Nouveau architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.
  28. The Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula (1998) – Late prehistoric rock engravings and paintings on the Iberian Peninsula depicting ways of life.
  29. Alcalá de Henares (1998) – The world’s first planned university city.
  30. Ibiza (1999) – The landscape of the island of Ibiza serving as an example of interaction between marine and coastal ecosystems.
  31. San Cristóbal de La Laguna (1999) – A city on Tenerife. The first ideal territorial city built according to philosophical principles.
  32. Tárraco Archaeological Ensemble (2000) – Tárraco (modern-day Tarragona) was the capital of Roman Spain and the Roman center for the entire Iberian Peninsula.
  33. The Archaeological Site of Atapuerca (2000) – Caves in the Sierra de Atapuerca containing the remains of the first human beings in Europe – nearly a million years old.
  34. Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí (2000) – The narrow and deep Vall de Boí valley in the Pyrenees with churches representing various stages of Romanesque art.
  35. Palmeral of Elche (2000) – A unique palm grove representing ancient Arabic agricultural practices in Europe.
  36. Lugo (2000) – The fortifications were built in the second half of the 2nd century to protect the Roman city of Lucus.
  37. Aranjuez Cultural Landscape (2001) – A rare unity of natural landmarks and diverse human activity.
  38. The Renaissance Monumental Ensembles of Úbeda and Baeza (2003) – Small towns in southern Spain. The influence of the Moors in the 9th century, the Catholic reconquest, and above all the arrival of the Renaissance in the 16th century are evident.
  39. Rock Art of the Côa Valley and Siega Verde (1988) – An outstanding concentration of late Stone Age rock carvings and paintings.
  40. Biscay Bridge (2006) – Suspended steel bridge spanning the mouth of the Ibaizabal River west of Bilbao, designed by Basque architect Alberto de Palacio and completed in 1893.
  41. Teide National Park (2007) – A mountainous national park on Tenerife Island, including the Teide-Pico Viejo volcano.
  42. The Tower of Hercules in La Coruña (2007) – The original lighthouse built by the Romans in the 1st century CE. A landmark for entering the city of La Coruña.
  43. Mallorca (2011) – Cultural landscape of Serra de Tramuntana. A mountain range in the north of the island inhabited for thousands of years.
  44. Almadén (2012) – Some of the world’s largest mercury mines in Spain.
  45. The Megalithic Sites and Kras Landscape around Antequera (2016) – Sites from the late Stone Age and Bronze Age, Menga and Viera dolmens, El Romeral tholos, Peña de los Enamorados limestone rock, and Torcal de Antequera karst landscape.
  1. The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe (2007) – Preserved beech forests in various areas of Europe from the Pyrenees to the Black Sea.
  2. Medina Azahara (2018) – The Archaeological site of a Moorish medieval city from the 10th century.
  3. Risco Caído and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria (2019) – The remains of indigenous people practicing cosmology.
  4. Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro Park in Madrid (2021) – A significant avenue and boulevard located in the center of Madrid.

 

National parks: 16

 

  1. Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park
  2. Archipiélago de Cabrera National Park
  3. Cabañeros National Park
  4. Caldera de Taburiente National Park
  5. Doñana National Park
  6. Garajonay National Park
  7. Islas Atlánticas de Galicia National Park
  8. Sierra de Guadarrama National Park
  9. Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park
  10. Picos de Europa National Park
  11. Sierra Nevada National Park
  12. Tablas de Daimiel National Park
  13. Teide National Park
  14. Timanfaya National Park
  15. Sierra de las Nieves National Park
  16. Monfragüe National Park