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The Kingdom of Spain is a nation-state located in southwestern Europe. Despite being the second-westernmost state in Europe, it is often considered to be part of "Southern Europe" rather than "Western Europe" in a cultural and governmental sense.

There are some who might point out that both Ireland and Iceland are west of Spain while it is the southernmost part of Europe, excepting a Greek island or two, so the above conclusions are not totally unwarranted.

It is also possible that the Southern notation comes from the classification by indigenous skin color using the Von Luschan's chromatic scale.[1]

Despite the fact that the Spanish language is named after the country, it isn't the only language to originate there. As a result, Spaniards often refer to the language as Castilian (after the region where the language originated) rather than Spanish. Inside of Spain this choice of words (Castellano vs. Español) is immensely political, whereas most of Latin America just chooses one of the two at random to get it over with.

More than 50% of people in the province of Galicia (the bit that sits on top of Portugal) consider Galician their first language. Galician is closer to Portuguese than to Castilian Spanish.


[edit] Land and people

Spain has an impressive mixture of climate zones for a single country. The north has an Atlantic climate, with cool, wet winters and warm dryish summers. The majority of Spain's rain in fact falls on the northern mountains and the Pyrenees and not, as the refrain suggests, "on the plain". The high mountainous interior has a continental Mediterranean climate with bitterly cold winters and scorching summers. The fact that most Spanish homes lack central heating does not do them any favor in said winters.

The spectacular Pyrenees which mark the border with the hated French have an Alpine climate while the hinterland of Almería is a true desert. The Mediterranean coast has - surprise surprise - a true Mediterranean climate. Naturally there are areas where these climate areas mix and overlap giving rise to even wider diversity.

The people are nominally "Spaniards", though some nationalist Basques, Catalans, and Galicians might take exception to the description.

The country is bordered to the north by France and the tiny bump in the road, Andorra. It is bordered to the west by its mini-me, Portugal and to the south by its arch-nemesis, Gibraltar - some rock owned by the United Kingdom which likes to pretend it's part of southern England sometimes. Why is this? Because of the War of the Spanish Succession, which strikes terror - and boredom - into the hearts of world history students worldwide, and is **still** a point of contention between the two former rivals, and worsens relations to this day.

[edit] History

Juan Carlos I, King of Spain who abdicated in 2014 in favour of his son, Felipe VI.
King Felipe VI; and yes that's how you'd look if you had taken over a country like Spain at a point in time like he did

Spain was part of the Roman Empire for about 500 years until the early part of the fifth century when - echoing what was to happen all over again in the 1960's - the Germans started to arrive in large numbers and sort of took the place over. As is usual for Germans in Spain they started telling the locals how to run the country and obtained management positions. To their surprise, they were themselves given the elbow when Spain was conquered by Islamic peoples in the 700s, and much of the country was under Muslim rule until the late 1400s. This led to some stunningly beautiful architecture, and a lot of ill feeling and bloodshed as the Christian reconquest took place. Compared to the initial invasion, the reconquest was a quite drawn-out affair, lasting as it did from 722 to 1492. However, during the "Reconquista" many Christian rulers allied with Muslim rulers against fellow Christians and vice versa. Jews were sometimes more accepted in Muslim lands and sometimes in Christian lands, often depending on economics and the mood of the ruler.

Possibly the best known era in Spanish history was the Spanish Inquisition, the period during which Chris Colombo and his rag-tag crew of Italians, Spaniards, Jews, and Moors sailed west.

Spain was one of the first colonial powers in Europe, claiming a huge chunk of the Americas and even the Philippines. However, rather than build industry, infrastructure, or any sort of meaningful economy, the Spanish mostly just looted their American colonies of as much precious metal as they could find and slaughtered the indigenous peoples tried to turn the indigenous peoples into good Christians. Eventually Napoleon conquered Spain, proving how weak it was, 'cause if the French beat you... although it would later kick the French out and became independent again- but during this time, most of their colonies broke away and now steal jobs from hard-working Americans. Civil strife, a civil war, and the rule of the dictator Francisco Franco made for an initially slow economic recovery.

After Franco died, the new king, Juan Carlos I (who in recent years became known outside of Spain, and possibly within it, for having told Hugo Chavez to shut up), instituted many reforms and liberalized the country. Between that, and joining the European Union, Spain has made great strides in catching up with the rest of Europe. Meanwhile, Franco is still dead.

[edit] Politics

[edit] The 2000s

The Socialist government in Spain came to power in 2004 after an election which was directly preceded by a vicious Al-Qaeda terrorist attack in Madrid. Prior to the attack the People's Party had been comfortably in the lead in opinion polls. Depending on your political affiliation, the attack had one of the two following consequences:There are also more extreme conspiracy theories associated with both of these positions.

  • Conservative interpretation: The cowardly population was intimidated by the attack and voted against the ruling conservative People's Party which had involved Spain in the Iraq war. Because the Socialists had promised to immediately withdraw from Iraq, voting for them was seen as a way of avoiding further terrorists attacks by giving Al-Qaeda what it wanted. Thus the population humiliated Spain by giving in to terrorism on a national scale.
  • Socialist interpretation: The government manipulated the news media in an effort to blame the terrorist group ETA for the bombing. This was because if ETA were to blame then it would be no fault of the government's, but if Al-Qaeda were behind the attack, then the true folly of the government's despicable actions would be clear. So the government lied and lied and lied in an effort to suppress the real truth about the nature of the attack. The resolute Spanish people were infuriated by the government's lies and it suffered a massive punishment vote.

The Socialist Government proved to be remarkably progressive. In short order it: removed Spanish troops from Iraq, legalised gay marriage as well as gay adoption, removed religious symbols from public buildings, eliminated compulsory religious education, created Spain's first female vice president, passed legislation to give additional "human" rights to great apes,[2] passed laws against gender violence, passed a law allowing no-fault divorce, moved to relax abortion laws, etc.

It can count the Catholic Church as one of its main opponents in many, if not all, these reforms. So much so that the church endeavoured to persuade the faithful to vote for the opposition when the government came up for re-election. [3]

[edit] The 2010s

The right-wing conservative People's Party won the 2011 elections by a landslide. This followed an economic crisis which led to an exceptionally high youth unemployment rate and resulted in the socialist partly losing losing some 40% of its support.

The new government embarked on a vigorous policy of rolling back many of the previous government's policies plus a mix of higher taxes, budgetary cuts, "structural reforms" such as a labor law reform, and some other laws that were unpopular and increased a lot social inequality in Spain.

The 2015 election saw a humiliating defeat for both the socialists (PSOE) and the conservatives who had ruled Spain during much of the economic crisis. A new party PODEMOS, which can be translated as "yes, we can", gained almost a quarter of the vote and no party had a majority. A second vote was equally inconclusive but, after the Socialist party leader being forced out of office, the socialists allowed the formation of weak, minority right-wing government in late 2016 - in the interest of national stability of course[4]

[edit] Political parties

In most of Spain there are two main parties,[5] - the Socialist Party, which is your typical Social Democratic party, and the People's Party, which is your typical right-of center party, with mostly conservative and Catholic Church-friendly elements.

Smaller parties include United Left (leftist, as its name suggests, although not quite united), that merged with "Podemos" (see below), and the fairly new Union, Progress and Democracy party that has faded into insignificance after losing a substantial amount of votes, as well as a variety of regional parties from both sides of the political spectrum such as Convergence and Union (Catalonia, right), Republican Left of Catalonia (isn't that one obvious enough?) and the Basque Nationalist Party (Basque Country, center). In 2005, the Ciudadanos (lit. Citizens) Party was formed by Catalonian anti-Catalan nationalist *gasp* civic figures. It is considered center-right to center-left by Spaniards (read mainstream Democratic Party in the US). Much smaller parties[6] include "PACMA" (a party that defends vegetarianism, environmentalism, and opposes bullfighting), "VOX" (conservative right), far-right parties as "FE de las JONS", (far-right) populism as "Democracia Nacional", and the libertarian P-Lib[7].

In 2014 a new left-wing political party "Podemos" (Spanish for "we can") was founded. It is very popular being led by the populist politician Pablo Iglesias and merged in 2016 with United Left to form Unidos Podemos ("United we can"). At the time of this writing, after PSOE abstained to give the government to Rajoy, polls show it has overtaken PSOE and is the second party in vote intention[8].

The current president, Mariano Rajoy Brey, belongs to the People's Party.

[edit] Religious belief in Spain

Although widely considered a Catholic country (which, historically, it has been), the level of religious belief in Spain is dropping sharply. During the period 2000 to 2010 professed Catholics dropped from 83.9% of the population to 74.4%. During the same period those who stated they were atheists or non-believers rose from 12.8% to 21.6%.[9] Anyone entering a church in many parts of Spain will be struck by fact that the average age of the congregation is quite high - which rather suggests that this is a generational change which is set to continue[note 1]

A poll by the Catholic Church in the Basque province of Vizcaya in late 2013 discovered that only 3% of the population aged between 18 and 34 considered itself to be practising Catholic and 60% described themselves as atheist, agnostic or non-believer. [10]

As a general rule, even trying to explain what creationism is about will be met with blank looks and rank disbelief from theists and atheists alike.

Besides, the Catholic Church is gaining a notorious reputation due to the ever-increasing cases of corruption, lack of transparency and, more importantly, sexual abuse to children. Besides, the Asociación Nacional de Afectados por Adopciones Irregulares gives an estimate of 300,000 children who were separated from their parents[11] as soon as they were born, to be sold to richer families. The Church collaborated in and hid these crimes, mostly during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

[edit] Spanish woomeisters

Like many other countries, Spain has many people promoting pseudoscience, though mostly in YouTube rather than television.

Cuarto Milenio (meaning Fourth Millennium) is a famous TV show presented by Iker Jiménez and currently emitted in the channel Cuatro. It’s about topics such as ufology, the occult, parapsychology, archaeology (often mixed with pseudohistorical claims) and cryptozoology. Its laxity has been criticized by author Ricardo Campo, among many others.[12]

With nearly 800,000 subscribers, mundodesconocido is a webpage and YouTube channel directed by José Luis Camacho and dedicated to the New World Order, Area 51, UFOs, Jesus Christ nonsense, time travel, ancient aliens, Hollow Earth, Hollow Moon, spirits and climate change denial.[13]

Another notable Spanish nutter is a man called Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez (wow, that's quite a mouthful). He is the founder and leader of the Korean Friendship Association. Basically, it's the official North Korea fan club, it's full of crazy communists and denies that North Korea is anything other than a paradise (how wrong they are).

[edit] Skeptical organisations in Spain

[edit] References

Si buscaba España, hay un artículo en RacionalWiki Español.

[edit] Notes

  1. Things may be different not only because of the economical crisis, but also because of Latin-American immigrants, who have brought with them Evangelism (cue to evangelical churches, almost always nothing more than revamped old shops, popping in certain number in those suburbs where they are most concentrated as well as them often preaching in squares or even in public transportation systems)
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