“”Fair land! of chivalry, the old domain,
Land of the vine and olive, lovely Spain!
Though not for thee with classic shores to vie
In charms that fix th' enthusiast's pensive eye;
Yet hast thou scenes of beauty richly fraught
With all that wakes the glow of lofty thought.
|—Felicia Hemans, Abencerrage, Canto II, line 1, reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 740.|
The Kingdom of Spain is a nation-state located in southwestern Europe. Despite being the second-westernmost state in continental 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.
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 autonomous region of Galicia (the bit that sits on top of Portugal) consider Galician their first language. Galician is closer to Portuguese than to Castilian Spanish.
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.
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 1940’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.
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.
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.[note 1] 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, 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.
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 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.
However, this government did not last long for three reasons. First, the People's Party had its own deal of problems, including rampant corruption. The kickbacks-for-contracts scheme was so huge the prosecution considered it worthy of 'a criminal organisation' and the sentence imposed civil liabilities for the party. Plus, the former Socialist leader, Pedro Sánchez (known as Mr. Handsome abroad, in the same fashion as Justin Trudeau), made a surprise comeback defeating the party apparatus' candidate in a leadership election with the help of one of Spain's best spin doctors, Iván Redondo. Last, but not least, a huge and at times surreal constitutional crisis took place in Catalonia in the fall of 2017 (see below). Even though the country was a real shitshow, the government was deemed stable and political change was unlikely.
And then, the unexpected happen. All parties joined against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who was himself involved in the corruption scheme, and Sánchez was elected Prime Minister in the first successful motion of non-confidence under the 1978 Constitution. (Under normal circumstances, motions of non-confidence are used as a strategic move to gain media visibility, as the candidate for Prime Minister is poised to lose them from the start).
Sánchez's new government pledged to repeal many of the former government's restrictive laws against civil rights, exhumate Franco's corpse from its mausoleum and pass a new, socially-oriented budget. It also called for a new approach to the territorial crisis (which isn't quite difficult to achieve, given that the other option was a crumbling status quo based on lots of stick and no carrots). However, as this last objective was not achieved, Catalan nationalists removed its support for the government, the budget did not pass and Sánchez called for new elections in April 2019. The Socialists won the vote, and they attempted to form a minority government. However, Unidas Podemos (the coalition of Podemos, the Communist Party and other minor parties) insisted on a coalition government, which the centrist wing of the party fiercely opposed. This led to a new election in November 2019, which was a mess: the Socialists did not increase their share of votes, Unidas Podemos lost seven seats, the conservative PP gained ground after its worst result in Spanish history and Vox, a far-right party with strategic support from Steve Bannon cronies and willing to replicate the success of Trump and Bolsonaro, became the third-largest force in Parliament. This time, perhaps with help from Iván Redondo, a coalition between the Socialists and Unidas Podemos was formed. It was the first national coalition government since the Spanish transition to democracy and the first left-wing coalition government in the national level since the Second Republic.
The coalition gained power with an extremely narrow plurality in the Parliament vote in January. The polarisation levels were reaching a melting point. Then, COVID-19 came, and Spain's record on handling the pandemic proved to be mediocre for people with common sense, and the result of a Coupist-Communist government willing to destroy the Constitution with the support of former terrorists, the Nicolás Maduro administration and the Chinese government, for the ever-increasing number of nationalist wingnuts since the crisis began in February.
Due to its quite distinct culture and economics, many have advocated for Catalonia to become its own nation. The movement has picked up pace in recent years, leading to a referendum in 2014 showing around 80% support for independence, although "only" two million out of the 5.6 million eligible voters participated (37%).The low turn out is usually explained by the fact that most supporters of staying within Spain boycotted the vote, as it was seen as a nationalist ploy to seek legitimacy. A more recent poll puts the support for independence at 29%.
An illegal referendum on the 1st October 2017 was somewhat suppressed by the Spanish Guardia Civil by court order, as such activities are not within the power of the Catalan authority to call. This was followed by a somewhat chaotic sequence of events during which Catalonian government sort of declared independence, suspended their own declaration, had the declaration questioned by by Spain, declared independence and finally had the declaration of independence revoked by Spain through Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. New elections were announced for December 2017.
The majority of those involved were then charged with an impressive list of crimes including sedition, rebellion and improper used of public funds. The Spanish government blamed it on evil Russian influence trying to destroy Spain. To complicate matters the ex-president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, along with some members of his parliament were found to have absconded to Brussels. They felt that by taking their issues to the heart of Europe they might obtain a more sympathetic international audience. Whilst in Belgium, they have been rejected by every mainstream political party in the country, except the far-right Flemish nationalists.
More recently, however, outlandish charges made to him by Spanish Judges Carmen Lamela and Pablo Llarena has resulted in heavy frowns in some European countries, granting him more sympathy than the Spanish Governement would love.[citation NOT needed]
Spain, these days, is known for opposing pretty much every modern independence movement in the world today (with the possible exception of Western Sahara), just so the Catalans (and the Basques) don't get any funny ideas.
In most of Spain there are two main parties,[note 2]:
- 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 (and some Thatcher-loving neoliberals and neocons).
Other parties include:
- Vox, a liberal (libertarian from an US-based perspective)-nativist party. It was founded in 2014 by a faction of former PP members belonging to its Neocon and socially conservative faction. Eventually, as in Germany's AfD, these members soon quit the party and were replaced by a coalition of nationalists, Fascist symphatizers and Libertarians. The party is way less socially-oriented than Marine Le Pen's National Rally and has a liking to Trump and Bolsonaro. It is the party of choice for wingnuts and QAnon supporters in Spain.
- Unidas Podemos, a coalition of Podemos, a left-wing populist party; and United Left (leftist, as its name suggests, although not quite united; in the end, a coalition of the Communist Party of Spain and minor leftist parties). However, since the populist faction of Podemos, mostly made of Peronist and Chavist sympathizers led by Íñigo Errejón, left the party between 2017 and 2019, it has become harder to distinguish the role each party plays in the alliance.
- Ciudadanos, a centrist party akin to the Democrats with a nationalist twist, founded in by Catalan anti-Catalan nationalist *gasp* civic figures, in a move that gave a lot of 1980s-1990s Quebec vibes. It is considered a center-right to center-left by Spaniards. They define themselves as "neither in the right nor the left". It is perceived as a far-right party by the Catalan independence movement and half-heartedly by Unidas Podemos. Many members of Ciudadanos formerly belonged to the Union, Progress and Democracy party, which gained certain preeminence during the climax of the two-party system, but is now irrelevant with Ciudadanos following the same route after the 2023 municipal and regional elections.
- Peripheral nationalist and regionalist parties. They are a mixed bag.
- Some of them are centrist, such as:
- the christian democratic Basque Nationalist Party;
- and the PDECat, the remainder of what once was a powerful party, CiU. It acted as a dealbreaker in Spanish politics and as a populist nationalist party in Catalonia, led by Jordi Pujol, a Yoda lookalike[citation NOT needed] which turned out to be extremely corrupt.
- Others lean to the left, such as
- EH Bildu, made up of Basque independence supporters;
- Galicia's BNG;
- Catalonia's ERC;
- and Junts per Catalunya, a breakaway party from the PDECat willing to experiment with left-wing populism as a means to achieve momentum for the Catalan independence movement under the personalist leadership of exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.
- Regional parties tend to be a key part of bargaining. Some of them are more independent, such as CC, from the Canary Islands. Others are affiliated with the national PP, such as Navarra's UPN.
- Some of them are centrist, such as:
- Minor parties[note 3] include PACMA (a party that defends vegetarianism, environmentalism, and opposes bullfighting), far-right parties as "FE de las JONS", (far-right) populism as "Democracia Nacional", the Stalinist parties PCPE, PCTE and PCOE, and the libertarian P-LIB.
The current prime minister, whose official title is the "President of the Council of Ministers" is Pedro Sánchez, belongs to the Socialist Party.
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%. By 2016 the number of atheists and non-belivers had reached 25.8%. 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 4]
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.
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.
In addition 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.
Furthermore there is a constant drip drip of information about how the Catholic Church connived with the Franco regime to steal babies from their leftist or poor birth parents and hand them over to richer childless parents who supported the fascist regime. The real parents were told that their babies had died shortly after birth and were then shown the door. The Asociación Nacional de Afectados por Adopciones Irregulares gives an estimate of 300,000 children who were separated from their parents in this way.
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.The show is widely mocked on social media and usually trends on twitter when its on emission due to this mockery. Most people claim to watch it for the purpose of comedy.
With more than 2,000,000 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.
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 tankies and denies that North Korea is anything other than a paradise (how wrong they are).
Skeptical organisations in Spain
- Circuloesceptico Skeptics circle founded by Luis Alfonso Gámez.
- ARP - Sociedad para el Avance del Pensamiento Crítico Society for the advancement of critical thinking.
- ¿Qué mal Puede Hacer? "What harm can there be?" Association fighting pseudoscience and quackery in the Media and in State-owned institutions.
En otros idiomas
- In fact goverment members as Angel Acebes, Interior Minister by then, claimed several times (link in Spanish) ETA was responsible
- Not to be confused with political fiestas.
- If it weren't for the way the Spaniard electoral system works (D'Hondt system), parties which would have gotten in some cases seats in Congress. Others, as the libertarian P-LIB, are pretty much insignificant.
- 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, even if they mostly target other LatAm inmigrants)
- See the Wikipedia article on Von Luschan's chromatic scale. Do not confuse with the normal person's chromatic scale.
- Apes (but not bulls) get legal rights in Spain
- Catholic church tries to prevent socialist re-election
- Rajoy becomes Spain’s new PM after a 10-month stalemate
- [https://www.eldiario.es/politica/audiencia-nacional-correa-barcenas_1_2109071.html Sentencia Gürtel: 51 años para Correa, 33 para Bárcenas y el PP condenado "a título lucrativo" ]
- Sánchez, ganador de las primarias del PSOE
- Catalonia vote: 80% back independence - officials BBC
- Most catalans favour the calling of elections El País (in Spanish)
- Catalonia government dissolved after declaring independence from Spain
- "Spain sees Russian interference in Catalonia separatist vote", Reuters, Nov 13, 2017
- Spanish court charges Catalan leaders with rebellionPolitico
- Puigdemont Cannot Be Extradited on Rebellion Charge, German Court RulesNY Times
- El Periódico
- Resultados Elecciones 2016
- Religious belief in Spain - in Spanish
- Uno de cada cuatro españoles se considera ateo o no creyente - in Spanish
- 60% atheist in Vizcaya - link in Spanish
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuarto_milenio, https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuarto_milenio