Facts About Spain

History, Government, and Politics

        At the crossroads between Europe and Africa, the Iberian Peninsula has always been a target for invading races and civilisations. The Romans arrived in the 3rd century BC but took two centuries to subdue the peninsula. Gradually Roman laws, languages and customs were adopted. In 409 AD, Roman Hispania was invaded by a massive contingent of Germanic tribes and by 419 a Visigothic kingdom had been established. The Visigoths ruled until 711, when the Muslims crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and defeated Roderick, the last Goth king.

        By 714, the Muslim armies had occupied the entire peninsula, apart from the mountainous regions of northern Spain. The Muslim occupation of southern Spain (which the Spanish called Al-Andalus) was to last almost 800 years. During this period, the arts and sciences prospered, new crops and agricultural techniques were introduced and palaces, mosques, schools, gardens and public baths were built. In 722, at Covadonga in northern Spain, a small army under the Visigothic king Pelayo inflicted the first defeat on the Muslims. Symbolically, this battle marked the beginning of the Reconquista, the reconquest of Spain by the Christians.

        By the end of the 13th century, Castilla and Aragón had emerged as Christian Spain's two main powers, and in 1469 these two kingdoms were united by the marriage of Isabel, princess of Castilla, to Fernando, heir to the throne of Aragón. Known as the Catholic Monarchs, they united all of Spain and laid the foundations for the golden age. In 1478, they established the notoriously ruthless Spanish Inquisition, expelling and executing thousands of Jews and other non-Christians. In 1482, they besieged Granada, and 10 years later the last Muslim king surrendered to them, marking the long-awaited end of the Reconquista.

        Spain developed an enormous empire in the New World, following Columbus' arrival in the Americas in 1492. Gold and silver came flooding into Spanish coffers from Mexico and Peru as the conquistadors claimed land from Cuba to Bolivia. Spain monopolised trade with these new colonies and became one of the most powerful nations on earth. However, this protectionism hindered development of the colonies and led to a series of expensive wars with England, France and the Netherlands.

                        Alhambra "Granada"                                                               "Cathedral of Sevilla"

     When Louis XVI was guillotined in 1793, Spain declared war on the new French republic, but was defeated. In 1808, Napoleon's troops entered Spain and the Spanish Crown began to lose its hold on its colonies. Sparked by an uprising in Madrid, the Spanish people united against the French and fought a five-year war of independence. In 1813, the French forces were finally expelled, and in 1814 Fernando VII was restored to the Spanish throne. Fernando's subsequent 20-year reign was a disastrous advertisement for the monarchy. During his time, the Inquisition was re-established, liberals and constitutionalists were persecuted, free speech was repressed, Spain entered a severe economic recession and the American colonies won their independence.

        The disastrous Spanish-American War of 1898 marked the end of the Spanish Empire. Spain was defeated by the USA in a series of one-sided naval battles, resulting in the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, Spain's last overseas possessions. Spain's troubles continued during the early 20th century. In 1923, with the country on the brink of civil war, Miguel Primo de Rivera declared himself military dictator and ruled until 1930. In 1931, Alfonso XIII fled the country, and the Second Republic was declared, but it soon fell victim to internal conflict. The 1936 elections saw the country split in two, with the Republican government and its supporters on one side (an uneasy alliance of communists, socialists and anarchists, who favoured a more equitable civil society and a diminished role for the Church) and the opposition Nationalists (a right-wing alliance of the army, the Church, the monarchy and the fascist-style Falange Party) on the other.

        The assassination of the opposition leader José Calvo Sotelo by Republican police officers in July 1936 gave the army an excuse to overthrow the government. During the subsequent Civil War (1936-39), the Nationalists received extensive military and financial support from Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, while the elected Republican government received support only from Russia and, to a lesser degree, from the International Brigades, made up of foreign idealists. Despite the threat of fascism, England and France refused to support the Republicans.

        By 1939, the Nationalists, led by Franco, had won the war. More than 350,000 Spaniards had died in the fighting, but more bloodletting ensued. An estimated 100,000 Republicans were executed or died in prison after the war. Franco's 35-year dictatorship saw Spain isolated by economic blockades, excluded from NATO and the UN and crippled by economic recession. It wasn't until the early 1950s, when the rise in tourism and a treaty with the USA combined to provide much needed funds, that the country began to recover. By the 1970s, Spain had the fastest growing economy in Europe.

        Franco died in 1975, having earlier named Juan Carlos, the grandson of Alfonso XIII, his successor. With Juan Carlos on the throne, Spain made the transition from dictatorship to democracy. The first elections were held in 1977, a new constitution was drafted in 1978, and a failed military coup in 1981 was seen as a futile attempt to turn back the clock. In 1982 Spain made a final break with the past by voting in a socialist government with a sizeable majority. The only major blemish on the domestic front since has been the terrorist campaign waged by separatist militant group ETA, which is trying to secure an independent Basque homeland.During 30 years of terrorist activity, ETA has killed over 800 people.

        In 1986 Spain joined the EC (now the EU) and in 1992 Spain announced its return to the world stage, with Barcelona hosting the Olympic Games, Seville hosting Expo 92 and Madrid being declared European Cultural Capital. In 1996 Spaniards voted in a conservative party under the leadership of the uncharismatic José María Aznar, an Elton John fan and former tax inspector. In March 2000 he was re-elected with an absolute majority; his success has been attributed to the buoyant state of the Spanish economy, which has experienced 4% annual growth since Aznar came to power.

Constitutional Background

        The monarchy was re-established in Spain after the death of the General Franco in 1975. King Juan Carlos I directed the transition of the dictatorial franquist regime towards democracy. This transition was expressed in the elaboration the 1978 Constitution based on changes of the fundamental franquist Laws. The Constitution of 1978 allowed to develop a democratic, social, and regional state, whose only challenge was the intended military coup, hindered by the King in 1981.

        The last constitutional amendment (27 Aug 1992) only added to Art. 13 (2) the right of EU-citizens to be elected during municipal elections.

        The main political formations with national representation are the governing People's Party (PP) of Jose Maria Aznar; the Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE) of Felipe González; and the Left United Coalition (IU). Other important parliamentary representations are those of the two nationalist parties: Convergence to Union from Catalonia and the Basque National Party.

Importants Links Related to History, Government and Politics

Spain.Com - an interesting website which describes important informations related to Spain politics's system through history.  Contains numerous pictures of cities, history places and genaral pictures concerning Spanish culture.

sispain-  General information for traveler around the world about Spain.  Importants sites in cities, attraction, events, transportation, culture, travel and entertainment, etc.


Universidad Complutense (Madrid)

        The educational law of 1990, the Ley Organica de Ordenacion General del Sistema Educativo (LOGSE) (Law on the General Organization of the Educational System), established a new system which started in 1991-92 school-year. The main points of the new system are the following:
                1. Basic education is compulsory and free of charge, and it is extended up to the age of 16, the legal age for starting work.
                2. The educational system includes general and special education, i.e. the different levels of education are adapted to suit students with special needs.
                3. All students have basic vocational training, which is given in secondary education. Specific vocational training is organized at two levels, the first at the end of compulsory secondary education, and the higher level at the end of the 'Baccalaureate'.
                4. Improvement in the quality of teaching must be achieved via the renewal of the contents of the courses, improvement in human resources and material resources, and better use of the various instruments of the educational system.
                6. Special systems are applied for artistic education and language learning.
General education is organized as follows:
                1. nursery infant education (0 to 6 years)
                2. primary education (6 to 12 years)
                3. compulsory secondary education (12 to 16 years)
                4. post-compulsory secondary education, including the baccalaureate and the middle grade of vocational training
                5. upper grade vocational training
                6. university education (to become university student a university entrance examination must be passed)

Secondary Education

        Before the reform of 1990, secondary education used to last 3 years following eight years of Educacion General Basica (EGB) or Formacion Profesional (FP). It led to the Bachillerato Unificado y Polivalente (BUP). Pupils who held the Bachillerato (BUP) could go on to one-year Curso de Orientacion Universitaria (COU), a university preparation course and one of the pre-requisites for entrance to university studies.

        After the 1990 reform (LOGSE), secondary education (ESO) became compulsory, and it now lasts four years, following six years of primary education, and it leads to the graduado en educacion secundaria. Studies leading to the titulo de bachillerato take another two years. Students sit for examinations and must succeed in all subjects. To enter university, they must sit for an entrance examination (selectividad).

Age Old System New System
-    12 years old 7th grade EGB 1st year ESO
-    13 years old 8th grade EGB 2nd year ESO
-    14 years old 1st year BUP/1st FP I 3rd year ESO
-    15 years old 2nd year BUP/2nd FP I 4th year ESO
-    16 years old 3rd year BUP/1st FP II 1st year Bachillerato/Formación Profesional
-    17 years old COU/2nd FP II 2nd Bachillerato/Formación Profesional

Higher Education

        The Spanish university system dates back to the Middle Ages. The oldest among Spanish Universities is Salamanca, founded in 1218. The present system, however, is actually descendant of the 19th century liberal university, inspired by the centralized French model. In the last years, it has experienced its greatest growth in history, while at the same time advancing towards a self-governing and descentralized system.

        Higher education is provided by both public and private institutions. Universities are divided into departamentos, facultades universitarias, escuelas tecnicas superiores, escuelas universitarias, institutos universitarios, and other centres, notably the colegios universitarios.

        The Ministry of Education with the departments of higher education in the universities coordinates the activities of state and private institutions and proposes the main lines of educational policy. The Consejo de Universidades sets up guidelines for the creation of universities, centres and institutes. It can also propose measures concerning advanced postgraduate studies, the defining of qualifications to be officially recognized throughout the country and standards governing the creation of university departments. The legislation on university autonomy provides for administrative, academic and financial autonomy.

        The Ley de Reforma Universitaria (LRU) gave rise to a renewal of the existing plans of study, presently intermediate degrees (three years) and superior degrees (five years, six for medicine) which are being replaced by two different types of studies: those of the single cycle, which will run for three years and are directly professional; and those of three cycles in some cases, receiving diplomas which are professionally valid; the B.A.'s (always with various specialties) and the doctorate (two years and a final thesis).

        In certain studies, the student will be able to pass from the short cycle to the bachelor's degree with a new major after a course of transition. In addition to the doctorate, in many faculties, such as medicine, there are areas for specialization and at present, thre are many types of master's degrees for graduates in law and economics.

        The basic unit of plans of study include required subjects grouped in courses that the students will have to follow consecutively and elective courses. The courses taken may be mainstream courses (at 30% of the total in the first cycle or 25% in the second), which are those that the University Councils declare obligatory; or electives, chosen freely by the student (at least 10% of the total).

Important Links Related to Education

Spainexchange - General informations of the education system in Spain.  Important information concerning studies of foreing college students form abroad.

Society and Culture

                                    " Bullfighting in Madrid"                                                                 "Seville's Cathedral"

         Spain has an extraordinary artistic heritage. The dominant figures of the golden age were the Toledo-based artists El Greco and Diego Velázquez. Francisco Goya emerged in the 18th century as Spain's most prolific painter and he produced some wonderfully unflattering portraits of royalty. The art world in the early 20th century was influenced by a remarkable group of Spanish artists: Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí. Spain's architecture ranges from prehistoric monuments in Menorca in the Balearic Islands, through to the Roman ruins of Mérida and Tarragona, the decorative Islamic Alhambra in Granada, Mudéjar buildings, Gothic cathedrals, castles and palaces, fantastic modernist monuments and Gaudí's intricate fabulist sculptures.

        One of the world's greatest works of fiction is the 17th-century novel Don Quijote de la Mancha, written by Spain's Miguel de Cervantes. Important 20th-century writers include Miguel de Unamuno, Federico García Lorca and Camilo José Cela, winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize for literature. Prominent feminist writers include Adelaida Garcia Morales, Ana María Matute and Montserrat Roig. Spanish films were once synonymous with the work of surrealist genius Luís Buñuel, who spent much of his time abroad. They are now associated with the mad-cap kinky farces of Pedro Almodóvar, who has enjoyed huge international success.

        The guitar was invented in Andalucía in the 1790s when a sixth string was added to the Arab lute. It gained its modern shape in the 1870s. Spanish musicians have taken the humble guitar to dizzying heights of virtuosity and none more so than Andrés Segovia (1893-1997), who established classical guitar as a genre. Flamenco, music rooted in the cante hondo (deep song) of the gitanos of Andalucía, is experiencing a revival. Paco de Lucia is the best known flamenco guitarist internationally. His friend El Camarón de la Isla was, until his death in 1992, the leading light of contemporary canto hondo. In the 1980s flamenco-rock fusion (aka gypsy rock) was developed by the likes of Pata Negra and Ketama, and in the 1990s Radio Tarifa emerged with a mesmerising mix of flamenco, North African and medieval sounds. Bakalao, the Spanish contribution to the world of techno, has its headquarters in Valencia.

        Spaniards are sports crazy, and football (soccer) is huge; try to see a match, because the atmosphere is electric. Bullfighting is also very popular, despite continued pressure from international animal-rights activists.

        While Catholicism is deeply ingrained in all aspects of Spanish society, only about 40% of Spaniards are regular churchgoers. Many Spaniards have a deep-seated scepticism of the Church; during the Civil War, churches were burnt and clerics shot because they represented repression, corruption and the old order.

Spanish food has a deservedly fantastic reputation, and tapas are probably one of the most civilised inventions since cold beer. Paella, gazpacho and chorizo may be familiar to most Western diners, but Spanish cuisine goes well beyond these, with a smorgasbord of rich stews, soups, beans, seafood and meats, all of which have been influential in Latin American cooking. It's a good idea to reset your stomach-clock when travelling in Spain because lunch, eaten between 1.30 and 4pm, is usually the main meal of the day. The evening meal is lighter and is served between 10 and 11pm.

                                                                      Los Borrachos "Diego de Velazquez"
Important Links Related to Society and Culture

sispain/culture -  General information for traveler around the world about Spain.  Importants sites in cities, attraction, events, transportation, culture, travel and entertainment, etc.

News and References

                                                                                        "Daily Press"

        During the first thirty years of the Francoist dictatorship, the press was subjected to severe previous censorship. In 1966, with the Law of Press and Printing, previous censorship was abolished, but a system of sanctions was imposed which resulted in multiple fines, suspensions and even the closure of the offending publication, if it was accused of transgressing the limits of freedom of expression established by the dictatorship or of conspiring against the founding principles of the regime. The Spanish Constitution in 1978, which recognizes and protects freedom of expression in its Article 20, changed all this.
 Article 20 Reads,
The following rights are recognized and protected,
a. the right to freely express and disseminate thoughts, ideas and opinions by word, in writing or by any other means of communication,
b. the right to literary, artistic, scientific and technical production and creation,
c. the right to academic freedom,
d. the right to freely communicate or receive accurate information by any means of dissemination whatsoever. The law shall regulate the right to invoke personal conscience and professional secrecy in the exercise of these freedoms.
The exercise of these rights may not be restricted by any form of prior censorship.
        The law shall regulate the organization and parliamentary control of the social communications media under the control of the State or any public agency and shall guarantee access to such media to the main social and political groups, respecting the pluralism of society and of the various languages of Spain.
        These freedoms are limited by respect for the rights recognized in this Title, by the legal provisions implementing it, and specially by the right to honour, to privacy, to personal reputation and to the protection of youth and childhood.
The confiscation of publications and recordings and other information media may only be carried ou
        Within the press, the most important area is the magazine publication. In 1994, the Oficina de Justificación de la Difusión (OJD, Circulation Audit Office), the body that controls Spanish magazine sales, registered close to 400 magazines.
        In both cases, newspapers and magazines, some of the problems of these publications are produced by infrastructural deficiencies, one of the most serious being their distribution. Such distribution problems have generated specific customs among their readers, and practically all sales are made directly through kiosks (structures used as news stands on sidewalks in Spanish towns) , without having developed the habit of subscription, which is almost inexistent. This fact creates important variations in the market. Magazines suffer from great oscillations in their circulation, depending, in great mesure, to the success of each issue to conquer the interest of the reader at the moment of purchase, based, to a certain extent, on its cover.
        All these features are especially decisive for general information magazines and give rise to their constant struggle to survive in the middle of so much competition.
You may access from here to the following Spanish magazines with a Web site in Internet:
·  en.red.ando
·  +WEB
·  El Temps
·  ImásD
·  Melibea (Revista de Cultura Hispana)

The Daily Press

        The most negative aspect of the Spanish system of communications is the low circulation of the daily press. However, we wish to qualify this latter statement. In Spain, in spite of the fact that only some 100 daily newspapers are sold per thousand inhabitants, 25 per cent of the country's citizens read the daily press. The reason for this can be found in the Spanish habit of sharing reading matter which doubtlessly affects sales figures.

        In Spain, some 155 dailies exist, the majority of which are local or regional. The daily papers, which have upped their circulation by two and a half million in the five past years, were able to maintain these readership figures for the Monday thru Firday editions throughout 1994, while registering a sharp increment for the weekend editions. This has permitted, for example, EL PAÍS to attain a circulation of one million copies on Sundays, a hitherto unheard-of figure in the history of Spanish journalism. In its Monday to Friday editions, this paper has a circulation of close to 400,000 copies.

        The two leaders in sales, EL PAÍS and ABC, and EL MUNDOare dailies of national circulation published in Madrid, althought with regional editions in some of the Autonomous Communities. They are followed by LA VANGUARDIA and EL PERIÓDICO, published in Barcelona and read essentially in Catalunya and, to a much lesser extent, in other parts of Spain.

        Within the daily press, the sports newspapers stand out for their very high readership. Among the ten most widely sold dailies, two papers are exclusively dedicated to sports, AS and MARCA. Another type of newspaper which has experienced an extraordinary success in the last few years is the economic journal. Not only have a large number of publications devoted to this theme appeared, including dailies, but also the most important newspapers are publishing special supplements centered on economic topics.
        Annual average readership of the daily paper supplements has registered a slight increase over 1993.

        The greatest problem confronting Spain's daily press over the past years has been its technological reconversion, which was successfully surmounted by the majority of newspapers, thanks to, in great part, the financial support of the Administration that has helped to subsidize them. The Administration has also undertaken, together with the owners of the majority of the Spanish dailies, a programme to foment press readership among students.

        Now that most newspapers have succesfully completed their technological reconversion, the next step to be negociated is their internationalization. Many of the big circulation papers own shares or have agreements involving the exchange of news with the foreign press.

List of the most important daily newspapers in Spain in terms of circulation of copies per day, (From January 1993 to December 1993).

          Paper                        Average circulation

          EL PAÍS                      401,258
          ABC                          334,317
          MARCA                        333,396
          EL MUNDO DEL SIGLO XXI       209,992
          LA VANGUARDIA                208,029
          EL PERIODICO DE CATALUÑA     185,517
          AS                           140,213
          EL PUEBLO VASCO              133,954
          DIARIO 16                    109,338
          LA VOZ DE GALICIA            107,446
          EL DIARIO VASCO               93,578
          SPORT                         88,972
          EL MUNDO DEPORTIVO            67,373
          DIARIO DE NAVARRA             63,312
          HERALDO DE ARAGÓN             58,401
          LAS PROVINCIAS                58,354
          EGIN                          51,366
          LEVANTE                       51,240
          LA NUEVA ESPAÑA               47,972
          LA VERDAD                     46,919

Source: Boletin de la O.I.D. (December, 1993)
        According to figures from the Oficina de Justificación de la Difusión (OJD, Circulation Audit Office), the newspaper El País attained an average circulation of 408,267 copies per day in 1994, an increase of just over 7,000 copies on the 1993 figure. The OJD, the only source uniformly respected by all the media and advertisers, has also certified that the second place went to ABC, with an average of 321,517 copies a day.

        The newspaper with the third largest circulation in Spain is El Mundo which, with a circulation of 268,748 copies, beats the 207,112 reached by La Vanguardia and the 193,576 of El Periódico de Catalunya, although the main area of sale of the last two is Catalonia.

        With regard to the circulation of Sunday supplements, El País also comes in first place, since the average weekly distribution of El País Semanal was 1,058,584 copies, compared with 632,649 for Blanco y Negro (ABC), 436,242 for La Revista (El Mundo) and 338,629 for La Vanguardia. What is more, the OJD has certified an average distribution of 11,170 copies for El País Internacional and 3,515 for ABC Internacional.

        Spain's OJD is a member of the corresponding world organization and monitors and certifies the sale of 96% of newspapers, 90% of the large-circulation magazines and 52% of technical and professional publications.
(January to December, 1994)
EL PAÍS...................................408,267
EL MUNDO..................................268,748
LA VANGUARDIA.............................207,112 (1)
EL PERIÓDICO..............................193,576
(1)The circulation of La Vanguardia rises
to 353,220 copies on Sundays.
Source: OJD

Important Links Related News and Reference

spaindata - A list of newspaper, radio and television on-line.

docuweb.ca/SiSpain/english/media/- General information of the Media, including newspaper, magazines, radio and television

Spain Home

Factos About Spain         Technology     Business and Economics   Travel and Entertainment