Spain is a historical wonderland where a past of conquistadors and world domination collide with the modern culture of comida and a 4am bedtime. As beautiful as it is diverse, there is more to this Western European country than paella and flamenco.
Spain’s more recent history starts in 711 AD, when Muslims from North Africa gained control of the country, leaving an influence on art an architecture still present today known as mudejar. In 1469, the country was united by the marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella. Their marriage unified the country by bringing the two, formerly separate, Christian regions together, and Spain grew larger. In 1492, Christopher Colombus leaves Spain and sets out for the New World, beginning Spain’s age of exploration. Within the next ten years, Catholicism is named the country’s official religion, and most Jews or Muslims are forced to convert in a movement known as the Spanish Inquisition. Fast forward to 1811 where, years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada Invincible, Spain begins to lose control of its other colonies after Venezuela declares independence. Regions such as Cuba and the Phillipines break away from Spain over the next several decades. Spain’s most modern historical blunder comes in during 1939 with the election of dictator Francisco Franco. Franco’s reign lasts until his death in 1975, at which time Juan Carlos de Borbon takes over as king and Spain becomes the constitutional monarchy we know it as today.
Today, in 2017, Spain claims a population of just under 46.1 million with a median age of 44 years old. Their urban population makes up 82.4% of their total population, and they are currently split pretty evenly with the female population just beating the males with a 50.6% to 49.4% split. The official language of Spain is Spanish (whoa, go figure), and they practice freedom of religion, though most of the population is Catholic. While Spain is made up mostly of people from its native ethnicity, it also sees a decently sized Latin-American population. Unemployment has become a problem in Spain, with an unemployment rate of about 19%. Spanish citizens can be heard complaining about “Ni-ni’s” which are those who fall under the category “ni estudian, ni trabajan” which are the Spanish young people who currently are not working or studying, and are frequently blamed for Spain’s current “1 in 5 unemployed” crisis. However, Spain has seen steady recovery from its highest rate of of unemployment over the last 10 years (27% in 2014).
Spain is a parliamentary monarchy which, for all intents and purposes (and as stated by my professor when I studied abroad), means they have a king, but he’s basically a figurehead for the actual government who does things. The current king is Felipe VI, and the current president, commonly referred to as Prime Minister, is Mariano Rajoy Brey. He was re-elected recently after a period of unrest and citizen discontentment which saw Spain without a Prime Minister and missing most of its government for almost a year.
Spain has a nominal GDP of 1.252 trillion, and ranks 14th nominally amongst competitors. It has a labor force of 23 million, and 70% of these occupations fall under the category “services,” with the next highest occupation coming in at 14.1% working in “industry.” Their main industries are: machinery, machine tools, metals and metal manufactures, and their main import and export partners are France and Germany. The main export is machinery, and the main import is fuel. According to the World Fact Book, 21.1% of Spain’s population lies below the poverty line.
Spain’s most recent internal conflict comes from what is known as the Basque conflict. Basically, from 1959-2011, social groups who sough independence from Spain and France started a series of movements centered around the organization ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, translation: “Basque Homeland and Liberty.” However, in 2016 the group declared a ceasefire, becoming completely disarmed in 2017. Spain does not currently face any massive international conflicts.