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Spain, The Beautiful Country

Spain, a country occupying the greater part of the Iberian Peninsula, and bounded on the north by the Bay of Biscay, France, and Andorra, and on the east by the Mediterranean Sea. The Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa are governed as provinces of Spain. Also, Spain administers two small exclaves in MoroccoCeuta and Melilla. The area of Spain, including the African and insular territories, is 194,885 sq mi. Madrid is the capital and largest city.

Population The Spanish people are essentially a mixture of the indigenous peoples of the Iberian Peninsula with the uccessive peoples who conquered the peninsula and occupied it for extended periods. These added ethnologic elements include the Romans, a Mediterranean people, and the Suevi, Vandals, and Visigoths, Teutonic peoples. Semitic elements are also present. Population Characteristics The population of Spain at the 1991 census was 38,872,268. The estimate for 1995 is 39,276,000, giving the country an overall density of about 202 per sq mi. Spain is increasingly urban, with more than 80 percent of the population in towns and cities.

Principal Cities The capital and largest city is Madrid (population, greater city, 1991, 3,010,492), also the capital of Madrid autonomous region; the second largest city, chief port, and commercial center is Barcelona, capital of Barcelona province and Catalonia region. Other important cities include Valencia, capital of Valencia province and Valencia region, a manufacturing and railroad center; Seville, a cultural center; Saragossa, and Bilbao (369,839), a busy port. Religion Roman Catholicism is professed by about 97 percent of the population. The country is divided into 11 metropolitan and 52 suffragan sees.

In addition, the archdioceses of Barcelona and Madrid are directly responsible to the Holy See. Formerly, Roman Catholicism was the established church, but the 1978 constitution decreed that Spain shall have no state religion, while recognizing the role of the Roman Catholic church in Spanish society. There are small communities of Protestants, Jews, and Muslims. Higher Education Spanish institutions of higher education enrolled nearly 1. 3 million students in the early 1990s.

The major universities of Spain include the University of Madrid, the Polytechnical University of Madrid (1971), the University of Barcelona (1450), the University of Granada (1526), the University of Salamanca, the University of Seville (1502), and the University of Valencia (1510). Culture Any consideration of Spanish culture must stress the tremendous importance of religion in the history of the country and in the life of the individual. An index of the influence of Roman Catholicism is provided by the fervent mystical element in the art and literature of Spain, the impressive list of its saints, and the large number of religious congregations and orders.

The Catholic marriage is the basis of the family, which in urn is the foundation of Spanish society. Economy Spain has traditionally been an agricultural country and is still one of the largest producers of farm commodities in Western Europe, but since the mid-1950s industrial growth has been rapid. A series of development plans, initiated in 1964, helped the economy to expand, but in the later 1970s an economic slowdown was brought on by rising oil costs and increased imports. Subsequently, the government emphasized the development of the steel, shipbuilding, textile, and mining industries.

Spain derives much income from tourism. The annual budget in the early 1990s included revenues of about $97. 7 billion and expenditures of about $128 billion. On January 1, 1986, Spain became a full member of the European Community (now the European Union, or EU). Agriculture Agriculture is a mainstay of the Spanish economy, employing, with forestry and fishing, about 10 percent of the labor force. The leading agricultural products, in order of value, are grapes and olives, used to make olive oil. In the early 1990s annual production of grapes was 5. million metric tons and of olive oil was 597,000 metric tons.

Other important commodities included potatoes (5. 3 million tons), barley (6 million), wheat (4. 5 million), almonds (425,000), tomatoes (2. 6 million), oranges and mandarins (4. 2 million), sugar beets (7. 5 million), and onions (995,000). The raising of livestock, especially sheep and goats, is an important industry. In the early 1990s livestock on farms included about 24. 6 million sheep, 17. 2 million pigs, 4. 9 million cattle, and 240,000 horses. Currency and Banking The unit of currency is the peseta (126 pesetas equal U. S. 1; 1995), issued by the Bank of Spain (1829). The country is served by a large number of commercial banks.

The principal stock exchanges are in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, and Valencia. In early 1995 Spain’s currency was devalued 7 percent against eight other European currencies, in part to slow selling by currency traders concerned about the country’s internal politics and continued high budget deficit. The devaluation was the fourth in less than four years and raised doubts about achieving the goal of producing a unified European currency by 1997, as called for by the Treaty on European Union.

Foreign Trade In the early 1990s, Spain annually imported goods valued at about $92. 5 billion and exported goods valued at about $72. 8 billion. Principal imports include machinery, mineral fuels, transportation equipment, food products, metals and metal products, and textiles. Exports include motor vehicles, machinery, basic metals, vegetable products, chemicals, mineral products, and textiles. Spain’s chief trading partners are France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Portugal, the United States, the Netherlands, Japan, and Belgium and Luxembourg. Tourism

The climate, beaches, and historic cities of Spain are an attraction for tourists, which make a significant contribution to the country’s economy. More than 57 million people visit Spain each year, making it one of the world’s top tourist destinations. The $20 billion tourists spend each year helps make up for Spain’s considerable trade deficit. Government In the late 1970s the government of Spain underwent a transformation from the authoritarian regime of Francisco Franco (who ruled from 1939 to 1975) to a limited monarchy with an influential parliament. A national constitution was adopted in 1978.

Executive The head of state of Spain is a hereditary monarch, who also is the commander in chief of the armed forces. Executive power is vested in the prime minister, who is proposed by the monarch on the parliament’s approval and is voted into office by the Congress of Deputies. Power is also vested in a cabinet, or council of ministers. There is also the Council of States, a consultative body. Legislature In 1977 Spain’s unicameral Cortes was replaced by a bicameral parliament made up of a 350-member Congress of Deputies and a Senate of 208 directly elected members and 47 special regional representatives.

Deputies are popularly elected to four-year terms by universal suffrage of people 18 years of age and older, under a system of proportional representation. The directly elected senators are voted to four-year terms on a regional basis. Each mainland province elects 4 senators; another 20 senators come from the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Ceuta, and Melilla. Judiciary The judicial system in Spain is governed by the General Council of Judicial Power, presided over by the president of the Supreme Court. The country’s highest tribunal is the Supreme Court of Justice, divided into 7 sections; it sits in Madrid.

There are 17 territorial high courts, one in each autonomous region, 52 provincial high courts, and several lower courts handling penal, labor, and juvenile matters. The country’s other important court is the Constitutional Court, which monitors observance of the constitution. Health and Welfare The Law of Family Subsidy, enacted in 1939, provides Spain’s workers with monthly allowances proportionate to the number of children in the family; the necessary funding is collected from employers and employees. A program of old-age pensions and health and maternity benefits has been in effect since 1949.

A fund derived from public collections provides for the support of the poor, nursery schools, and health clinics. In the early 1990s Spain had about 153,300 physicians and 175,400 hospital beds. History The Christian Conquest The Umayyad dynasty had ruled Muslim Spain for about three centuries. The greatest of its rulers was Abd-ar-Rahman III, who in 929 proclaimed himself caliph. His capital, Crdoba, became the most splendid city in Europe except for Constantinople, and Spanish civilization during the Moorish supremacy was far in advance of that of the rest of the continent.

Numerous schools were built, many of them free and for the education of the poor. At the great Muslim universities medicine, mathematics, philosophy, and literature were cultivated; the work of Greek philosopher Aristotle was studied there long before it was well known to Christian Europe. An extensive literature developed, the caliphs themselves being poets and authors of note, and art and architecture flourished (see Islamic Art and Architecture). The Umayyads also encouraged commerce and agriculture and constructed effective irrigation systems hroughout the southern region.

Spain in the Early Modern Era In 1469 the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand V of Aragn initiated the developments that made Spain a great power. They became joint rulers of Castile in 1474 and of Aragn in 1479, although no actual union of the two kingdoms occurred and each monarch exercised sovereign power only in his or her own realm. Aragn, the smaller and poorer kingdom, tended to be neglected. Attention was focused instead on strengthening royal authority in richer and more populous Castile.

Also important for the pious onarchs (who took the title Catholic Kings) was the establishment in 1478 of the Inquisition to enforce purity of the faith. The Inquisition was also a powerful tool for increasing and consolidating royal power. Inquisitors were royally appointed, invested with both civil and church power, exempt from normal jurisdiction, and served by a multitude of informants and bodyguards. Proceedings were secret and the property of the condemned was consfiscated and distributed among the crown, the Inquisition, and the accusers. The Economic Miracle From 1961 on, unprecedented socioeconomic change occurred.

The economy boomed because of rapid industrial growth and an extraordinary rise in tourism, as well as foreign investment in Spain and money sent home by Spanish workers abroad. Owing to a growing labor shortage, wages increased, unofficial trade unions were organized, and agriculture was mechanized rapidly to avoid high labor costs. Greater worker prosperity brought rapid social change: there was massive migration from rural to urban areas; secondary and university education expanded enormously; and the people became more secularized and sophisticated as their exposure to contemporary ways of life increased.

The Franco regime, fundamentally pragmatic and technologically oriented after 1957, provided the framework within which growth could occur. The massive housing program the government sponsored greatly eased the social costs of Spain’s transition from a rural to an urban society. The Restoration of Democracy In 1978 the Cortes passed a new democratic constitution, providing for a constitutional monarchy, freedom for political parties, and autonomy for Spain’s nationalities and regions. The constitution was enthusiastically accepted by most sectors of society, but the Basque provinces still resented being tied to

Spain and supported the ETA, which stepped up its terrorist activities. Meanwhile, Catalans pushed for greater control over local affairs, and demanded greater language rights. The use of Catalan and nationalist sentiments increased in and around Barcelona. The Galicians consistently distanced themselves from Madrid, though ethnoregionalism remained weaker in Galicia than in either Catalonia or Basque Country. Surez governed through consensus, consulting all nonextremist parties when formulating basic policy. Catalonia and the Basque Country were granted home rule, and their languages were officially ecognized.

The constitution extended similar privileges to 15 other regions. Thus, the movement toward political centralization begun by Ferdinand and Isabella some 500 years earlier was reversed, and a Spain of autonomous communities was created. In recent years, concerns over Spain’s environmental problems have grown. The country has experienced increased air-pollution problems in Madrid and along the northeastern coast, water pollution in agricultural and coastal areas, and soil erosion. Controversies arose over rapid development along the Mediterranean coast and threats to scenic attractions.

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