Spain is a European country occupying most of the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory includes the archipelagos of the Balearic Islands (in the Mediterranean) and the Canary Islands (in the Atlantic), the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, and the Chafarinas Islands located to the north of Africa. It is bordered by France, Andorra, Portugal, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
Spain’s official name is the Kingdom of Spain and its official language is Spanish, often referred to as “Castilian Spanish.” Although the country identifies Spanish as its official language, Spain operates as a true multilingual society, protected by the constitution. Basque (mainly spoken in the Basque Country and Navarre,) Catalan (mainly spoken in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and a variation of it, Valencian, in the Valencian Community), and Galician (spoken in Galicia) are its co-official languages. Spain is a democracy organized in the form of a parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy.
Spainhas more than 4,971 miles of beach. It also has one of the most diverse landscapes and climates in Europe. The region of Almeria in the southeast resembles a desert in some areas, while the northwest in winter can expect rain about 20 days of each month. Spain is the 28th most-populous country in the world and the sixth most-populous in Europe (after Germany, France, the UK, Italy, and Ukraine.) Spain is the second-largest country in Western Europe after France and the second most-mountainous after Switzerland.
Food is an important part of Spanish society and a frequent topic of conversation. Lunch is often the largest meal of the day, consisting of several courses, and Spaniards eat it between 2 and 4 p.m. One very well-known food tradition in Spain is “tapas,” which is a wide variety of appetizers or snacks, served hot or cold. These are not your typical snack of chips and dip, but rather, a flavorful array of options such as olives, meatballs, and bread; or potatoes, fish, meats, and vegetables, served with allioli (garlic and oil,) croquettes, Tortilla Española (a thick, egg-and-potato omelette), or a selection of cured meats — including their famous cured hams Ibérico and Serrano. Another item from Spanish cuisine that’s very popular worldwide is paella, which is a mixture of rice, olive oil, peas, peppers, saffron, and any (or a combination of) items, such as chicken, pork, shellfish, and vegetables.
Soccer is a very important part of Spanish culture. The country is home to two of the most international and successful soccer clubs: Real Madrid C.F. and FC Barcelona. Music and dancing is also much embedded in Spanish culture. Flamenco is a genre of music and dance native to the southern regions of Andalusia, Extremadura, and Murcia. Distinctive for its fiery passion and fervor, it is typically performed with voice and guitar, accompanied by graceful arm movements, audible feet-stamping, and hand-clapping, which can be improvised or choreographed.
Did you know…? Spain is the number one producer of olive oil in the world, with 44% of the world’s olive oil production. That is more than twice that of Italy and four times that of Greece. “Don Quixote,” by Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, is arguably the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age, and perhaps the entire canon of Spanish literature.
This is the twelfth in a series of articles spotlighting different countries in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. To see a complete list of previous entries, click here.