National name: Reino de España
Ruler: King Juan Carlos I (1975)
Prime Minister: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (2004)
Land area: 192,819 sq mi (499,401 sq km); total area: 194,896 sq mi (504,782 sq km)1
Population (2007 est.): 40,448,191 (growth rate: 0.1%); birth rate: 10.0/1000; infant mortality rate: 4.3/1000; life expectancy: 79.8; density per sq mi: 210
Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Madrid, 5,130,000 (metro. area), 3,169,400 (city proper)
Other large cities: Barcelona, 1,528,800; Valencia, 741,100; Seville, 679,100
Monetary unit: Euro (formerly peseta)
Languages: Castilian Spanish 74% (official nationwide); Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2% (each official regionally)
Ethnicity/race: composite of Mediterranean and Nordic types
Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%
Literacy rate: 98% (2003 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $1.017 trillion; per capita $25,200. Real growth rate: 3.4%. Inflation: 3.4%. Unemployment: 10.1%. Arable land: 27%. Agriculture: grain, vegetables, olives, wine grapes, sugar beets, citrus; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; fish. Labor force: 20.67 million; agriculture 5.3%, manufacturing, mining, and construction 30.1%, services 64.6% (2004 est.). Industries: textiles and apparel (including footwear), food and beverages, metals and metal manufactures, chemicals, shipbuilding, automobiles, machine tools, tourism, clay and refractory products, footwear, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment. Natural resources: coal, lignite, iron ore, uranium, mercury, pyrites, fluorspar, gypsum, zinc, lead, tungsten, copper, kaolin, potash, hydropower, arable land. Exports: $194.3 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): machinery, motor vehicles; foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, medicines, other consumer goods. Imports: $271.8 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): machinery and equipment, fuels, chemicals, semifinished goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods, measuring and medical control instruments. Major trading partners: France, Germany, Portugal, Italy, UK, Netherlands (2004).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 17.336 million (1999); mobile cellular: 8.394 million (1999). Radio broadcast stations: AM 208, FM 715, shortwave 1 (1998). Radios: 13.1 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 224 (plus 2,105 repeaters); note: these figures include 11 television broadcast stations and 88 repeaters in the Canary Islands (1995). Televisions: 16.2 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 56 (2000). Internet users: 7.89 million (2002).
Transportation: Railways: total: 14,189 km (2002). Highways: total: 663,795 km; paved: 657,157 km (including 10,317 km of expressways); unpaved: 6,638 km (1999). Waterways: 1,045 km. Ports and harbors: Aviles, Barcelona, Bilbao, Cadiz, Cartagena, Castellon de la Plana, Ceuta, Huelva, La Coruna, Las Palmas (Canary Islands), Malaga, Melilla, Pasajes, Gijon, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands), Santander, Tarragona, Valencia, Vigo. Airports: 152 (2002).
International disputes: Gibraltar residents vote overwhelmingly in referendum against “total shared sovereignty” arrangement worked out between Spain and UK to change 300-year rule over colony; Morocco protests Spain's control over the coastal enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera, the islands of Penon de Alhucemas and Islas Chafarinas, and surrounding waters; Morocco also rejected Spain's unilateral designation of a median line from the Canary Islands in 2002 to set limits to undersea resource exploration and refugee interdiction; Morocco allowed Spanish fishermen to fish temporarily off the coast of Western Sahara after an oil spill soiled Spanish fishing grounds; Portugal has periodically reasserted claims to territories around the town of Olivenza, Spain.
1. Including the Balearic and Canary Islands.
Spain occupies 85% of the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal, in southwest Europe. Africa is less than 10 mi (16 km) south at the Strait of Gibraltar. A broad central plateau slopes to the south and east, crossed by a series of mountain ranges and river valleys. Principal rivers are the Ebro in the northeast, the Tajo in the central region, and the Guadalquivir in the south. Off Spain's east coast in the Mediterranean are the Balearic Islands (1,936 sq mi; 5,014 sq km), the largest of which is Majorca. Sixty mi (97 km) west of Africa are the Canary Islands (2,808 sq mi; 7,273 sq km).
Spain, originally inhabited by Celts, Iberians, and Basques, became a part of the Roman Empire in 206 B.C., when it was conquered by Scipio Africanus. In A.D. 412, the barbarian Visigothic leader Ataulf crossed the Pyrenees and ruled Spain, first in the name of the Roman emperor and then independently. In 711, the Muslims under Tariq entered Spain from Africa and within a few years completed the subjugation of the country. In 732, the Franks, led by Charles Martel, defeated the Muslims near Poitiers, thus preventing the further expansion of Islam in southern Europe. Internal dissension of Spanish Islam invited a steady Christian conquest from the north.
Aragon and Castile were the most important Spanish states from the 12th to the 15th century, consolidated by the marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella I in 1469. In 1478, they established the Inquisition, to root out heresy and uncover Jews and Muslims who had not sincerely converted to Christianity. Torquemada, the most notorious of the grand inquisitors, epitomized the Inquisition's harshness and cruelty. The last Muslim stronghold, Granada, was captured in 1492. Roman Catholicism was established as the official state religion and most Jews (1492) and Muslims (1502) were expelled. In the era of exploration, discovery, and colonization, Spain amassed tremendous wealth and a vast colonial empire through the conquest of Mexico by Cortés (1519–1521) and Peru by Pizarro (1532–1533). The Spanish Hapsburg monarchy became for a time the most powerful in the world. In 1588, Philip II sent his invincible Armada to invade England, but its destruction cost Spain its supremacy on the seas and paved the way for England's colonization of America. Spain then sank rapidly to the status of a second-rate power under the rule of weak Hapsburg kings, and it never again played a major role in European politics. The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) resulted in Spain's loss of Belgium, Luxembourg, Milan, Sardinia, and Naples. Its colonial empire in the Americas and the Philippines vanished in wars and revolutions during the 18th and 19th centuries.
In World War I, Spain maintained a position of neutrality. In 1923, Gen. Miguel Primo de Rivera became dictator. In 1930, King Alfonso XIII revoked the dictatorship, but a strong antimonarchist and republican movement led to his leaving Spain in 1931. The new constitution declared Spain a workers' republic, broke up the large estates, separated church and state, and secularized the schools. The elections held in 1936 returned a strong Popular Front majority, with Manuel Azaña as president.
On July 18, 1936, a conservative army officer in Morocco, Francisco Franco Bahamonde, led a mutiny against the government. The civil war that followed lasted three years and cost the lives of nearly a million people. Franco was aided by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, while Soviet Russia helped the Loyalist side. Several hundred leftist Americans served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade on the side of the republic. The war ended when Franco took Madrid on March 28, 1939. Franco became head of the state, national chief of the Falange Party (the governing party), and prime minister and caudillo (leader).
In a referendum in 1947, the Spanish people approved a Franco-drafted succession law declaring Spain a monarchy again. Franco, however, continued as chief of state. In 1969, Franco and the Cortes (“states”) designated Prince Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor María de Borbón (who married Princess Sophia of Greece in 1962) to become king of Spain when the provisional government headed by Franco came to an end. Franco died on Nov. 20, 1975, and Juan Carlos was proclaimed king on Nov. 22.
Under pressure from Catalonian and Basque nationalists, Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez granted home rule to these regions in 1979. Basque separatists committed hundreds of terrorist bombings and kidnappings. With the overwhelming election of Prime Minister Felipe González Márquez and his Spanish Socialist Workers Party in the Oct. 20, 1982, parliamentary elections, the Franco past was finally buried.
Spain entered NATO in 1982. Spain, along with Portugal, joined the European Economic Community, now the European Union, in 1986. General elections in March 1996 produced a victory for the conservative Popular Party, and its leader, José María Aznar, became prime minister. He and his party easily won reelection in 2000.
In Aug. 2002, Batasuna, the political wing of the Basque terrorist organization ETA, was banned. The wisdom of driving the party underground instead of permitting it a legitimate political outlet has been questioned.
Aznar's backing of the U.S. war in Iraq was highly unpopular—90% of Spaniards opposed the war. (Spain sent no troops to Iraq during the war but contributed 1,300 peacekeeping forces during the reconstruction period.) Yet Aznar's Popular Party did extremely well in municipal elections in May 2003. The country's relative prosperity and the prime minister's tough stance against the ETA were thought to be responsible for the strong showing.
On March 11, 2004, Spain suffered its most horrific terrorist attack: 191 people were killed and 1,400 were injured in bombings at Madrid's railway station. The government at first blamed ETA, but soon evidence emerged that al-Qaeda was responsible. When record numbers of voters went to the polls days later, Aznar's Popular Party experienced a stinging defeat, and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of the Socialist Party became the new prime minister. Many Spaniards blamed Aznar's staunch support of the U.S. and the war in Iraq for making Spain an al-Qaeda target. Others were angered by what they saw as the government's politically motivated position that ETA was to blame for the attacks at the same time that links to al-Qaeda were emerging. By April, a dozen suspects, most of them Moroccan, were arrested for the bombings. On April 4, several suspects blew themselves up during a police raid to avoid capture. In May, the new prime minister made good on his campaign promise, recalling Spain's 1,300 soldiers from Iraq, much to the displeasure of the United States, which said Spain was appeasing terrorists.
In June 2005, despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church, Spain legalized gay marriage. (Three other countries permit same-sex marriage: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada.)
After four decades of violence, the militant Basque separatist group ETA, responsible for more than 800 deaths and for terrorizing Spanish society with its bombings and other attacks, announced a permanent cease-fire on March 24, 2006. In June 2007, however, ETA renounced the cease-fire and vowed to begin a new offensive.In a June 2006 referendum, the region of Catalonia voted for greater autonomy from Spain.
The government dissolved Parliament in January 2008 and called for new elections, which are scheduled to be held in March 2008.