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Spain Information - Page 2
Some of the oldest human remains to be found in Europe were excavated in Spain. After the last Ice Age early settlers came from north Africa: Celts later migrated from the North. The Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Carthaginians set up trading posts. The Romans and the Carthaginians fought for the control of Spain.

Spain was part of the Roman Empire for around six hundred years until the invasions of the Franks, Vandals and finally, the Visigoths. The Moors overran the Visigoths in the eighth century and Spain began its Islamic period. The principal Moorish cities were Toledo, Granada, Seville and Cordoba (which became a centre of learning).

Centuries of conflict followed between the Christian and Moorish kingdoms. The final defeat of Moorish Spain came with the conquest of Granada in 1492.

After the reconquest the Jews were compelled to convert to Christianity or be expelled from Spain. In 1502 the Inquisition gave Muslims the same choice.

The Spanish Empire began its expansion with Columbus' exploration of the Atlantic starting in 1492. By 1600 Spain controlled parts of North America, including Florida, a number of Caribbean islands: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Central America and parts of South America.

In the early sixteenth century Spanish explorers claimed a number of countries: Hernan Cortes conquered Mexico; Francisco Pizarro invaded Peru and defeated the Incas and Pedro de Mendoza colonized Argentina.

Other Spanish American territories were Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama (Central America), and Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela (South America).

Between 1580 to 1640 Spain and Portugal became united adding the Portuguese Empire to that of the Spanish including Brazil. Spain's other possessions, brought by dynastic marriage, included the Netherlands, Austria and parts of Italy, France and Germany.

In 1588 King Felipe of Spain decided to invade England but the Armada was defeated by the British fleet and by fierce storms.

In the early 1700s there was a struggle for power in Europe as the grandson of Louis XIV of France through his Queen, the Spanish Infanta, became King of Spain - he was also the second in line for the French throne. One of the results of this European struggle was that Britain gained Menorca and Gibraltar from Spain. The last Spanish territories in the Netherlands were lost and the claim on the French throne was given up.

During the Napoleonic era, Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte, was on the Spanish throne from 1801 until the restoration of the Spanish royal family in 1813. The destruction of the Spanish and French fleets at Trafalgar and Spain's years of upheaval during and immediately after the Napoleonic Wars brought about the loss of all Spain's American Empire, except for Cuba and Puerto Rico. These last possessions were finally lost as a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Spanish Morocco remained the only overseas territory - but rebellions and wars there continued to be a drain on the economy. It was partly as a result of a major defeat in Morocco, blamed on the King, that in 1923 the Dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera began. His rule continued until his resignation in 1930; in 1931 the King went into exile. A number of years of unrest followed culminating in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. General Franco, who had led the rebels, became the Spanish leader until his death in 1975. As the end of Franco's rule approached, Prince Juan Carlos was chosen as his successor. The prince took the throne days after Franco's death in 1975 and in succeeding years he oversaw a return to democracy under a new constitution. In 1986 Spain joined the European Community.

Spain's great wealth from her empire was used for financing wars and in private consumption, leaving the country poorly developed. The devastation of the Civil War worsened the situation.

In the 1960s Spain experienced an economic boom; the growth of tourism becoming a very important factor in Spain's economy. Today, tourism is an important service industry - Spain is a popular holiday destination for millions of tourists every year.

As a member the European Community Spain has benefited greatly from European subsidies for major infrastructure projects.

Traditionally an agricultural society, Spain became one of the the world's top industrial nations. Nowadays, the service sector provides the highest percentage of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

Spain's agricultural produce includes grain, grapes, lemons, oranges, olives and vegetables. Fishing is an important industry.

Although much of the mineral wealth which brought the Phoenicians to Spain is now exhausted mining remains an important industry: among the minerals mined are coal, copper, iron ore, lead, mercury, uranium, tungsten and zinc.

Other products important to the national economy are shipbuilding, automobiles, metal manufactures, machine tools, clay products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, textiles, clothes, footwear, food and wine. (2008)

Some of the most beautiful prehistoric cave paintings in the world are to be found at Altamira, near Santander in Northern Spain.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Spain produced some of her greatest artists. First was El Greco, a Greek (1541-1614) who spent most of his time in Toledo. The elongated, slender figures of his subjects are so extreme that it has been suggested he had some deficiency in his eyesight, causing him to see people in that strange way. The greatest seventeenth century Spanish painter was undoubtedly Diego Velazquez (1599-1660).

In the next century Goya (1746-1828) produced not only court paintings but also some of the most frightening images of war, witches and other horrors.

Spain's leading modern painter (also a sculptor and potter) was Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Joan Miro (1893-1983) and Salvador Dali (1904-1989) were also artists of world importance.

Spain has given the world a major form of dance and music: flamenco originating from the gypsies of Andalucia. Spanish opera singers have become world stars: the tenors Jose Carerras and Placido Domingo and the soprano Montserrat Cabelle.

Spain's best known early literary work is the twelfth century story of El Cid, who fought against the Moors, told in a long narrative poem. Religious writers such as St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross flourished in the sixteenth century.

Spain's most famous historical author is certainly Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) whose Don Quixote is seen by some as the first modern novel. In the twentieth century the poet and playwright Frederico Garcia Lorca, executed in the Civil War, is probably the most significant figure.

Spain's most successful modern film director is Pedro Almodovar and its best known male star is probably Antonio Banderas, who moved to Hollywood and has starred in Evita and The Mask of Zorro.

Historically the most important director was Luis Bunuel, famous for his early films with Salvador Dali and then for the later ones made in exile from Spain during the Franco years.

Football is Spain's most important sport. The great clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona are amongst the world's best.

In the world of tennis, Rafael Nadal won the Wimbledon Championship in 2008.

The Basque region's most famous local sport is pelota or jai-alai (also popular in Cuba and Florida).

Bull fighting is a tradition most associated with Spain. Celebrated in the paintings of Goya and the writings of Ernest Hemingway bullfights are televised regularly in Spain and are also popular in Mexico, Portugal and Southern France.

Spain is a Roman Catholic country and many Christian religious festivals are celebrated. There are also a number of carnivals. The most famous are Holy Week (before Easter) in Seville and Sanfermines in Pamplona (July) where the famous Running of the Bulls takes place through the city streets.

News from Spain is available from Newslink.

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