Spain – some general information (last updated 2014)
Spain is located in the continent of Europe and has an extensive coastline that runs from the Mediterranean ocean in the south to the Atlantic ocean in the north west. Spain is part of the Iberian peninsula (which it shares with Portugal) and represents almost eighty five percent of that area. If you are interested in finding out more about Galicia, then follow this link for general information about the region.
Population and government
The population of Spain is around forty million people with the largest cities, Madrid (the capitol) and Barcelona (Cataluna) accounting for over three million citizens and in excess of one million citizens respectively. Spain is also divided into numerous regions known as Autonomous Communities, similar to US states or British counties, and each of these regions has a high level of local government and legislative control. The extent to which these Autonomous Communities exist independently can probably be illustrated by there having not just a regional capitol, but also individual provincial capitols for the provinces within them.
In addition to mainland Spain, the country also has some island territories and these fall into the groupings known as either the Canary Islands or the Balearic Islands.
Language, ethnicity and alliances
Spain's long and distinct history has also resulted in the country having not one, but four different dialects. These dialects are, in real terms, separate languages and one of them, gallego (the Galician tongue) bears more similarities to Portuguese than Spanish.
Although proud of their ethnicity the Spanish, like most races, are an eclectic mix of both the territories and populations that they have invaded and that have invaded them. In the northern parts of the country there is however a strong Celtic connection and the people in these areas of Spain see themselves as been very different to those of the more southerly regions. One thing that does unite the peoples of Spain is their religion. Almost 95 % of the population are catholic, although practicing Christians account for a much smaller figure.
Spain is member of the European community (EU) and NATO as well as having some important trading agreements with several South American states. The country has an active monarch, King Juan Carlos I (who was re-instated after the death of General Franco), and a government headed by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of the socialist party. Like the UK and USA, Spain has two primary political parties, the other party is the more right wing "Peoples Party" which lost power in 2005.
Geography, climate, economy and lifestyle
In climatic and geographic terms Spain is a mixed bag with the south of the country enjoying its famed year long summers, constant blue skies and parched landscapes. The north of the country does, by contrast, have a four season climate that produces forests and lush meadow lands. As a result this part of Spain is the country's agricultural engine. The northern parts of Spain also attain sub zero temperatures in winter and some of these areas even have their own ski resorts.
The Spanish lifestyle is one that also varies greatly across the land. In parts of the south many premises now remain open during the traditional afternoon siesta, but in the north everything still grinds to a two and a half hour halt. This may however account for the average life span of the typical Spaniard which is almost eighty years of age, one of the highest in Europe.
Spain has a varied economy although it is extensively subsidised by the EU, primarily through the agricultural and fisheries policies of the union. This subsidy has also been extended to the year 2013 ensuring that Spain, despite having one of the fastest growth rates of any EU economy, miraculously still gets subsidised by Britain and Germany. Outside fishing and farming, Spain is a manufacturer, has a prosperous and growing financial sector and is of course a major tourist center for sun seekers.
Popular summer, and now winter, beach resorts are located across the Spanish Costa's and run from Spain's south eastern border to its boundary with Portugal. More British holiday makers still visit Spain than any other destination.
Changes are however taking place in Spanish tourism and one of those is the increased popularity of Spain as a center for cultural vacationers. Spots like the Alhambra have long attracted sightseers, but now cities like Seville and Santiago de Compostela are also becoming tourist draws, especially with those interested in taking a short "city break".
Additional "off site" Spanish resources
If you cannot find what you are looking for in galiciaguide.com, i.e. you want information about Spain generally, take a look at the two sites listed below. Both offer lots of information about everything from the cities to the lifestyle of Spain.
A useful resource for further "off site" information about Spain is spanish-living.com. This site has all kinds of information about the country including offering information on obtaining jobs and buying property.
The site data-spain.com is another large resource with information about all areas of Spain and everything Spanish.