Spain Country Overview
Constitutional monarchy of south-western Europe that occupies most of the Iberian peninsula; it is bordered to the north by the Cantabrian Sea, France and Andorra; to the east with the Mediterranean Sea; to the south with the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean and to the west with Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.
The British dependency on Gibraltar is situated at the southern end. The Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic are two island communities. The autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, as well as the Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera and the islands of Alhucemas and Chafarinas, also belong to the country. The length is 504,782 km2. Madrid is the capital.
The Pyrenees mountain range borders France to the north; in the extreme south, the Strait of Gibraltar separates Spain from North Africa. The most important topographic feature is the large central plain, called Meseta, with an average height of 610 m. Meseta is divided into a northern and a southern section by irregular mountain ranges (Serra de Guadarrama, Serra de Gredos, Montes de Toledo). The coastal plain is narrow and in many areas it is interrupted by mountains that go down to the sea to form rocky promontories.
The main rivers are: Douro, Minho, Tejo and Guadiana, which are born in the Spanish territory and cross the territory of Portugal to end in the Atlantic; the Guadalquivir, which is the deepest and has a large part of its navigable route; and the Ebro, in the east, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea.
The climate is Mediterranean with extreme temperatures except in the north, where rainfall is generally insufficient; physiographic differences determine important climatic differences.
Population and government
The Spanish people are a mixture of the indigenous peoples of the peninsula with those who have successively conquered their territory: the Romans, a Mediterranean people; the Suebi, the Vandals and the Visigoths, Germanic peoples, and Semitic elements, especially of Arab and Jewish origin. Gypsies form an important ethnic group.
According to LOVERISTS, the population (1995) is 40,460,055 inhabitants, with a demographic density of 80 inhab / km2. Important cities are: the capital Madrid, Barcelona, the largest port and commercial center, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza and Bilbao.
The population is mostly Catholic, although the 1978 Constitution created a state without religious preferences, in which freedom of belief is total. There are small communities of Protestants, Jews and Muslims. Spanish is the official language; besides them, they are co-official languages, in their respective autonomous communities, Basque (euskera, pre-Indo-European language), Galician, Catalan and Valencian.
It is a parliamentary monarchy governed by the 1978 Constitution. The head of state is a hereditary monarch; executive power is in the hands of the head of government and the legislature, a bicameral Parliament.
Historically, Spain has always been an agricultural country and is still one of the largest agricultural producers in Western Europe, but the industry started to grow rapidly from the 1950s. The foreign exchange earned from tourism guarantees the balance of trade. The gross national product in 1993 was 533.986 billion dollars, which is equivalent to 14,130 dollars per capita. The country produces cereals, citruses, grapes and olives. Livestock, especially sheep and goats, is of great economic importance. Cork is the main forest resource.
Fishing is important to the economy; among the species most found on its coast, are tuna, squid, octopus, hake, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, fish and mussels. The mineral wealth is considerable. The main resources are: carbon, lignite, iron, zinc, lead, mercury, plaster and oil. Among the main articles produced, iron and steel, consumer goods, boats, refined oil and cement stand out; in addition, it is one of the largest wine producers in the world.
The monetary unit is the peseta.
The course of contemporary history traced an irregular path due to the fact that the consolidation process of the new order, from the second third of the 19th century, had collided with multiple resistances emanating from different flanks (Carlist Wars, factual powers, privileged old classes ). The interferences between the civil, military and religious powers are reflected throughout the aforementioned century in a chain of disagreements and strained relations between the Church and the State, together with intermittent military pronouncements of a conservative or progressive nature, who are the creators of government exchanges and successive constitutional comings and goings. The democratic experience of the Revolutionary Sexennium (1868-1874) failed, the oligarchic regime of the Restoration introduced Spain in the 20th century without establishing a party system,
The fragility of the institutions, together with the visible extrapeninsular setbacks that occurred in the last decades, the colonial loss of 1898, the disaster of Annual and other failures in the war in Morocco, caused a gradual militarization of the monarchy of Afonso XIII until ending in the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923-1930). Military praetorianism in the twentieth century, imposing the republican democratic regime through a bloody Civil War (1936-1939), reached its peak with the dictatorship of General Franco, who remained in power for four decades until his death in November 1975.
With Franco dead, Spain experienced a period of transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic monarchy since Franco’s corporate legality. The old Cortes self-dissolving and the monarch having mastered the new situation, began the long and complex period of political transition.
The route chosen for this purpose was reform, instead of other more radical ones (rupture, revolution), mainly with the verification of the network of interests linked to the previous regime and the efforts necessary to materialize, without violence, the encouraging promise of Juan Carlos I of be the “king of all Spaniards”. In 1976, the appointment of Adolfo Suárez as president of the government to replace Carlos Arias Navarro facilitated the realization of a reform project that, in a year and with the estimated help of Torcuato Fernández-Miranda, would lead to general elections, a forgotten practice since the republican stage.
The Constitution enacted in 1978, the result of a consensus on the plurality of political forces, defines Spain as a rule of law, democratic and social. This third attempt to democratize the country was marked by a series of problems: sectors opposed to change were scandalized by ‘provocations’ such as the legalization of the Communist Party, autonomous reform, secularization and the economic crisis. The coup attempt of February 23, 1981, was not for nothing.
The socialist victory obtained in the 1982 elections by an absolute majority symbolized national reconciliation and the normalization of public life. The leadership exercised by Felipe González, head of government for thirteen years, was committed to a declared European vocation and to the modernization of the State. After the 1996 general elections, the Popular Party formed the government after forming a coalition with the Basque and Catalan nationalists. Democratic alternation is guaranteed, but the government of José María Aznar has important challenges ahead, in particular the fulfillment of the Maastricht agreements and the convergence with Europe.