The first settlers on the Peninsula were the Celts and the Iberians. The first testimonials written about the country date back to this period. It is said that Hispania (the name the Romans used to describe the Peninsula) is a word of Semitic origin from Hispalis (Seville). From the year 1100 A.D. and until the middle of the 3rd century A.D., commercial and cultural contact with high Mediterranean civilisations was held with the Phoenicians and Greeks. At the end of this era, both civilisations were taken over by the Carthaginians and Romans, respectively. The Roman presence in Hispania lasted for seven centuries, during which time the basic borders of the Peninsula in relation to other European towns were set up. In addition to territorial administration, many more institutions were inherited from Rome such as the concept of family, Latin as a language, religion and law. At the start of the 5th century new settlers from the North arrive and settle on the Peninsula: the Visigoths in the interior and the Swabians on the West. This Germanic people saw themselves as the continuators of the weakened Imperial power. Integration between Hispanic-Germanics was a rapid process, with the exception of the Northeast of the peninsula, inhabited by Basques, Cantabrians and Asturians, who resisted the infiltration of the Romans, Visigoths and later the Muslims.

The decomposition of the Visigoth state apparatus would lead to the successive infiltration of Arab and Berber troops from the other side of the Straits of Gibraltar at the beginning of the 8th century. In the middle of the 8th, century the Muslims had completed occupation and Cordoba became the centre of the flourishing Andalusian state. The Arab presence in Spain would last for almost seven centuries and leave an indelible mark on the Spanish cultural heritage. Following a long period of peaceful coexistence, the small Christian strongholds in the North of the Peninsula took on a leading role in the Reconquest, which ended with the capture of Granada in 1492 under the reign of the Catholic King and Queen, traditionally considered the founders of peninsular unity and the imperial management of the Spanish revival. Also during the reign of the Catholic King and Queen and under their auspice, Columbus discovered the New Continent (America), new boundary of what would be the largest Western empire. The 16th century represents the zenith of Spanish hegemony in the world, a process that would last until the middle of the 17th century. With the Catholic King and Queen, and in particular with Phillip II, what was the prototype of the absolutist modern State in the 16th century was fully established. Following the death of Charles II, the last of the Austrians, who died without having had children, Phillip V inaugurated the dynasty of the Borbons of Spain. The Spanish Enlightenment is characterised as being an era of exterior harmony, reformations and interior development. The crisis of the Old Order opened the doorway to the Napoleonic invasion. The War of Independence was a war against the French invasion, but also a revolutionary war due to the decisive involvement of the people and the clear formation of a national conscience that would later shape the 1812 Constitution. The Courts of Cadiz thereby enacted one of the first Constitutions of the world which ratified that sovereignty would reside in the nation.

The conflict between liberalists and absolutists, or in other words, between two different ways of perceiving the establishment of the state, would be one of the longest Spanish conflicts throughout the 19th century. The brief reign of Amadeo de Saboya, the first republican experience and the subsequent restoration of the monarchy, under the rule of Alfonso XII, take Spain to the beginning of the 20th century with a series of serious unresolved problems that intensify following the definitive loss of the last strongholds of the colonial empire: Cuba and the Philippines. Despite the interruption of the First World War in which Spain remained neutral and following the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, the monarchical crisis returns, resulting in the exile of King Alfonso XIII. The ballot box is introduced into Spain and with it the first democratic experience of the 20th century: the second Republic, a brief attempt to introduce the reformations the country needed, frustrated by General Franco's military rising and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936.

The military victory of General Franco gave way to a long dictatorial period that would last until 1975; it was an era characterised by an iron control of interior politics and isolation from the international environment, which did not however prevent an incipient economic development in the sixties. Following the death of General Franco, the Spanish people peacefully made the transition from dictatorship to democracy in a process known as 'the Spanish model'. Don Juan Carlos I, as King of the Spanish people, became the chief of a social and democratic state of law, which moulded the Constitution of 1978.


Nearly 47 million inhabitants

The Spanish population now stands at nearly 47 million, and the country has an area of 505,986.36 square kilometres.

The large metropolitan areas include Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Bilbao, etc.
In all the countries of the European Union there are more women than men. 

To this we must add the fact that life expectancy in Spain is one of the highest in the world (82.29 years). Life expectancy for Spanish women, at 85.13 years, is also one of the highest in the European Union. 

Spain is a non-confessional state, and freedom of worship is recognised in its Constitution. However, most Spaniards profess the Catholic faith, which is deeply rooted in society. 

Castilian/Spanish is the nation's official language. There are also officially-recognised languages in the following Autonomous Regions: Catalonia, Galicia, the Basque Country, Valencia and the Balearic Islands (where they speak a particular variety of Catalan).


Popular festivities to suit everyone

Spain has an outstanding multicultural heritage, and this can be seen in all areas of its social life. There is a wide variety of different festive celebrations to be found all over the country.

Spanish popular festivities and traditions often have a clearly religious origin. This can be seen in throughout all the expressions of Spain's folklore, which combine religious fervour with a variety of pagan and festive commemorations. The country's cultural diversity means the festive manifestations of each region vary widely from north to south, and yet at the same time these local customs exist alongside festivities which are celebrated all over the national territory. The festive year in Spain starts with the traditional strokes of midnight in the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, which attracts throngs of people from the city itself and from all over Spain who welcome in the New Year with a grape swallowed for each chime of the clock. One of the most important traditional celebrations in Spain, however, is Easter week. This takes place at the end of March or in April, and takes place amid vivid and extremely moving popular processions. The greatest number of festive events takes place in the summer months, between June and September, according to the geographic area, as they tend to combine both religious and socio-economic aspects. Throughout most of Spain's geography there are also a range of different festivities in late summer (late August and early September) owing to the historic tradition of commemorating the harvest (and particularly the grape harvest). What's more, each area in the country has its own specific festivities. Some of the highlights are the Sanfermines bull-running festival in Pamplona, Sant Jordi and La Mercé in Barcelona, the Fallas bonfire festival in Valencia, the festivity of the Reconquest in Granada, the April Fair in Seville and San Isidro and the Verbena de La Paloma in Madrid. But these are just a few examples of the thousands of festive celebrations which are to be found the length and breadth of Spain all year round.


In the south west of Europe

Spain covers an area of 505,955 square kilometres, which places it amongst the fifty largest countries in the world.

The largest part of the territory is located in the Iberian Peninsula, the remainder, approximately 12,500 square kilometres, are islands, -Balearics and the Canary Islands- plus 32 square kilometres that are accounted for by the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, situated on the coast of Africa. The situation of the Iberian Peninsula in the extreme south west of Europe and only 14 kilometres away from the African continent, endows Spain with a great strategic value: projecting into the Mediterranean on one side and acting as an intersection on the path to Africa and America on the other. The fact that a large part of Spain is peninsular also explains the length of its coastline, which runs along the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. As a result of its position, between 36 and 43 degrees North latitude, the climate ranges from the mild oceanic climate in the North, to the continental Mediterranean in the centre and the Mediterranean in the East and South, factors which combine to create a wet Spain in the North and mountainous areas, green Spain with luxuriant forests and a dry Spain in the Mediterranean.


Information Courtesy Of Tourism in Spain