10 Things You Didn’t Know About Spain

Spain is a land filled with history, legacy, and tragedy, but most people only think of oranges and beaches when they think of Spain. To inform those not in the know about the many Spanish marbles, we bring you the 10 things you didn’t know about Spain.

10: Empire of Spain

The Spanish empire was one of the greatest empires that ever existed. Its size and scope were unrivaled for its time. The empire spanned 5 continents at its height including North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Also infamous for its cruelty and mass murder of indigenous populations. Historians look back at the Spanish empire with mixed feelings. Although, it cannot be denied that the empire brought with it the civilizing force, and culture and permanently changed the landscape of the territories it occupied. Corruption, greed, and incompetence were also the mainstays of the Spanish empire.

One of the most common criticisms of the empire was its reliance on resources exploited in the New World, above all gold and silver. Empires are of course expensive to maintain, and the Spanish empire was no exception to maintain an empire of this scope required vast amounts of wealth and exploitation of that wealth. Without the theft and pillaging of gold resources from the New World, the empire likely would not have been able to have maintained itself. Even with these resources, mismanagement was commonplace and thus it is safe to say despite its size the Spanish empire was one of the least innovative and most poorly structured empires in the backlog of history. Still, whatever it was modern Spain remains a shadow of its former glory, and Spaniards can at the very least look back at the past with wistful memories.

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9: High-Quality Swords

Many people do not know this, but the Iberian Peninsula has been known since pre-Roman times for the high quality of swords that originated from this region. These were Known for their manufacturing design and utility, models such as the Iberian Falcata, a type of short sword, for the Gladius Hispaniensis, a Roman short sword was used by the Carthaginian and Roman troops from the times of the second Punic War or the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. Later in the Middle Ages, the city of Toledo became renowned for its steel and sword-making techniques.

Although, Toledo had been known for its sword work as far back as 500 BC. Swords made in Toledo carried with them the reputation of being composed of a very high-quality alloy. These were often seen in the light of competition with another famous sword-making center at the time Damascus, which was famous for its Damascus steel. Even in the 21st century, you can still find swordsmiths in Toledo plying their trade.

8: Language of Spain

The Spanish language is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Not the least due in part to the legacy of the Spanish empire and colonialism. In fact, coming in second place just after Chinese no other language has as many native speakers as Spanish. Add to that fact that after English, Spanish is the second most popular language in the United States, or as it is sometimes called in America, Espinosa Oneidas, and Spanish is a true linguistic powerhouse. Some people even speculate that Spanish might one day overtake English as the primary language in the United States.

Spanish is not uniform by any means. Languages evolved in time just like any other language, a daughter language in Latin. The geographical separation of Spanish colonies from Spain lead to independent and different developments in Spanish in the New World, such that modern Spanish and say Colombia, Mexico or Chile will not only differ from each other but deviate widely from the original language Castilian Spanish in Spain. Generally speaking though, Spanish speakers from Spain in the New World can still communicate with each other with few problems in much the same way the British do with Americans.

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7: Francisco Franco

Francisco Franco is one of the greatest dictators of the 20th century. It is hard to imagine a European country located so far west as having once been the seat of a decades-long dictatorship. Ruling from 1936 to 1975 the nearly 40 years of his rule Franco was known as both a monarchist and a conservative. Franco sought to bring back piety, conservatism, and traditional values to Spain. He opposed the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic. He established a military dictatorship which he defined as a totalitarian state. Franco proclaimed himself head of state and government under the title ‘El Caudillo’. This term is similar to Il Duce for Benito Mussolini and Der Fuhrer for Adolf Hitler.

Under Franco, Spain became a one-party state. Various conservative and royalist factions were merged into the fascist party and other political parties were outlawed. Franco’s regime committed a series of violent politically motivated human rights abuses against the Spanish people. This includes the establishment of concentration camps. The use of forced labor and executions. This was mostly against political and ideological enemies causing an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 deaths. Few Spaniards who had lived under Franco remember him fondly. Some do have a strange sense of reverence for this potent and unforgettable man.

6: Cuisine of Spain

The Spanish cuisine is not Mexican food. Unique and particular to Spain, Spanish food is some of the most delicious food in the entire world. Spaniards are proud of their Mediterranean diet. They often brag about how they have the best and most healthy food in the world. Mediterranean cuisine is often characterized by its wide range of ingredients. It contains meals based on fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, bread, pasta, rice and other grain foods, nuts, sunflower seeds, etc. Extra virgin olive oil, garlic fish, seafood, poultry, various types of meat, cheese and yogurt, and of course wine. This healthy and rich diet which is traditionally found around the Mediterranean Sea is considered one of the healthiest in the world.  If you add to these regional specialties and variations and you’re in for a real treat.

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5: Spanish Siesta

Technically a short nap-taking during mid-day. The Spanish siesta is a little bit more than just that than how it is practiced. In actual practice what siesta in Spain amounts to, is the shutting down of businesses and shops to take a long and extended break from work. Usually closing from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM with restaurants and similar businesses closing down even longer into the nighttime around 9:00 PM. Below this practice might seem strange and lazy to Americans and is often difficult to get things done in Spain during these hours. Siesta is a time-honored tradition in Spain and will likely always be part of the country’s culture.

4: Catalonia vs Spain

Never call a Catalonia Spaniard because Spain is not the same as Catalonia and Catalonia is not the same as Spain. Catalonia is constitutionally an autonomous region to a large degree independent of Spain with its own language, customs, and culture. Ideally, Catalonia’s population would like to completely sever itself from the Spanish nation. The fact is a Catalonian is too greater a resource for Spain to be allowed to do this and thus it is unlikely to happen. Still, if you know Spanish and walk around speaking it in Catalonia. You will often be in for a rude awakening as you will often get an answer in Catalan. It is sometimes considered rude to speak Spanish in this region. Barcelona is the largest city in Catalonia and the pride of its people, defiantly not Spanish and resistant to outside influence, yet unique and interesting.

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3: Oranges of Spain

Spain is one of the top producers of oranges in the world and number one in Europe. Oranges are without any doubt the most important citrus crop in the world and Spain produces a vast amount. In general, oranges in their various forms like other citrus thrive in semi-tropical regions. These regions are Florida and subtropical regions such as California and the Mediterranean. Spain produces a variety of oranges ranging from the bitter severe oranges to the sweet clementine. The region that produces the most oranges in Spain is Valencia. So much so, that the region has attracted the name “the orchard of Spain”. Sweet oranges are grown in well-irrigated groves near the coastline. In the summer, the air is filled with a heavy scent of orange blossom.

2: Economy of Spain

It’s no secret that Spain’s economy has been suffering as of late. In 2015 the country had the second-highest unemployment rate of any country in Europe. At 24.2% that’s only slightly behind Greece. A country whose failing economy has made headlines around the world. If you look at youth unemployment the picture gets even worse. There is an average youth unemployment rate of 50% for those between the ages of 15 and 24. Things unfortunately are slated to only get worse as time goes on. So, in many ways behind the smiles in the sun, Spain is an economic ticking bomb waiting to explode.

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1: Oldest Operating Restaurant in Spain

If you wish to visit the world’s oldest operating restaurant, head on over to the Spanish city of Madrid and visit Restaurante Sobrino de Botin. The restaurant was opened in 1725 and sets the bar for traditional Spanish cuisine in Madrid. The restaurant’s longtime specialties include Cochinillo Asado, roast suckling pig, and old-style roast lamb, real treats for just about anyone.

Don’t forget to check out our other lists and thanks for staying with us for a while.

Written by Jack Sparrow

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