Lodged between Europe, Africa, the North Atlantic, and the Mediterranean, Spain has occupied a pivotal global position since unification under Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.

Geography: Mountain ranges in the north, center, and south, with a huge central plateau. Mediterranean lowlands. Verdant valleys in the north west.

 Climate: Maritime in north. Hotter and drier in south. The central plateau has an extreme climate.

 People and Society: A vigorous ethnic regionalism, suppressed under Franco’s fascist regime, now flourishes. There are 17 autonomous regions. People remain churchgoing, though Roman Catholic teachings on social issues are often flouted. Spanish women are increasingly emancipated, with strong political representation.

 The Economy: Decade of sustained growth, until construction boom ended in 2007, followed by global recession: unemployment soared. Large fishing fleet. Few natural resources. Proximity to Africa makes it a target for would-be economic migrants.

 Insight: Over 3000 festivals and feasts take place each year in Spain


 Official Name: Kingdom of Spain

 Date of Formation: 1492

 Capital: Madrid

 Population: 44.9 million

 Total Area: 194,896 sq. miles (504,782 sq. km)

 Density: 233 people per sq. mile

 Languages: Spanish*, Catalan*, Galician*, Basque*

 Religions: Roman Catholic 96%, other 4%

 Ethnic Mix: Spanish 72%, Catalan 17%, Galician 6%, other 3%, Basque 2%

 Government: Parliamentary system

 Currency: Euro = 100 cents

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