All too often when you're looking for information about Spain, or any other country, be it for travel or for other interests, often all that can be found are dry Spain facts and figures that don't give you a feel for its cultural history. But for a country with as long and varied a history as Spain, a lot can be learned about it from those facts, and the history behind them, that will give you an excellent view on the country today.
- Spain has been conquered by more than seven different cultures since 1100 B.C. Beginning with the Phoenician traders, who established colonies on top of the original inhabitants, Spain would trade hands many times, mainly as a function of its value as a trading hub, and direct oceanic access to the rest of the European coast. It would trade hands from the Phoenicians to the Romans, to the Visigoths by 490 A.D. A few hundred years later, the Caliphate of Cordoba would conquer the eastern half of the country, and establish a powerful Muslim Moorish rule for a couple hundred years, until Christian forces, thanks to internal fighting, were able to retake the territories.
- Modern Spanish cuisine is derived from the many different cultures that have invaded over the years. Many people think of Spanish cuisine as unique to that region, and possibly being very similar to Latin dishes now found in the Americas. In fact, as early as being introduced to Rome changed Spanish cuisine to a point that little is known about it's indigenous people's diets. Rome introduced wheat, beans and legumes, and even wine. Muslim conquerors greatly improved on primitive Roman irrigation systems, allowing for a huge expansion in vegetables in the Spanish diet. And the concept of tortillas, both the potato omlette variety, and the flatbread, were imported as Spaniards conquered the Americans.
- Muslim architecture greatly influenced the Spanish style, which in turn was exported to the Americas. The great wealth that came with irrigation allowed the Moors to build many grand structures, including many mosques (which are now cathedrals) which still stand today. The intricate tile work, grand gold design and carvings, horseshoe arches, and the integration of nature into the courtyards and common areas. Now more associated in popular culture with Latin America villas, this style's origin in Moorish culture is a well known Spanish fact to its natives.
- Spain is one of the most eco-diverse countries in Europe. Not only is it one of the most mountainous countries, the fact is that Spain also has more than 8,000 kilometers of beaches, but the southeast has numerous deserts, while the northwest resembles Seattle more than what people think of as Spain, with more than twenty days of rain in a month. While it has more acreage covered in vineyards in the world than any other country, its dry soil means its yield per vine is lower than many other regions.
- Spain continues a long tradition of independent regions to this day. One of the littler known facts about Spain for non-residents is that they are still very regional, and areas operate not as states or provinces, but as seventeen separate "autonomous communities" and another two "autonomous cities" on the northern coast of Africa. Some even have their own regional languages. Although Spain does have a constitutional government, including a Prime Minister and King, it has been noted as being the most remarkably successful in decentralizing their government in the last 50 years. Without the context of Spanish regional history and geography this might seem a little strange. But, really, it's a part of their cultural heritage.
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