Spanish Culture

The best reason to come to Spain (either as a holiday maker or for those who move permanently) remains the intrinsic culture of Spain. This may seem odd when most people’s focus on Spain is centered upon the amazing weather, fantastic beaches and cheap housing than Northern Europe. Indeed, the culture of Spain is what sets it apart from other European countries that also have an amazing climate, reasonably priced villas and terrific beaches. The country definitely has a culture that goes well beyond just its ambiance and the caricatures of bullfighting, Flamenco and beach holidays.

The Spaniards are just as colorful as their culture with their barging and touching and not standing in queues. One of the most important aspects to Spanish culture is the general Spanish hospitality to foreign holidaymakers as it is remarkably user-friendly – particularly to English speakers. English is now the mandatory second language and Spain has an infrastructure that makes it ideal for English speakers as well as for holidaymakers as it is for anyone wanting to set up home in Spain.

Spain occupies about 85 percent of the Iberian Peninsula and great local diversity flourishes on Spanish terrain which is part of Spain's essence. The people of cities, hamlets, villages and towns embrace local identities that are embedded not only in the variations of local geography and microclimate but also in perceived cultural differences made tangible in symbolism and folklore. In spite of the strength of localism, there is also a perception of shared culture in rural zones called comarca throughout rural Spain which is a purely cultural and economic unit, without political or any other official identity. The changes in everyday Spanish life were as radical as the political transformation after the restoration of democracy. During the Franco years, especially during the 1940s and the early 1950s, these changes were even more prominent when contrasted with the values and social practices that had prevailed in Spanish society. Essentially, Spanish social values and attitudes were restructured at the same pace, and to the same degree, as the country's political framework, class structure and economic institutions.

Spanish culture is a European culture based on a variety of influences which include the pre-Roman cultures, mainly the Iberian and celts cultures; the Greeks and the Muslims, North Africans and Phoenicians. One of the clearest indicators of Spain's cultural diversity is language. Exact figures are impossible to confirm as Ethnic group boundaries do not coincide with administrative jurisdictions but observers generally agreed that about one out of four Spanish citizens spoke a mother tongue other than Castilian in the late 1980s. However, Castilian Spanish was the dominant language throughout the country. Besides its Castilian ethnic core, there are also three major peripheral ethnic groups such as the Catalans, the Galicians, and the Basques.

Catholicism became the state religion in 1851 and Roman Catholicism is the largest denomination of Christianity in Spain. The Spanish Center of Sociological Research revealed in a study in 2010 that about 73% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholics, 2.2% other faith, and about 22% identify with no religion. There are nearly about 300,000 Muslims live in Spain. A group of Muslims called Moors came to Spain from northern Africa and ruled the country for hundreds of years. About 12,000 Jews also live in Spain.

Fiestas & Festivals

Fiestas and festivals are also a very important part of the culture in Spain and there are numerous colorful festivals celebrated all around Spain, especially in spring and early summer. There are more than 3,000 festivals and fiestas celebrated every year. Almost every town and village has its very own annual fair that lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and Spaniards are accustomed to these fests. Holidaymakers are always welcomed to join in the fun and laughter. Community festivals involve the locals going on a pilgrimage to a certain shrine either in horse drawn wagons or on horseback. There are many local fiestas for harmless return from the sea, escape from the Moors, and harvests – the Spaniards use any excuse for partying!

From music, dancing and feasting to costumes and processions, visitors can see why Spain’s culture is considered to be the most colorful. The most famous however would be the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, the fireworks of Las Fallas in Valencia, Semana Santa in all of Andalucia , the mock battles of Moros y Cristianos in Alcoy and the massive Feria de Abril in Seville.

There are also the events of the Catholic calendar which display theatrical religious floats carried through the streets, accompanied by hooded penitents in concurrence for the year's misdeeds. Fiestas can be very eccentric indeed, ranging from parades of devils to full-blown battles with tomatoes or even water.