The Culture of Spain


The cultures of Spain are European cultures based on a variety of historical influences, primarily that of Ancient Rome, but also the pre-Roman Celtic and Iberian culture, and that of the Phoenicians and the Moors. In the areas of language and religion. The subsequent course of Spanish history added other elements to the country’s culture and traditions.

The Visigothic Kingdom left a sense of a united Christian Hispania that was going to be welded in the Reconquista. Muslim influences were strong during the Middle Ages. The Spanish language derives directly from Vulgar Latin with significant lexical borrowings (8-10%) from Andalusian Arabic and minor influences from other languages including Basque, Iberian, Celtic) and Gothic. Another influence was the minority Jewish population in some cities. After the defeat of the Muslims during the Christian Reconquista (“Reconquest”) period between 718 and 1492, Spain became an almost entirely Roman Catholic country. In addition, the nation’s history and its Mediterranean and Atlantic environment have played a significant role in shaping its culture, and also in shaping other cultures, such as the culture of Latin America through the colonization of the Americas.

By the end of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Spaniards made expressions of cultural diversity easier than it had been for the last seven centuries. This occurred at the same period that Spain became increasingly drawn into a diverse international culture.

The term “Spanish literature” refers to literature written in the Spanish language, including literature composed by Spanish and Latin American writers. It may include Spanish poetry, prose, and novels.

Spanish literature is the name given to the literary works written in Spain throughout time, and those by Spanish authors worldwide. Due to historic, geographic, and generational diversity, Spanish literature has known a great number of influences and is very diverse. Some major movements can be identified within it.

In recent years, Spanish cinema has achieved high marks of recognition as a result of its creative and technical excellence. In the long history of Spanish cinema, the great filmmaker Luis Buñuel was the first to achieve universal recognition, followed by Pedro Almodóvar in the 1980s. Spanish cinema has also seen international success over the years with films by directors like Segundo de Chomón, Florián Rey, Luis García Berlanga, Carlos Saura, Julio Medem and Alejandro Amenábar. Woody Allen, upon receiving the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award in 2002 in Oviedo remarked: “when I left New York, the most exciting film in the city at the time was Spanish, Pedro Almodóvar’s one. I hope that Europeans will continue to lead the way in filmmaking because at the moment not much is coming from the United States.”

Non-directors have obtained less international notability. Only the cinematographer Néstor Almendros, the actress Penélope Cruz and the actors Fernando Rey, Antonio Banderas, Javier Bardem and Fernando Fernán Gómez have obtained some recognition outside of Spain. Mexican actor Gael García Bernal has also recently received international attention in films by Spanish directors.

Today, only 10 to 20% of box office receipts in Spain are generated by domestic films, a situation that repeats itself in many nations of Europe and the Americas. The Spanish government has therefore implemented various measures aimed at supporting local film production and movie theaters, which include the assurance of funding from the main national television stations. The trend is being reversed with the recent screening of mega productions such as the €30 million film Alatriste (starring Viggo Mortensen), the Academy Award winning Spanish/Mexican film Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno), Volver (starring Penélope Cruz), and Los Borgia (€10 million), all of them hit blockbusters in Spain.
“Spanish” (About this sound españa (help·info)) or “Castilian” (Castellano) is a Romance language originally from the northern area of Spain. From there, its use gradually spread inside the Kingdom of Castile, where it evolved and eventually became the principal language of the government and trade. It was later taken to Africa, the Americas, and the Philippines when they were brought under Spanish colonial rule between the 15th and 19th centuries.

Today, it is one of the official languages of Spain, most Latin American countries and Equatorial Guinea. In total, 21 nations use Spanish as their primary language. Spanish is also one of six official languages of the United Nations.

Catalan or Valencian
“Catalan”, with its “Valencian” dialect is a Romance language, the national language of Andorra, and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of The Balearic Islands, Catalonia and Valencian Community, and in the city of Alghero in the Italian island of Sardinia. It is also spoken, although with no official recognition, in the autonomous communities of Aragon (in La Franja) and Murcia (in Carche) in Spain, and in the Roussillon region of southern France, which is more or less equivalent to the département of the Pyrénées-Orientales.

Basque (Euskera or Euskara) is a non-Indo-European language. Until the 1970s it was in recession, but with the democracy it is taught in schools and it is more common to hear Basque in the cities and in the areas where it was lost.

Basque is the only non-Indo-European language in all of western Europe. The origins of this language are unknown. It is thought that the language was spoken before the Romans came to the Iberian Peninsula.

Galician is a language of the Western Ibero-Romance branch, spoken in Galicia, an autonomous community with the constitutional status of “historic nationality,” located in northwestern Spain and small bordering zones in neighbouring autonomous communities of Asturias and Castilla y León.

Galician and Portuguese were, in medieval times, a single language which linguists call Galician-Portuguese, Medieval Galician, or Old Portuguese, spoken in the territories initially ruled by the medieval Kingdom of Galicia. Both languages are even today united by a dialect continuum[citation needed] located mainly in the northern regions of Portugal.

Aranese  is a standardized form of the Pyrenean Gascon variety of the Occitan language spoken in the Val d’Aran, in north western Catalonia on the border between Spain and France, where it is one of the three official languages besides Catalan and Spanish.

About 79% of Spaniards identify as belonging to the Roman Catholic religion; 2% identify with another religious faith, and about 19% as non-religious.


A significant portion of Spanish cuisine derives from the Roman, Jewish, and Andalusian traditions. The Moorish people were a strong influence in Spain for many centuries. However, pork is popular and for centuries eating pork was also a statement of Christian ethnicity or “cleanliness of blood”, because it was not eaten by Jews or Muslims. Several native foods of the Americas were introduced to Europe through Spain, and a modern Spanish cook could not do without potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and beans. These are some of the primary influences that have differentiated Spanish cuisine from Mediterranean cuisine, of which Spanish cuisine shares many techniques and food items.

The essential ingredient for real Spanish cooking is olive oil, as Spain produces 44% of the world’s olives. However, butter or lard are also important, especially in the north.

Daily meals eaten by Spaniards in many areas of the country are still very often made traditionally by hand, from fresh ingredients bought daily from the local market. This practice is more common in the rural areas and less common in the large urban areas like Barcelona or Madrid, where supermarkets are beginning to displace the open air markets. However, even in Madrid food can be bought from the local shops; bread from the “panadería” and meat from the “carnicería”.

One popular custom when going out is to be served tapas with a drink, including sherry, wine and beer. In some areas, like Almería, Granada or Jaén in Andalusia, and Madrid, León or Salamanca in the centre tapas are given for free with a drink and have become very famous for that reason. It should be noted that almost every bar serves something edible when a drink is ordered, without charge. However many bars exist primarily to serve a purchased “tapa”.

Another traditional favorite is the churro with a mug of thick hot chocolate to dip churros in. “Churrerías,” or stores that serve churros, are quite common. The Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid is especially famous as a place to stop and have some chocolate with churros, often late into the night (even dawn), after being out on the town. Often traditional Spanish singers and musicians will entertain the guests.

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