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Cultural Analysis of Spain Essay Sample

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Cultural Analysis of Spain Essay Sample

In the beginning, Spain endured a diversified number of cultures. Around 1600 B.C., the Iberians arrived in Spain. Migration into Spain continued from Europe beyond the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean, and North Africa. Following the Iberians, came the Celts. The two cultures merged and established a distinctive Celt Iberian culture. In 1492, the Moors, a nomadic, Muslim tribe of North African origin, were driven off of the Iberian Peninsula. Shortly after, several kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula merged to form what is modern-day Spain.

Spain is located in southwestern Europe and occupies approximately 80% of the Iberian Peninsula. It shares the west side of the peninsula with Portugal and is separated from France in the northeast by the Pyrenees Mountains. The remainder of Spain is bordered by the Bay of Biscay to the north/northwest, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea and Balearic Sea to the east. Spain’s capital, and largest city, Madrid has an urban population of 17 million, constituting 45% of Spain’s total population. Most of Spain is mountainous, but there are some lower elevations in the south and southwest.

Spain offers a rather moderate climate. The country’s average temperature extremes are between 30 and 90 degrees (F), with January being the coldest and July and August being the warmest months. Spain also has a relatively low annual precipitation average of 17.8 inches per year.

The communications network of Spain is well-established. Spain has 5 news agencies, 87 daily newspapers, 5 broadcast television networks offering 228 television stations, and 15 radio networks controlling 715 FM and 208 AM stations. The Internet is also a common mode of communication, with a user base of nearly 8 million.

With over 400,000 miles of highways and over 8,800 miles of railways, Spain has a competent transportation network. Spain has approximately 650 miles of waterways that are of very little economic importance. However, Spain contains many ports and harbors available for shipping. There are also 93 airports with paved runways.

Spain continues to heavily invest in the development and improvement of its infrastructure. The Spanish government has instituted an Infrastructure Master Plan, which is expected to help prepare Spain’s highways, railways, airports, and port systems for the 21st century and to place the transportation system on a level equal to other EU members.

The most common language of Spain is the Castilian dialect of Spanish, which is spoken in all regions. Family is the main focus for many Spaniards. It is not unusual to have three generations living together relying on their family, rather than institutions, to find work or help in a time of need. Until the 1960s, Spain was very poor, with most people living in rural areas of the country. Since that time (1960s), Spain has grown tremendously with a total population of 40.5 million people that usually live together, in cities, towns or villages.

Living conditions in Spain are comparable to those of the United States. Spaniards have a life expectancy of 78.5 years and also experience a very low infant mortality rate, both of which may be due to the adequate availability of health services.

The people of Spain have a very relaxed idea of time and are usually outgoing, sociable, and unreserved. Spaniards will put their social life before their work schedule, attending fiestas on a weekly basis. Most stores and offices will close allowing workers to attend these parties so that they can take a break from the hassles of work. Spaniards know how to enjoy life; however, they do place a great amount of importance on education with a literacy rate of 97.9% of the total population. Furthermore, one-third of Spanish children attend Catholic schools that are funded by the state.

Spaniards eat at 2 to 3 hour intervals, which is roughly 7 times a day, whether it is a glass of wine at 1 p.m. or dinner which usually begins around 10 o’clock in the evening. Traditional Spanish food consists of fresh ingredients. Seafood, which is consumed within hours of being caught, as well as meat, are combined with herbs, spices, and lots of olive oil in traditional Spanish cuisine. Because of the increase in the number of fast food restaurants in Spain as well as restaurants from other countries with their own flavors, the traditional food of Spain is starting to decrease but will never be forgotten.

Today’s democratic Spain is the product of a long and often troubled history. For much of the twentieth century, Spain was governed by dictatorships, most recently during the years of 1939 through 1975 under General Francisco Franco.

The government of Spain is one of constitutional monarchy. The nation is led by the Spanish head of state, King Juan Carlos I, who began his reign in 1975. Subordinate to the monarchy, there are 3 branches of government, an Executive Branch, a Legislative Branch, and a Judicial Branch.

Although Spain is a kingdom, the King is not the leader of the Spanish government. The Executive Branch is led by the Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar. Also included in this branch are various governmental positions including the First Deputy Prime Minister, Second Deputy Prime Minister, and the Council of Ministers. Additionally, the Executive Branch is responsible for enforcing or carrying out the laws that are made through the Legislative Branch.

The Legislative Branch of the Spanish government is comprised of a bicameral legislature; the Senate and the Congress of Deputies. The 259 member Senate contains 208 members who are elected by popular vote and the other 51 members are appointed by regional legislatures. The 350 member Congress of Deputies contains members elected by popular vote to serve terms of 4 years and the number of members representing any of the major regions or “communities” in Spain is determined by the population in each region. The main duties of the Legislative Branch of the Spanish government are to pass laws as well as uphold the Spanish Constitution, which was enacted in 1978.

The Judicial Branch of the Spanish government is contained in the Spanish Supreme Court consisting of 4 main chambers including the Civil Chamber, Criminal Chamber, Administrative Chamber, and the Labor Chamber. The duty of the Judicial Branch of the Spanish government is to make and write laws and to uphold the Civil Law system which exists in Spain.

One legal issue with regard to Spanish law is that of patents and copyrights. Spain adheres to the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement set forth at the Doha Round of GATT in November, 2001. The agreement was designed to impose strict enforcement of patents and copyrights on a global basis and requires adhering nations to extend equal protection to foreign nationals as is provided to domestic citizens with regard to patents and copyrights. The agreement was designed in order to reduce the opportunity for anti-competitive actions.

Another issue with regard to Spanish law is taxation. The main forms of tax in Spain are Property Tax and Personal Tax. In Spain, property tax is paid yearly on the local level and is based on the official value of the property. Rates vary from year to year and from area to area. Spanish personal taxes are calculated from a Wealth Tax Return submitted yearly. Also nonresidents of Spain are subject to income tax on property in Spain. Finally, nonresidents of Spain are subject to Capital Gains Tax of 35% of profits if assets are sold in Spain.

In Spain, there are 11 primary political parties including: the Popular Party, Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, the United Left, Euskal Herritarrok-Herri Batasuna, the Canary Island Coalition, and the Galician Nationalist Block. Spanish Prime Minister Aznar is a member of the Popular Party and it would also appear that the Popular Party is the dominant party in the Spanish government.

Spain was founded on the principles and fundamentals of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic beliefs have been so integrated with the culture and society that at one time it was considered not only taboo, but also illegal to have a different view from the ideals set forth by the Holy Church. Catholicism was the official state religion from 1851 until the constitution was changed in 1978. Even to this day, 94% of Spain’s population is Catholic with the other 6% belonging to other Christian faiths, Islam, and Judaism. According to a 1982 report by the Catholic Church, more than 83% of all children born in Spain were baptized in the church, and more than 97% of the marriages performed were Catholic.

Many of the aspects of society including architecture, government, education, and traditions revolve around those of the Roman Catholic Church. In almost every village, town, or city within Spain, the landscape is dominated by the overwhelming cathedrals and churches among the sites.

While the traditional link with religion has faded substantially over time, “Being a Catholic in Spain had less and less to do with regular attendance at Mass, and more to do with the routine observance of important rituals…” (www.reference.allrefer.com/country-guide-study/spain/)

References

Spain:Eyewitness Travel Guides. New York: Dorling Kindersley, Limited,2004.

Spain. Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, March 2003.

Cowans, Jon, Early Modern Spain: a documentary history 2003

Kagan, Richard, Spain in America: The origins of Hispanism in the United States, 2002

Pierson, Peter, The History of Spain, 1999

“Health, Social Services.” Retrieved 4 Feb 2004

“Spain.” The World Factbook.. Updated Dec. 2003. Retrieved 1 Feb 2004 .

“Monthly Climatology for Travel Section.” Weather.com. Retrieved 1 Feb 2004 .

“Spain Geography, Climate, and Weather.” Topography, Geography, Climate, and Weather of Spain. Retrieved 1 Feb 2004 .

“Spain – Climate.” Spanish Information Resource. Updated Dec. 1988. Retrieved 1Feb 2004 .

“Madrid, Spain Historical Weather.” WeatherPost. Updated Dec. 2003. Retrieved 1Feb 2004 .

“Spain.” Agri-Food Country Profile. Updated Feb. 2003. Retrieved 1 Feb 2004 .

“The Media in Spain.” Updated May 2000. Retrieved 1Feb 2004 .

“Spain.” Country Media Summaries. Retrieved 1 Feb 2004 .

“Granada.” Capture Spain. January 29, 2004

“Spain – Political Structure.” The Economist Online. January 30, 2004

< http://www.economist.com/countries/Spain/profile.cfm?folder=Profile-Political%20Structure>

“The Spanish Government.” Abacci Atlas. January 31, 2004

“Spanish Legal Structure.” University of Florida. January 29, 2004

“Introduction to Taxes in Spain for Nonresidents.” Interealitynet.com. February 2, 2004

“The TRIPS Agreement.” Fabian Global Forum. February 11, 2004

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