Fast Facts

Madrid; 5,145,000
505,988 square kilometers (195,363 square miles)
Castilian Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Basque
Roman Catholic
Life Expectancy:
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $21,200
Literacy Percent:
Flag: Spain
Map: Spain

Spain occupies most of the Iberian Peninsula in southwest Europe, and its territory includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic. Much of the mainland is high plateau, with mountain ranges, including the Pyrenees, in the north. The plateau experiences hot summers and cold winters—it is cooler and wetter to the north.

About 200 B.C. the Romans occupied this crossroads between Europe and Africa. Moors invaded in A.D. 711, ruling for almost 800 years before Christian armies routed them. Enriched by its New World empire, Spain dominated Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries; today it rules only the North African territories of Ceuta and Melilla.

Gen. Francisco Franco wielded power from 1936 until his death in 1975, when Juan Carlos became king. Three years later a new constitution confirmed Spain as a parliamentary monarchy. After 1986, when the Socialist Party under Felipe González Márquez led Spain into the European Union, the economy grew faster than any other member nation's. Yet the government's pro-business policies in the 1990s were blamed for widening the gap between rich and poor and for the bankruptcy of noncompetitive industries—all contributing to high unemployment. Separatist agitation born of historical regional differences, most pronounced in the Basque country and in Catalonia, still challenges national unity, but a strong national peace movement has developed to counteract terrorist activities.

Unemployment continues to be a problem, but levels have improved from previous points. Spain is one of the European Union nations participating in the euro currency.


  • Industry: Textiles and apparel, food and beverages, metals and metal manufactures, chemicals
  • Agriculture: Grain, vegetables, olives, wine grapes; beef; fish
  • Exports: Machinery, motor vehicles, foodstuffs, other consumer goods

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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