Interesting fact about Spain?
May 7, 2006 6:00 AM   Subscribe

What is the most interesting and maybe less well known fact about Spain?

My daughter (age 10) is doing a school project on Europe and has chosen to write about Spain (eg History, Culture, Tourism, Food, Georgraphical Features, Industry etc)

Want to get some less well known interesting facts for her to include in her write-up so that it is more than just the usual blurb.

Thanks for any help.
posted by pettins to Education (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Spanish eat a lot of fish.

Spanish cooks prepare 1.7 million tons of seafood a year, ensuring Spain's top seafood consumer status in the European Union, following only Japan worldwide. Per capita consumption in Spain weighs in at an impressive 42.6 kilograms, compared to 6.7 in the United States in 1996.
posted by mono blanco at 6:14 AM on May 7, 2006

The most interesting thing to me is that Spain was invaded by the Moors in 711 AD and by 719 AD was under Moorish control. Thus, during the so-called 'dark ages', a time when a veil of superstition, fundamentalism and anti-intellectualism had descended over much of Europe, the candle of knowledge was kept burning in Spain by a Moslem people.

Things finally started to change when the Crusaders invaded Toledo in 1085 and the Arab knowledge began to be translated and made available to 'white' Europe.

Okay, this is an over-simplification, but there is a lot of truth in it. A visitor to southern Spain cannot help but be amazed by the Moorish influence that persists to this day.

Incidentally, if you enjoy historical fiction, Noah Gordon's The Physician is pretty mindblowing in its description of the contrasts between Islamic learning (in particular, medicine) and European ignorance during this period. (It's the story of a young English guy who travels to Isfahan disguised as a Jew to learn medicine at the Madrassah there). I worked on the script for a movie based on it last year, but production seems to have stalled now.
posted by unSane at 6:41 AM on May 7, 2006

"Coria del Rio is a small town near Seville, where the descendants of the first Japanese Embassy still use the surname Japón. Approximately 700 of Coria's 25,000 residents use the surname, and, by tradition, they descended from six samurai from the embassy who decided to stay in Spain because they liked to fish the local river." (from Wikipedia)

These people settled there after the second trip of the Christian convert and samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga, around 1615 or so. This popped into my head since an acquaintance of mine is doing her doctoral thesis on the population.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:15 AM on May 7, 2006

I always found it most interesting that the trend of eating so much damn pork is leftover from the Inquisition, when it was fashionable to be seen eating a lot of pork in public so no one suspected you might be Jewish or Muslim. That was more than 500 years ago, and to this day in Spain, it seems like if pork isn't the main ingredient, it's got bacon sprinkled on it. (I don't have a citation for this--the anthropology teacher I had while I was studying abroad there told me). Not sure if it's really appropriate for a ten-year-old's report, though. But maybe.

When I was in school, I had to come up with ten facts on Spain. I had nine, and I was having a hard time finding a tenth in the book I was looking in. So I used this one: In small towns in Spain, people let their chickens run free all over the town. So when they're eaten, the meat is usually tough. I'm not even sure if that's true--it was in a pretty old book.
posted by lampoil at 7:47 AM on May 7, 2006

Hmmm, less known facts...

How about, Spain had 5 different constitutions during the 19th Century and another two in the 20th Century, including the current one (1812, 1837, 1845, 1869, 1876, 1931, 1978). The first constitution, known as the Cadiz Constitution, was implemented, and revoked, three times. Spain has also had two Republics (1873, 1931), two Dictatorships (1923, 1939), several monarchies and finally, the current Constitutional Monarchy (1978).
posted by sic at 7:52 AM on May 7, 2006

1. Following up on unSane's comment, it is an interesting fact that the most advanced and civilized city in the Western world in 1000 A.D. was Moorish Cordoba.

2. Spain is the only nation in which fascism flourished for decades in the 20th Century and then transitioned peacefully to a constitutional monarchy. The fact that it flourished was no doubt due to the fact that Franco stayed out of the war that consumed the rest of Europe.
posted by megatherium at 7:56 AM on May 7, 2006

Speaking of pork, she might want to mention jamon serrano/ jamon iberico-- one of the best hams in the world.
posted by sic at 7:58 AM on May 7, 2006

Spain also has the highest volcano among European countries, El Teide, but the volcano is on Tenerife a Spanish Island off the western coast of Africa.
posted by sic at 8:00 AM on May 7, 2006

A quickie: Only last year, 30 years after Franco's death, did Madrid remove its last statute of the dictator.

Slightly more involved (don't know if it's going to make the cut for a 10-year-old's report): One sad chapter from Spain's modern democratic history involves the off-the-books, anti-terrorist death squads. It would be nice to think that so soon after Spain shook off a dictatorship, the government would resist the temptation to go hunting down its enemies extrajudicially. Especially because the Socialists that formed the government were some of the same types persecuted themselves under the dictatorship. The other problem: Some people they nabbed/kidnapped/killed had nothing to do with the enemy they were after, ETA.
posted by veggieboy at 8:29 AM on May 7, 2006

The rain in Spain is going down the drain.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:23 AM on May 7, 2006

Following up on unSane, you'll see lots of words that we got from the Arabic (Berber) invaders:

Algorithm (bastardization of a guy's name. The arabs knew some maths, yo. They even got the numerals named after them, though the numerals are Indian.
Alcove and many more.

The Spaniards under Muslim rule flourished -- there was lots of culture, philosophy (and theological philosophy ... Aquinas and Maimonides, etc.), and scientific progress. Those under Christian rule did receive these things until hundreds of years later.

If you're into religious history, the story of the Synagogue of (St.) Mary the Virgin is a good one. And it speaks to a broad trend of religious back and forth that happened in southern Spain. The reconquest was partly just the Christians taking over cities and knocking the crescent off of a mosque and putting a cross up there. Weird but true.
posted by zpousman at 10:49 AM on May 7, 2006

I'd say the most interesting thing for a 10-yr old to understand and appreciate is that Spain, rather than being a bunch of people who speak Spanish, is in fact a loose assemblage of people on a peninsula (excluding Portugal) who speak languages such as Spanish, Basque, Catalonian, Aragonese, Galician etc.

This is in fact true of many modern nations in the world. What i regret most about my early education is how nations around the world were presented as mono-cultures: "The Spanish like to..." and so on. The world is a hodge-podge. Spain also has communities of Gypsies, German immigrants, French immigrants and well, so on...
posted by vacapinta at 11:37 AM on May 7, 2006

The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 (wiki) by the British Navy, and the massacre of the Spanish Fleet in 1898 (wiki) by the US Navy.

Probably more interesting to a ten-year-old boy.
posted by Rash at 11:55 AM on May 7, 2006

Madrid is Europe's highest capital city. Spanish film directors keep winning Oscars for Best Foreign Film (Pedro Almodóvar, Alejandro Amenábar). The Spanish dictionary (Diccionario de la Academia Real Española) only has 11 words beginning with the letter W, all of them of non-Spanish origin. Spaniards donate more bodily organs per head of population than any other nation. The right stuff for a 10-year old?
posted by Holly at 2:57 PM on May 7, 2006

According to either Rick Steves or the Lonely Planet people (I've been reading both guidebooks to prep for a trip this fall), Spain is the second-loudest country in the world, after Japan.
posted by diddlegnome at 3:58 PM on May 7, 2006

They still have wolves and brown bears
posted by fshgrl at 6:40 PM on May 7, 2006

Madrid is on the same latitude as New York City
posted by IndigoJones at 6:53 PM on May 7, 2006

The Basque language (called Euskadi), spoken by about one million people, mostly in northern Spain, seems to be unrelated to any other tongue. Nobody knows for sure where the Basques' ancestors came from, or how long ago.

One to five in Euskadi: bat, bi, hiru, lau, bost
posted by rob511 at 9:56 PM on May 7, 2006

It's been a tourist destination for centuries, courtesy of the Camino de Santiago.
posted by holgate at 10:42 PM on May 7, 2006

Spain has exclaves - autonomous Spanish cities - in North Africa - Melilla and Ceuta.

These are interestingly targets for illegal immigration to Europe because they are considered integral parts the European Union.
posted by sagwalla at 9:26 AM on May 8, 2006

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