Spain, a country occupying the greater part of the Iberian Peninsula,
and bounded on the north by the Bay of Biscay, France, and Andorra, and on the
east by the Mediterranean Sea. The Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the
Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa are governed as
provinces of Spain. Also, Spain administers two small exclaves in Morocco—Ceuta
and Melilla. The area of Spain, including the African and insular territories,
is 194,885 sq mi. Madrid is the capital and largest city.


The Spanish people are essentially a mixture of the indigenous peoples of the
Iberian Peninsula with the successive peoples who conquered the peninsula and
occupied it for extended periods. These added ethnologic elements include the
Romans, a Mediterranean people, and the Suevi, Vandals, and Visigoths, Teutonic
peoples. Semitic elements are also present.

Population Characteristics

The population of Spain at the 1991 census was 38,872,268. The estimate for 1995
is 39,276,000, giving the country an overall density of about 202 per sq mi.
Spain is increasingly urban, with more than 80 percent of the population in
towns and cities.

Principal Cities

The capital and largest city is Madrid (population, greater city, 1991,
3,010,492), also the capital of Madrid autonomous region; the second largest
city, chief port, and commercial center is Barcelona, capital of Barcelona
province and Catalonia region. Other important cities include Valencia, capital
of Valencia province and Valencia region, a manufacturing and railroad center;
Seville, a cultural center; Saragossa, and Bilbao (369,839), a busy port.


Roman Catholicism is professed by about 97 percent of the population. The
country is divided into 11 metropolitan and 52 suffragan sees. In addition, the
archdioceses of Barcelona and Madrid are directly responsible to the Holy See.
Formerly, Roman Catholicism was the established church, but the 1978
constitution decreed that Spain shall have no state religion, while recognizing
the role of the Roman Catholic church in Spanish society. There are small
communities of Protestants, Jews, and Muslims.

Higher Education

Spanish institutions of higher education enrolled nearly 1.3 million students in
the early 1990s. The major universities of Spain include the University of
Madrid, the Polytechnical University of Madrid (1971), the University of
Barcelona (1450), the University of Granada (1526), the University of Salamanca,
the University of Seville (1502), and the University of Valencia (1510).


Any consideration of Spanish culture must stress the tremendous importance of
religion in the history of the country and in the life of the individual. An
index of the influence of Roman Catholicism is provided by the fervent mystical
element in the art and literature of Spain, the impressive list of its saints,
and the large number of religious congregations and orders. The Catholic
marriage is the basis of the family, which in turn is the foundation of Spanish


Spain has traditionally been an agricultural country and is still one of the
largest producers of farm commodities in Western Europe, but since the mid-1950s
industrial growth has been rapid. A series of development plans, initiated in
1964, helped the economy to expand, but in the later 1970s an economic slowdown
was brought on by rising oil costs and increased imports. Subsequently, the
government emphasized the development of the steel, shipbuilding, textile, and
mining industries. Spain derives much income from tourism. The annual budget in
the early 1990s included revenues of about $97.7 billion and expenditures of
about $128 billion. On January 1, 1986, Spain became a full member of the
European Community (now the European Union, or EU).


Agriculture is a mainstay of the Spanish economy, employing, with forestry and
fishing, about 10 percent of the labor force. The leading agricultural products,
in order of value, are grapes and olives, used to make olive oil. In the early
1990s annual production of grapes was 5.7 million metric tons and of olive oil
was 597,000 metric tons. Other important commodities included potatoes (5.3
million tons), barley (6 million), wheat (4.5 million), almonds (425,000),
tomatoes (2.6 million), oranges and mandarins (4.2 million), sugar beets (7.5
million), and onions (995,000). The raising of livestock, especially sheep and
goats, is an important industry. In the early 1990s livestock on farms included
about 24.6 million sheep, 17.2 million pigs, 4.9 million cattle, and 240,000

Currency and Banking

The unit of currency is the peseta (126 pesetas equal U.S.$1; 1995), issued by
the Bank of Spain (1829). The country is served by a large number of commercial
banks. The principal stock exchanges are in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, and

In early 1995 Spain\'s currency was devalued 7 percent against eight other
European currencies, in part to slow selling by currency traders concerned about
the country\'s internal politics and continued high budget deficit.