The Spanish World



A Capsule History of Spain

By  Frank DeFina PhD.

Many centuries before the Roman conquest brought Spain its Latin language and identity ”Iberians,” Celts, Pheonicians, Greeks and Carthaginians had left their imprint on the Iberian Peninsula. The Iberians, original Neolithic settlers, of disputed origin, were displaced by the Celts (c.900-600 B.C.). By about 600 B.C. the Pheonicians were being replaced by the Greeks and between 600 and 300 B.C., the Carthaginians came in search of precious metals trade and Empire, to be replaced by Rome.

The Romanization of Spain, beginning about 200 B.C., proved a difficult, piece-meal task. Eventually the Imperial imprint was felt in nearly every part of the peninsula. Roman law, religion (Christianity after 306 A.D.), administration, language, and customs, architecture and art, agriculture and commerce, roads and bridges all became a part of Spain, and in time, this Western Roman Province was to supply the Empire two of its outstanding Emperors – Hadrian and Trajan.

Seven Roman centuries gave political and social stability, and unity, but as Roman rule drew to a close, Spain was marked with the same corruption, despotism, economic collapse and internal disorder as the rest of the decaying Empire. Finally, in the 5th century, the country was eventually overrun by the Visigoths whose reign lasted until

711 A.D. Descended from Germanic tribes led by forest chieftans, their custom of selecting each new King usually ended in bloody civil wars that kept the country in constant turmoil. Their primitive background little prepared them to succeed the relatively sophisticated urban and commercial institutions and traditions of Rome, and with their anti-urban, anti-semetic attitudes, it is little wonder that when the Moors  invaded from Africa in 711, it took them only about seven years to complete their conquest. They seized almost all of Spain except a small portion of Asturies where a small remnant of Spanish Christians, largely ignored, defended their mountain fastness, from where they eventually were able to establish the foundations of the Reconquest that took almost 800 years to complete.

The Spanish Moors, in the meantime, established the highest cultural center of the Mediterranean and perhaps of the world. In the 9th and 10th centuries the kingdoms of Cordoba and Sevilla were renowned centers of learning, attracting the most brilliant minds in science, arts and letters. The reign of the Moors was also marked by religious and social tolerance uncommon for its time. Militant Christianity, however, was building up power in the north, and by the 11th century the kingdoms of Leon, Castilla, Galicia, Aragon, and Navarra had been reclaimed. This era of reconquest was crowned by the great triumph of the Christian forces in Toledo(1085). With the aid of fierce Muslim tribes from Maurtania, Islam was able to recover some of its losses in the peninsula, but internal disputes soon weakened them, and by the mid-13th century only Granada remained non-Christian. That the Moors were able to retain Granada for some 250 years, until 1492,is due largely to the dynastic disputes that arose among the emerging Christian kingdoms, and the difficulty of assimilating the large areas into the fold of Christian control and institutions.

The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castilla finally united the Christian kingdoms under a single crown and Spain became one of modern Europe`s first nation-state, reconquering Granada(1492). The tolerant policies of most Christian rules at the time, however, allowed many Moors to remain in Spain, where their scientists and men of arts and letters continued to influence the more primitive Christian society. It was not until 1609 that Philip III, initially favored the Moors, was finally induced to expel the last remnants that had not accepted Christianity. After 1492 all Jews who had not agreed to conversion (“Los Conversos”) were theoretically banished from Spain.

A great empire was built in the Old and New World that would be dominant for two centuries in Europe, and three centuries in the Americas. Indirectly, however, the riches from America ultimately contributed to Spain’s ambition to dominate Europe, and to protect its colonial and imperial wealth. Spain became embroiled with practically every country in Europe, dispatching its troops here and there, and dissipating its substance and manpower. Eventually the European wars of the 17th and 18th centuries and a procession of  weak kings left Spain economically depleted. The rise of England and France at that time was partly at the expense of Spain.

But Spain had had its century or more of greatness, its “Siglo de Oro,” which spanned the reigns of Charles V, and his successors Philip II and III. It was an era which birth to the works of artists like El Greco, Murillo, and Valasquez, writers like Cervantes and Lope de Vega and musicians and scholars of great excellence. Spain recaptured some of its greatness in the 19th century under the Bourbon Kings an enlightened monarch Charles III (1758-88) instigated social and economic reforms, and education, science and art again flourished.

Bourbon recovery was short-lived however, for Charles IV (1788-1808) was too weak to resist the power of Napoleon. Many liberals, in fact, hopeful of political modernization welcomed the French Revolution, but the Spanish people in general resisted Napoleonic invasion and control. Aided by the British, the Spanish “guerilla” warfare finally led to the expulsion of the French, and the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty, of Ferdinand VII, who was an ultra-conservative who nullified the brilliant liberal reforms of the Parliament (Cortes of Cadiz) in 1812, and returned Spain once again to reaction and anarchy. During Ferdinad`s reign (1808-33)) Spain lost its American colonies, the remnants of which were finally stripped from her by the United States after the Spanish American War 1898. Spanish vitality, despite her sad history, was reflected in the post- War Era under the intellectual and literacy leadership of the Generation of `98 which attempted to create a new in, more realistic, and modern Spain which would combine the best of the old and new in Spanish history and institutions, with some models based on European developments (e.g. Ortega y Gasset, proposed a Europeanization of Spain).

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, however, Spanish society and institutions continued to be politically and socially antiquated, and a widening gulf continued between liberals and conservatives, between rural and urban areas, and between the aristocracy and working classes. Rather than resolving problems, the Republic established in the early 1930`s invoked further anarchy and bitter social conflicts which finally exploded into a savage Civil War when the military rebellion led by General Fransisco Franco involved, as his allies, the facist powers of Hitler and Mussolini. With the victory of Franco and the army, church and oligarchy which supported him, a personal dictatorship of 40 yeas ensued, characterized, according to its proponents, by “stability, law and order.” Many have questioned whether there was “law and justice,” but definite judgments must be reserved for future history.

At the end of the Civil War (1938), deeply involved in its own post-war recovery, Spain maintained neutrality during World War II, though favorable to the Axis powers. While economic recovery since the Civil War has been slow, the country made considerable strides since 1960`s,characterized by booming foreign tourist entrances, and a massive movement of Spanish migrant workers to the European Economic Market Powers, especially Germany, both resulting in increased European and modernizing influences. The death of Franco in 1975, followed by Reform Bills which opened the way for the first relatively free Spanish elections in 40 yeas have all represented great change, opening the way for even greater transformation of Spain as a more modern freer nation. The entrance of Spain into the European Common Economic Market is a final step into the mainstream of the rights and responsibilities of the European community, and a possible counter-measure to American multi-nationals and military bases in Spain. How much longer Spain can retain its uniqueness-based on that historical combination-Christian , Jew and Moor- is difficult to predict, and future developments capture the interest and concern of Western Society.

The Spanish World

by Virgilio Blanco Lage PhD

The Spanish World is known for its great diversity. It is so diverse that some people question its very identity. Is it a linguistic unit? – Is it an ethnic group, a people, a race, a nation? – It is difficult to define because it defies any definition. Many Spaniards question the very notion of Spain, as many Latin Americans question the very notion of the terms Latin American, Hispanic or Latino. Let’s review the facts and you can come up with your own definition.


The Iberian peninsula was inhabited about 35000 years ago by the first Europeans. We now know they came from the east. They were the first Celts or the Old Celts. It is now thought that their language might have developed into modern Basque.  During the last glacial age about 15000 years ago most northern Europeans took refuge in Spain. The first Iberians were followed by the new Celts, Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Jews, Germanic tribes, Moors, Arabs, Syrians and Gypsies.

Although there was extensive intermarriage, some of these groups ended up more isolated than others in a very mountainous area. Therefore, people in some areas developed their own language, customs and identity. Therefore, there are millions of Spaniards who are bilingual and whose second language is Spanish.


When the Spaniards conquered parts of Africa, Asia and the Americas, they found well established civilizations which had developed different languages and customs. Thus, there are countries such as Peru where many people speak Quechua as their first language and Spanish as a second language. The same is true of Paraguay where many people speak two languages Guarani and Spanish. There are also Spanish countries where there are many people who do not speak Spanish. That is the case of Mexico. The Spaniards were in the Phillipines for four hundred years. They left their language, their religion and their customs. However, nowadays Tagalo replaced Spanish as the first language in the Philippines.  


Millions of immigrants flocked to Latin America during the nineteenth century from countries as diverse as Japan, China, Lebanon, Italy, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Russia and Eastern Europe. They brought their customs, and their language. Most of them integrated into the Latin America melting pot others preferred to remain separated preserving their language and customs. There were Welch, German, Scottish, Croatian, Japanese and many other communities in many parts of Latin America. The big influx of African slaves to the Spanish colonies came during the nineteenth century as well. They were brought primarily to the Caribbean area to harvest sugar and other crops. Some of them ran away forming their own communities others were integrated into the new nations forged out of former Spanish colonies. Three quarters of the land of the continental United States was once Spanish territory. Such American legends as Daniel Boone, Sam Austin and Admiral David Farragut are part of that heritage.



Geographically as well, The Spanish World extends from places of perennial snow in Antartica to tropical paradises in the Caribbean or the Pacific Ocean; from places where it never rains in North Africa or South America to places where it always rains in northern Spain or Southern Chile.


Can you now define that which is Hispanic?


9 responses to “The Spanish World

  1. Jordi Abreu

    Anglics and Hispanics
    The term Hispanic is actualy a code word to refer to people of mixed races. Anglo Americans inherited desdain for Spanish culture from their English relatives. They envied and fought Spain as the champion of Catholicism for hundreds of years. The American nation was built on the ashes of the Spanish Empire. Over two thirds of continental US was once Spanish, as well as the Pacific islands of Guam and Somoa, and the Caribbean islands. Hispanics is mostly used to refer to either Mexican or Puerto Ricans in the United States but it is extended to other Spanish Speaking peoples. It is as if you put in one group Jamaica, New Guinea, Nigeria, the United States, and England referring to them as Anglics as a race or an ethnic group. If that sounds ridiculous to you then Hispanic should sound just as ridiculous.

    J. Abreu

  2. Jose Borreguero

    Don’t worry Jordi Abreu, even now United States belong to the Spanish in some way. God was with us, Spanish speakers all the time. The only problem, Jordi, that before we were the owners of our territory and now, we are second or third category inhabitans. Look at how our culture is considered in this country and how low is the recognition for those ones like me that we teach Spanish.

  3. J S has shared a video with you on YouTube:

    Impresionante la mezcla gallega-irlandesa … y los irlandeses terminan bailando gallego …
    impresionante el pandereiteiro gallego … bueniiisimo
    Carlos Nuñez & The Chieftains Muiñeira de Chantada.
    “Carlos Nuñez”…Dice:
    Nos cojimos de la mano, como los Druidas de Bretaña y
    Le pedimos a Dios o a los Dioses que esa danza de la felicidad
    En la que estabamos immersos no terminase nunca en aquella fiesta final,
    Todos soplamos juntos por la pipa de la paz,
    De las Culturas y del Amor.

  4. Felipe Acosta

    La cultura hispana es una cultura con diferentes variedades y regionalismos. Nos comunicamos y nos entendemos inclusive cuando peleamos sabemos donde pegar porque somos parte del mismo fenomeno social que comenzo el 12 de Octubre de 1492. Oimos la misma musica con sus variantes tropicales, celtas, andinos o porteños. Andamos muy confundidos porque grandes intereses se dedican a separarnos porque la neta es que tenemos las tierras con mayores recursos en el planeta. No hay zona en este mundo ni Africa, ni China, ni la India, ni Europa que posea la cantidad y variedad de recursos que tenemos. Somos muy ricos en recursos. ¿Que no le ha dado Mexico al mundo: plata, oro, petroleo, hierro, ganaderia, trigo, vinos, frutas, verduras…. de todo…de tod? – Que somos muy mensos es otra cosa. Felipe

    • Jose Borreguero

      Mejor dicho: qué no le haya quitado el Mundo a México!! Por qué es un país pobre todavía si con tanto ha contribuído al Mundo? De qué les valió la Independencia, si lo que antes le quitaban los españoles, ahora los EEUU se lo quitan durante 3 siglos? Por qué no protestan cuando los mexicanos son maltratados en este país? Claro, son indios…

  5. Subject: Facts
    > Subject: US Census Bureau Facts
    > Here are some interesting facts about Cuban-Americans.
    > This
    > information was obtained from the US Census Bureau:
    > Cuban Americans have acquired an enormous amount of
    > wealth and
    > prosperity in an extremely short period of time. No
    > other immigrant
    > group has achieved this as quickly as the Cubans. Many
    > immigrants have never achieved it at all, despite
    > being in this country far longer than
    > Cubans.
    > Second-generation Cuban-Americans were more educated
    > than
    > even Anglo-Americans. More than 26.1% of
    > second-generation Cuban-Americans had a bachelor’s
    > degree or better versus 20.6% of Anglos.
    > Thus Cuban-Americans in 1997 were approximately 25%
    > more likely to
    > have a college degree than Anglos.
    > Other Hispanic groups lag far behind. Only 18.1% of
    > South Americans
    > had a bachelor’s or better. Puerto Ricans, despite
    > being U.S. citizens by birth, recorded a disappointing
    > 11%; Mexicans only 7%.
    > In 1997, 55.1% of second-generation Cuban-Americans
    > had an income
    > greater than $30,000 versus 44.1% of Anglo- Americans.
    > Thus Cuban-Americans are approximately 20% more likely
    > to earn more than $30,000 than their Anglo-American
    > counterparts. All other Hispanic groups lag far behind
    > in average income.
    > In 1997, 36.9% of second-generation Cuban-Americans
    > had an income
    > greater than $50,000 versus 18.1% of Anglo- Americans.
    > Cuban-Americans were twice as likely to earn more than
    > $50,000. Also, approximately 11% of Cuban-Americans
    > had incomes greater than $100,000 versus 9% of
    > Anglo-Americans, and less than 2% of other Hispanics.
    > Cubans comprise less than 4% of the U.S. Hispanic
    > population, Mexicans
    >> 65%, Puerto Ricans 10%, Central and South Americans
    > 11%, and “others”
    > 10%. Yet of the top 100 richest Hispanics in the U.S.,
    > more than 50% are of Cuban descent (ten times what it
    > should be on a population basis),
    > and 38% of Mexican descent. The rest is scattered
    > among all other
    > Hispanic groups.
    > Great economic envy, felt by other Hispanic and
    > minority groups
    > towards Cubans, exists. Also, Anglo Americans see
    > Cubans as a group that “is unwilling to assimilate”.
    > How about that!

  6. Jose Borreguero

    FRANCO, FRAGA Y FIDEL, tres Fs que Falaban galego…

    Dudas sobre la cultura que nos une y nos desune: (1) el gallego. Historia de un pobrecito romano de César que visitó la Península en los tiempos de Asterix. Año 1.

    En esta España, el galleguiño, es tenido por un ser pequeño, bajito, muy listo y picarón, pero que a la vez, cuidado!, es muy suyo. Le gusta el vino, y se jacta del pescaíto frito de por las mañanas. Se dice que Dios fue gallego y que creó el portugués, perdón, a los portugueses y a los brasileiros.

    Todo esto no sólo en La Coruña se comenta a pie de calle sino que hasta a la España de campo extremeño de paletos, jara y queso de oveja, ha trascendido su fama.

    Tienen cada uno de “los arrinconaos de la cornisa” su propio reino terruño al que llaman los listos “minifundio”. Lo defienden a capa y espada y votan a líderes de la DERECHA siempre, por la misma razón que los republicanos de América: porque les puede salir comunista el jerarca y repartir su cachito a pobres y extraños.

    Por eso están orgullosos de Franco, el Generalísimo Galleguísimo, porque limpió la casa de ruso, y les garantizó la cosecha.

    Como a príncipe el rey, a Fraga nos dejó el caudillo, otro gallego, su ministro, para que fundara el partido pepero. Pero transcurridos los años y con los socialistas en el poder, el viejo Fraga, cedió el trono de las Españas a Aznar, Conde de Fachadolid, y se retiró a su castillo del pazo galego.

    Pero si Dios es gallego, únicamente se permite al gallego ser rojo con la mar de por medio, y entonces… San Pedro parió a Fidel.

    Y ahora es lo que no me explico, el gallego estalinista en su comuna cubana, y el gallego fascista en su feudo galego se funden en un abrazo cargado de galleguismo y tufillo de ribeiro.

    ¿Por qué el endiablado stalinista cubano, y el fascista hispano, profesando dos religiones tan opuestas, ahora son amigos, camaradas y compañeros, mientras que al derechista presidente pepero, elegido por mi pueblo, poco menos que le vomita encima?

    Ah, claro, Fraga y Fidel son galleguiños, pero… no son bajos. El único bajo fue Franco y nos salió rana, recuerden, ¨Franco, caudillo por la gracia de Dios” y es que “Dios hizo una gracia”, bueno, la gracia la hizo Galicia.

    Moraleja: Espero, y es mejor para los pueblos, que todos seamos altos gallegos (Fidel y Fraga) y enterremos el politiqueo barato, y compartamos un buen vaso de albariño.

  7. Cecily R. Ouimet

    Informative and I love it.
    Great sharing tool.

    Heritage and Pride.
    Beautiful language,beautiful people.
    Great food ,great “music”.
    Delights of the Angels
    Handsom men and beautiful women.
    We are generous and kind .
    We are the many of today, and tomorrows to come.
    We come all colors and size, we fit sociaty
    I am proud of my birthplace–Puerto Rico,
    the “Pearl of the Carribean”.
    Soy hispana–soy latina…
    More another day……….

    Thank you, Senor Virgil Blanco .

  8. Hablemos de fútbol señores. La nueva selección mexicana ha demostrado ser mejor que la de EE.UU. Este último cinco a cero les dolió tanto a los americanos que cada jugador, uno por uno, se quitaba la medalla después de que se las ponía el representante de la FIFA. ¿Notaron eso? Un segundo lugar no es satisfactorio para los dueños del mundo que quieren todavía más.

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