interesting facts about spainSpain is one of the world’s oldest cultures with a rich heritage that has influenced entire continents. It is the birthplace of the Spanish language, Pablo Picasso and Miguel Cervantes, and attracts millions of people every year.

Spain has tons to offer, from chorizos and matadors to flamenco dance and Spanish guitar. On that note, let’s look at some known (and some not so known) facts about Spain.

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In fact, as per his agreement with the Spanish Catholic Monarchs, he claimed governorship of all lands he found for Spain, a tenth of all revenue from new found lands, and the title of ‘Admiral of the Ocean’.  The Spanish monarchs agreed to his terms, but only because they didn’t expect him to return. Needless to say, he did return, only for the Spanish crown to renege on its promises!

It is marked as Km 0 for the Spanish radial road network. Think of it as Hollywood and Empire State Building combined!

The North African inhabitants who first crossed the Straits of Gibraltar called it Iberia, which meant land of rivers (‘Iber’ meant river). When the Greeks invaded the peninsula, they called it Hesperia, meaning “land of the setting sun” (since it was then the westernmost point of the European continent).

When the Carthaginians came to the land around 300 BCE, they called it Ispania, which meant “land of the rabbits”. Later, the Romans took over and Latinized the name to Hispania. Over time, this changed to España. So essentially, Spain is the “land of rabbits”!

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Instead, the Spanish have a legend called ‘Ratoncito Perez’ who exchanges children’s teeth for gifts.

As per this custom, Spaniards celebrate the New Year by eating one grape with their family for each bell strike of the clock (for a total of 12 grapes – hence the name). This custom was originally popularized by Spanish vine growers as a way to sell their excess grapes!

It also accounts for 20% of the world’s olive oil consumption (Italy, of course, comes in first with 30%). In fact, the average Spaniard consumes nearly 14 liters of olive oil each year.

For example, if your name is Juan Martín Lopez, and your wife’s name is Elena González García, your kids’ surname will be Martín González.

However, as per a new gender equality law, this tradition is now being changed to favor the mother’s last name.

Although their official status was non-belligerent (which is actually not recognized by international law) during World War II, Spain’s leaders were ideologically aligned with Germany and Italy. Many Spanish citizens were exiled to France to fight against the Axis Powers.

Officially, it is called the Kingdom of Spain and the head of state of is King Juan Carlos I. They also have a prime minister (currently Mariano Rajoy Brey).

It is the official language of Spain and (hold your breath) Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, Panama, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Equatorial Guinea.

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Don Quixote tells the tale of the eponymous ‘knight’ and his squire, Sancho Panza. Both Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are national heroes in Spain. Their statues can be found everywhere. The one at Plaza de Espana in Madrid is especially popular among tourists.

They boast an annual revenues of $650m and a brand value of $3.3 billion. Bitter rivals Barcelona rank third on this list with a value of $2.6 billion.

Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali – two of the most important artists of the 20th century were both Spanish. Their contemporary, Juan Miro, had an equally profound impact of 20th century art.

It also has a very high Human Development Index, landing at 23rd position worldwide.

It was called Ursaria (“land of bears”) by the Romans because of the many bears in the area. During the Arabic occupation of Spain, it was called Magerit, which means “place of abundant water”.

Muslim rule persisted in the country for nearly 781 years, though often in fragments. Thanks to its Muslim heritage, Spain today has a markedly unique culture and heritage than its neighbor France.

More than 2 million tourists descend upon this island each year to soak in the sun and party at its huge clubs where Tiesto, Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta are regular performers.

However, if you were to ask a Spaniard what the real religion of the country is, you’d get a unanimous answer: football (not ‘soccer’). Football is more than just a game in the country; it is followed with the fervor of a religion.

As mentioned above, two of the worlds biggest football clubs are Spanish (Real Madrid and Barcelona). Spain is also the reigning world champions. In fact, the 2010 football world cup final was watched by 15.6 million people in Spain – roughly 86% of the total audience.

So there you have it – 18 awesome facts about Spain! If you’re trying to learn Spanish, you may find this Spanish for beginners course helpful.

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