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Holiday Rentals in Spain, Spanish Vacations Cost Del Sol Rentals

Flag of Spain

Geography

Spain occupies 85% of the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal, in southwest Europe. Africa is less than 10 mi (16 km) south at the Strait of Gibraltar. A broad central plateau slopes to the south and east, crossed by a series of mountain ranges and river valleys. Principal rivers are the Ebro in the northeast, the Tajo in the central region, and the Guadalquivir in the south. Off Spain's east coast in the Mediterranean are the Balearic Islands (1,936 sq mi; 5,014 sq km), the largest of which is Majorca. Sixty mi (97 km) west of Africa are the Canary Islands (2,808 sq mi; 7,273 sq km).

Government

Parliamentary monarchy.

History

Spain, originally inhabited by Celts, Iberians, and Basques, became a part of the Roman Empire in 206 B.C., when it was conquered by Scipio Africanus. In A.D. 412, the barbarian Visigothic leader Ataulf crossed the Pyrenees and ruled Spain, first in the name of the Roman emperor and then independently. In 711, the Muslims under Tariq entered Spain from Africa and within a few years completed the subjugation of the country. In 732, the Franks, led by Charles Martel, defeated the Muslims near Poitiers, thus preventing the further expansion of Islam in southern Europe. Internal dissension of Spanish Islam invited a steady Christian conquest from the north.

Aragon and Castile were the most important Spanish states from the 12th to the 15th century, consolidated by the marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella I in 1469. The last Muslim stronghold, Granada, was captured in 1492. Roman Catholicism was established as the official state religion and most Jews (1492) and Muslims (1502) were expelled. In the era of exploration, discovery, and colonization, Spain amassed tremendous wealth and a vast colonial empire through the conquest of Mexico by Cortés (1519-1521) and Peru by Pizarro (1532-1533). The Spanish Hapsburg monarchy became for a time the most powerful in the world. In 1588, Philip II sent his invincible Armada to invade England, but its destruction cost Spain its supremacy on the seas and paved the way for England's colonization of America. Spain then sank rapidly to the status of a second-rate power under the rule of weak Hapsburg kings, and it never again played a major role in European politics. The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) resulted in Spain's loss of Belgium, Luxembourg, Milan, Sardinia, and Naples. Its colonial empire in the Americas and the Philippines vanished in wars and revolutions during the 18th and 19th centuries.

In World War I, Spain maintained a position of neutrality. In 1923, Gen. Miguel Primo de Rivera became dictator. In 1930, King Alfonso XIII revoked the dictatorship, but a strong antimonarchist and republican movement led to his leaving Spain in 1931. The new constitution declared Spain a workers' republic, broke up the large estates, separated church and state, and secularized the schools. The elections held in 1936 returned a strong Popular Front majority, with Manuel Azaña as president.

On July 18, 1936, a conservative army officer in Morocco, Francisco Franco Bahamonde, led a mutiny against the government. The civil war that followed lasted three years and cost the lives of nearly a million people. Franco was aided by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, while Soviet Russia helped the Loyalist side. Several hundred leftist Americans served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade on the side of the republic. The war ended when Franco took Madrid on March 28, 1939. Franco became head of the state, national chief of the Falange Party (the governing party), and prime minister and caudillo (leader). In a referendum in 1947, the Spanish people approved a Franco-drafted succession law declaring Spain a monarchy again. Franco, however, continued as chief of state.

In 1969, Franco and the Cortes ("states") designated Prince Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor María de Borbón (who married Princess Sophia of Greece on May 14, 1962) to become king of Spain when the provisional government headed by Franco came to an end. Franco died of a heart attack on Nov. 20, 1975, after more than a year of ill health, and Juan Carlos was proclaimed king on Nov. 22.

Under pressure from Catalonian and Basque nationalists, Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez granted home rule to these regions in 1979. Basque separatists committed hundreds of terrorist bombings and kidnappings that continue to the present. With the overwhelming election of Prime Minister Felipe González Márquez and his Spanish Socialist Workers Party in the Oct. 20, 1982, parliamentary elections, the Franco past was finally buried.

Spain entered NATO in 1982. A treaty admitting Spain, along with Portugal, to the European Economic Community, now the European Union, took effect on Jan. 1, 1986. General elections in March 1996 produced a victory for the conservative Popular Party, and its leader, José María Aznar, became prime minister. He and his party easily won reelection in 2000.

In Aug. 2002, Batasuna, the political wing of the Basque terrorist organization ETA, was banned. The wisdom of driving the party underground instead of permitting it a legitimate political outlet has been questioned.

Aznar's backing of the U.S. war in Iraq was highly unpopular-90% of Spaniards opposed the war. (Spain sent no troops to Iraq during the war but contributed 1,300 peacekeeping forces during the reconstruction period.) Yet Aznar's Popular Party did extremely well in municipal elections in May 2003. The country's relative prosperity and the prime minister's tough stance against the ETA were thought to be responsible for the strong showing.

On March 11, 2004, Spain suffered its most horrific terrorist attack: 202 people were killed and 1,400 were injured in bombings at Madrid's railway station. The government at first blamed ETA, but soon evidence emerged that al-Qaeda was responsible. When record numbers of voters went to the polls days later, Aznar's Popular Party experienced a stinging defeat, and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of the Socialist Party became the new prime minister. Many Spaniards blamed Aznar's staunch support of the U.S. and the war in Iraq for making Spain an al-Qaeda target. Others were angered by what they saw as the government's politically motivated position that ETA was to blame for the attacks at the same time that links to al-Qaeda were emerging. By April, a dozen suspects, most of them Moroccan, were arrested for the bombings. On April 4, several suspects blew themselves up during a police raid to avoid capture. In May, the new prime minister made good on his campaign promise, recalling Spain's 1,300 soldiers from Iraq, much to the displeasure of the United States, which said Spain was appeasing terrorists.

In June 2005, despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church, Spain legalized gay marriage. (Three other countries permit same-sex marriage: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada.)

See also Encyclopedia: Spain.
National Institute of Statistics www.ine.es/ .

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Holiday Rentals Index for The Costa Del Sol in Spain Villa Renters Holidays Spanish Vacations Cost Del Sol Rentals