Spain Encyclopedia for Kids
Highlands and ancient regions
According to collegesanduniversitiesinusa, Spain is one of the great countries that have made the history of the world. Today, after a long isolation, it returns to the international scene, richer and more balanced, attractive and orderly, an authoritative and important member of the European Union, in rapid economic growth. A beautiful country, rich in culture and traditions that a variegated population has been able to stratify over the centuries and in the artistic heritage that the imperial power has accumulated in its splendid and welcoming cities. And, at the same time, a laboratory for new cooperation solutions, based on regional diversity and unity of objectives – without losing the joy and the will to live
A great plateau
A large part of the Iberian Peninsula is occupied by a large plateau of ancient formation, the Meseta, surrounded and divided by mountain ranges. The territory of Spain almost coincides with these high lands, engraved by large river valleys.
The outer edges of the plateau are formed, first of all, by the Pyrenees, on the isthmus that unites the Iberian Peninsula to Europe. To the south of the Pyrenees opens the Ebro valley – 910 km, the largest entirely Spanish river -, bordered on the other side by the mountains of the Iberian System (2,313 m): between the two chains extend La Rioja, Navarra, Aragon and Catalonia; approximately in the center of the valley and of Aragon is Zaragoza (614,900 residents); on the sea, the Catalan capital, Barcelona (1,504,000).
The Ebro arises from the Cantabrian mountain range (2,648 m), located along the Atlantic shore and corresponding to Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Provinces.
To the south, the northern Meseta, crossed by the Duero system (780 km), including León and Old Castile (with Valladolid, 316,600 residents), bordered by the sierras of Gredos (2,592 m) and Guadarrama that form the Central system.
The southern Meseta opens to the south of the Central System and includes the Madrid basin, Extremadura, Old Castile and La Mancha; here the Tagus (1,007 km) and the Guadiana flow.
The plateau descends to the east on the Mediterranean, in the Levant, with the regions of Valencia (738,400 residents) and Murcia (370,700 residents). The Sierra Morena limits the Meseta to the south; beyond, Andalusia opens up: the vast plain of Guadalquivir, with Seville (684,600 residents), west of the Strait of Gibraltar; and the Betic System, along the Mediterranean coast, with the Sierra Nevada (3,478 m) and Malaga (524,400 residents). In the Mediterranean, the Balearic Islands are Spanish (Palma de Mallorca, 333,800 residents), a very famous tourist area; and in the Atlantic the Canaries (Las Palmas, 354,900 residents).
A country of ancient fragments
Partly due to the structure of the territory, partly due to a very complex history, what today is the territory of the Kingdom of Spain is the sum of a number of regions that have known distinct events and that still today maintain and defend their own cultural characteristics.
If the national language is Castilian (or Spanish), Galician is more similar to Portuguese, Andalusian retains Arabic and Gypsy elements, Basque is completely independent, Catalan has ancient literature and is spoken by seven million people. And if there is a large capital, wanted and founded to be a unitary capital, few other European countries are scattered with as many large and medium-sized cities: only Italy and Germany, countries which, too, have experienced a very strong fragmentation.
This fragmentation has often had tragic effects in the past. At the end of the 20th century it was decided instead to recognize the existence of 17 autonomous communities, corresponding to geographical or historical regions and endowed with wide powers. The entry of Spain into the European Union, which favors the regions, has strengthened the process.
After all – also from a climatic point of view, for example – the differences between regions are clear-cut.
Spain is certainly a Mediterranean country, at least in part: but to believe that it has a Mediterranean climate is wrong. The Mediterranean climate affects only the eastern and southern maritime belt (and that of Andalusia is even more arid); on the Atlantic the climate is humid temperate (oceanic); in the interior it is decidedly continental and rather arid, so much so that various aqueducts have been built to transfer water from large rivers hundreds of kilometers away.
The economy is also differentiated according to the regions. La Meseta is a region of sheep farming, cereals, olive trees and grapevines, as is Aragon. Catalonia, Levante and Andalusia have irrigated and specialized agriculture (fruit, vines, vegetables). The Atlantic belt, of ancient fishing and seafaring traditions, has also been industrialized for a long time thanks to the presence of coal and iron (steel, mechanics, shipyards, chemistry). Catalonia also experienced an ancient industrialization (textiles, chemicals, mechanics), although Barcelona is above all a city of advanced services. The Madrid region is centered on the industrial and tertiary pole of the capital. Levante and Andalusia gravitate to their respective cities, which are relatively industrialized, very touristy and with a highly developed service sector.
The population distributes accordingly. After the heavy haemorrhage produced by the colonization of America, the population in Spain began to grow again only between the 18th and 19th centuries, accelerating in the twentieth century, despite an ever-strong emigration. In the second half of the century internal migrations were accentuated, which continued to empty the countryside of the interior and to make the many, beautiful and hospitable cities grow. Huge spaces, in the Meseta, in Aragon, in the mountain areas, are practically devoid of population, and sometimes tens of kilometers run between one inhabited center and the next.
The Mediterranean coast, on the other hand, is urbanized almost continuously from the Pyrenees to the Gulf of Cadiz, also due to the great tourist attraction.
A beautiful and varied country
The variety of landscapes and regional histories, the beauty of the cities, the hospitality and friendliness of the Spaniards, the richness of the artistic heritage, the depth of culture, and also, from the point of view of Italy, the many points of contact that make Spain perhaps the most similar country to ours: all this has made Spain, in recent decades, one of the most attractive countries in the world. Not only in the eyes of tourists, who in any case find really everything there, but also in the eyes of international economic companies, which have often preferred to settle in Spain; as in the eyes of immigrants, who have included the country among their destinations, transforming it – like Italy – from a land of emigration into a land of welcome.
These phenomena are intertwined with the recent and rapid social, political and economic development, which has been among the most impressive in the Western world, also because Spain had previously experienced a long phase of ‘recollection’ and detachment. He has strengthened contacts, for example, with that large part of the American world that speaks Spanish; it strengthened its international role; it has modernized the internal communications system; it has increased the efficiency of the economic system; it has raised the standard of living of the population; it has regained an authoritative place in Europe; it has revitalized its cultural system; it has given its cities international visibility; it has enhanced the image of the country in every sense.
Despite the less brilliant moments and the tensions that occasionally return to intensify, Spain seems to have succeeded in making a great leap forward without losing balance and without denying either its traditions or its specificities: something that arouses esteem and admiration.