The Kingdom of Spain

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Political Parties


Success of Spanish political forces since the democratic transition

^ Political History


^ Foreign Relations

Important Figures

Francisco Franco (1892-1975)

Francisco Franco was born in Spain in 1892 and graduated from the Toledo Military Academy in 1910. He quickly worked his way up the ranks becoming second in command, and later commander of the Spanish Foreign Legion, a group known for its brutality, as Franco encouraged mutilating and killing prisoners. His reputation as an excellent strategist and administrator, however, earned him command of Spanish troops in Morocco.

Franco supported Miguel Primo de Rivera’s military dictatorship, and when the regime fell apart and the republicans took control, he was seen as a potential threat and sent to command the army in distant places. However, in 1935 the minister of war appointed him chief of staff, from which post Franco was able to promote monarchists in the army.

In 1936, General Emilio Mola began a revolt that Franco joined and took control of. Franco became commander of the Nationalist Army and chief of state, taking control of Spain by 1939 with the help of the Germans, Italians, and French.

Franco’s regime was a cruel one, as his actions led to the deaths of an estimated 200,000 political prisoners, and numerous others were persecuted. During World War II, he was in negotiations with Hitler to join the fight, but the two could never agree to conditions. During the Cold War, Franco’s anti-Communist stance made him an American ally, and earned Spain a place in the UN.

Although domestically Franco had complete control, he was not as successful in foreign policy. He failed to both recover Gibraltar from the English and maintain Spain’s African colonies, the nation’s two main foreign policy objectives.

Upon his death in 1975 his regime was replaced by the monarchy once again, and all elements of his dictatorship were completely erased within two years. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and the misery of countless others, however, were not. To this day controversy continues over Franco’s regime, and how best to try to right his wrongs, which have been termed everything from “crimes against humanity” to “genocide.”

Fun (or not-so-fun) fact: According to the BBC, due to a battle injury, Franco may, like Hitler, have been a monochrid, meaning he may have had only one testicle.

Francisco Franco:

King Juan Carlos I de Borbon
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Juan Carlos I de Borbon (Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias) was born on January 5, 1938 in Rome, Italy. He was the grandson of Alfonzo XIII, and the son of Don Juan de Borbon y Battenberg (the Count of Spain). His family fled from Spain to Italy in 1931.

Juan Carlos I later returned to Spain for an education, and in 1962 married Princess Sofia of Greece. The two moved to the outskirts of Madrid, where they currently reside, and had three children, Princess Elena, Princess Christina, and Prince Felipe.

In 1969, ruler Francisco Franco named Juan Carlos I his successor, a role Carlos would assume in 1975 upon Franco's death.

Under his rule, Spain made the transition to a democratic state. There were democratic elections in 1977, and a new Constitution in 1978. In 1981, the king successfully put down an attempted coup led by Antonio Tejero.
As king, Juan Carlos I tours around the world, meets other political leaders, speaks before meetings of organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union, acts as a figurehead, representing Spain internationally and greeting foreign leaders, and fulfills the role of Commander in Chief of the Spanish armed forces.

Coronation of Juan Carlos I:

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (1960-)
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Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was born August 4, 1960 in Valladolid Spain. His grandfather was a captain killed by Franco's Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. He studied law at the University of Leon in Spain, and graduated in 1982. In 1979, Zapatero became a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), and in 1982, became the head of Leon's socialist youth organization.

In 1986 he was elected to the Cortes, and in 2000 was named General Secretary for the PSOE.
Zapatero was elected Prime Minister of Spain in 2004 and was recently re-elected in 2008.
During his presidncy Zapatero has withdrawn all Spanish forces fron Iraq (which he did quickly upon his inauguration in 2004), and has worked on social issues dealing with same-sex marriage, terrorism, education, and immigration.

Zapatero at an Ibero-American Summit:

Manuel Fraga (1922-

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Manuel Fraga Iribarne or Don Manuel, as he often insists on being called, was born in Galicia, Spain in 1922. His long political career began in 1945, under Franco, as he served as Minister for Information and Tourism and Ambassador to the United Kingdom, where he developed a predilection for liberal government. His most notable action during this period was his program of censorship reform (summed up by citizens with the phrase “Con Fraga hasta la braga” (“With Fraga, [you can see] till the panties.”)

A Spanish company claims it can use photoshop to make even Fraga look young(er).
Whereas under Franco Fraga gave millions of Spaniards the opportunity to see panties they might otherwise never have viewed, his most important roles came following the disintegration of Franco’s dictatorship. Although he had been a member of the more liberal wing of governments under Franco, when he served as Minister of the Interior under the monarchy, he was known for his ruthlessness, famously proclaiming “The streets are mine!” when people complained of police repression of street protests.

Fraga was one of the writers of Spain’s constitution, and the founder of the People’s Alliance (AP), a party that was initially ignored, but eventually became the chief opposition party (following the breakup of the Democratic Center Union) and was renamed the People’s Party (PP). He helped get José Aznar elected, then resigned and accepted the honorary title of president of the PP.

Since the early ‘90s he has been active in local politics in Galicia, serving first as president, then as a senator. He remains a highly controversial figure due to his support of Franco’s regime and irascible personality. However there is no question of his importance in the transition from dictatorship to monarchy to democracy (as he is one of the few who remained in power for all three), as well as the founding of the PP, which remains the opposition party to this day.

In an incident infamous in Spain, Fraga blows up after someone comments on his jacket.

This video defies explanation.

Current Events

Spain and ETA

ETA members are a scary-looking bunch.
One of the most significant problems in modern Spain is terrorism, particularly the actions of the terrorist group Basque Fatherland and Liberty, or ETA. ETA was founded in 1959 to fight for Basque independence, attacking people involved in the Spanish military, government, and security forces. Since 1959, ETA has been responsible for over 800 deaths. In 1995, the group made headlines for its attempted assassination of opposition leader Aznar. Then in 1998, it declared a ceasefire, which lasted about a year. Since the end to the ceasefire there has been an escalating death toll, more protests against ETA violence, and more rigorous government action to fight the ETA. Other ceasefires have been declared and broken, while the Spanish government is pursuing a strict antiterrorism policy, working closely with its allies (particularly France).

Arrested ETA military chief Jurdan Martitegi
Cooperation between France and Spain has increased since the beginning of 2008, when the two states signed a special accord to combat the ETA. Since these accords, there have been a plethora of arrests, including the arrest of ETA military chief Jurdan Martitegi in April of this year. The office of military chief has become one with high turnover, with most lasting only a few months before being killed or captured (Martitegi lasted six). This has forced the ETA to reorganize, and it is possible that less extreme leaders are gaining control and calling for peace negotiations. Such negotiations seem unlikely to be pursued by the Spanish government, considering how previous ceasefires have been violated.

As this situation shows, terrorism is clearly not just an issue in the US, and it is interesting to see the parallels and contrasts. While people in the US have felt threatened to varying degrees since 9/11, people in Spain have had to deal with the constant and significant threat of ETA for half a century. The government appears to finally be taking a very pro-active position against these terrorists, and it seems to be working for the most part, which is impressive.

It is a shame that due to these people’s radical actions, the issue of autonomy and possible independence is not seriously considered in Spain. People are becoming increasingly disgruntled with the nationalist movement, as evidenced by the Basque Nationalist Party’s first-time regional election loss in 2009. From what I understand, the autonomous regions are, in fact, granted a great deal of autonomy, so I wouldn’t consider the situation comparable to Tibet and China or Chechnya and Russia. But is unfortunate that due to terrorist groups’ extreme actions, people with similar views of autonomy, but perhaps less radical ways of expressing themselves, are not being heard.

Further Reading: Once bombed, twice shy, Spain: Terrorism

Corruption in Spain
Newspaper headline detailing corruption investigation, including the release of an official apparently known as "the Mustache"
Within the last year there has been an outbreak of corrupt dealings in Spain, a country already plagued by a great deal of corruption. Many senior members of the opposition party, the PP, have been forced to resign, or, in extreme cases, arrested, in connection with bribery and other illegal dealings. PP leader Mariano Rajoy flatly denies the existence of any such corruption in the party, with the small qualifier “that I know of.” Meanwhile, founder Manuel Fraga places all the blame on the individuals in question, not the party as a whole, stating “If Jesus Christ can have something like that happen with his personnel selection [citing Judas’s betrayal of Jesus], imagine what mere mortals can do.”

Other recent corruption has centered on profiteering from Spain’s new renewable energy industries. An Argonese mayor and 18 others have been arrested for using profits from wind energy programs meant for municipal development for vacations and land development. Meanwhile another official in the Canary Islands was accused of selling secret information about land earmarked for the wind industry. Inspectors from the National Commission for Energy discovered that many of the nation’s solar gardens have not actually been providing energy for the grid, despite making a profits. Finally, many people have been caught selling licenses for energy production, or giving them to family members.

Marbella: coastal paradise or den of corruption? Apparently, both.
These scandals are part of a long history of corruption in Spain. Perhaps the most infamous corruption scandal occurred a few years ago, when police ended a far-reaching real estate bribery and embezzlement scheme in the Mediterranean resort of Marbella, and put the city under governance of a temporary administration.

So why is corruption such a problem in Spain, a state typically considered quite an advanced democracy? There are many possible contributing factors. One is the lack of accountability in the state’s political culture. Although El País discounts this as a possible cause, I do think it is important to consider that Spain does not exactly have a long history of government accountability to the people, and until a few decades ago, officials were able to get away with just about anything. Spanish political culture may still need time to adjust to the idea that citizens are meant to act as watchdogs, and officials are truly meant to serve the good of the people.

El País also rejects Spain’s lack of regulation as a factor. In this I have to agree – these officials clearly do not have any respect for the regulations that do exist, so more regulation would be unlikely to solve the problem. Maybe more oversight, but not more rules. Ultimately, I agree with El País’s assessment that corruption is not built into its culture or its law, but rather the structure of its government itself. The strong-mayor system used in most local governments, combined with the politicization of even the small local offices enables the formation of a machine-like system, a system that has been known to foster corruption in other countries (recall, for instance, Boss Tweed in US history).

Of course, Spain is hardly the only state with corruption – all of the core states we’ve studied this year have had some degree of corruption. In Spain, however, levels of corruption are unusually high, when compared with its progress in other areas of democratization. Time will tell if this is a momentary adjustment, or a problem endemic to Spanish government.

Further Reading: Scandals as bitter as a traitor's kiss, Scandal sullies Spain's clean energy, More Marbella corruption arrests, ¿Por qué hay tanta corrupción en España? (almost comprehensible English translation here)

Unemployment in Spain

Before the recent global economic meltdown, Spain had one of the most rapidly growing economies in Europe. It was growing at an average rate of 3.5% compared to the rest of Europe’s 2.0%. A dynamic boom in the housing industry contributed greatly to this significant economic advancement. In 2006 (the height of Spain’s housing industry) more that 750,000 new homes were built, a number greater than the rest of Europe combined, and prices had skyrocketed since 1997.

However, what was once, only a little over two years ago, the most significant contributor to the rapid economic growth in Spain is now what has caused the country’s economy to plummet. Construction (which used to count for a significant amount in Spain’s GDP in 2006) has slowed dramatically, and is new housing development is expected to hit its lowest level since 1960.

As construction rates decrease, unemployment rates increase. Currently, Spain’s unemployment rate is at 17.4%, the highest rate in all of Europe and almost double what it was nearly a year ago. Gale Allard, specialist in labor markets at Madrid’s IE Business School said, “When the economy is in a recovery, Spain created jobs really fast, and when the crash hits, it crashed harder,” and this is exactly what has happened. High construction and employment rates coupled with high real estate prices led to an unprecedented growth in the housing market, and when everything crashed, the housing market went completely to shreds, as did employment.
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In the past year, two million people have lost jobs, many from the service sector, unemployment numbers totaling approximately four million. Projections have estimated the unemployment rate will rise to 19.4% by 2010.

President Zapatero, however, expects a recent stimulus package providing for public works to help relieve some woes and combat unemployment rates.

Further Reading:
Spain's jobless rate soars to 17%, Immigration Policy a Casualty of Unemployment in Spain, Spain's Unemployment Rose Sharply in January, Spain's Jobless Rate Soars to 17%


Immigration3Map.jpgImmigration to Spain has been a major concern, particularly within the past decade or so, and is the leading contributor to population growth in Spain.
Due to its geographical location and proximity to Africa, Spain annually receives thousands of immigrants from Morocco and other nearby regions who travel to the Spanish territory Ceuta on the northern tip of Morocco and across the Mediterranean into Spain.
A significantly successful economy, propelled by a booming housing market, created nearly 5 million new jobs, a large portion of which were in construction and other low-wage jobs in the service sector, and a significant amount of which were taken by immigrants.Immigration2.jpg
In 2005, a period of amnesty was granted by the Spanish government, during which the country witnessed a significant influx of immigrants, a large number of whom came through Ceuta, causing some tensions among the locals in this Spanish-owned territory.
There were approximately 645,000 new arrivals in 2004, 682,000 in 2005, 802,000 in 2006, and an unprecedented 920,000 in 2007. In Spain today, there is a total of 5.2 million immigrants who make up more than 10% of the population.
These immigrants entered Spain during a period of significant economic success, but since the recent global economic crisis, the once-ideal life has turned into one not quite as prosperous. Unemployment rates are rising dramatically (Spain’s is currently 17.4 %), and a good percent of those who are suffering job losses are immigrants. Immigration1.jpg

Before, like in the 2005 amnesty period, immigration restrictions were fairly lenient, but now that the government cannot sustain these newly-jobless immigrants, the Spanish government is rethinking immigration policy. Zapatero, during the 2008 election, spoke against his opponent’s proposal for a harsher crackdown on immigration, and many Spaniards followed him. Now, many are left disappointed from his recent reversal and inability to properly handle the issue.

The Latest Headlines (RSS)

Typically Spanish


    Key Questions
    Open the document below to view a PDF containing all of the articles used as background for the key questions.

    Based on these three articles (automatic translation of the second here): Why is there more corruption in Spain than most other EU states? What are the primary causes of corruption in Spain? What, if anything, can be done to combat this corruption?

    I believe that corruption in Spain results from a combination of two factors: a political culture that does not properly value public servant accountability, and a political structure that politicizes even minor offices and allows for party control. The system used by most local governments in Spain, the strong-mayor system (a system no longer used by most EU countries), allows the executive and his party a great deal of power, enabling machine politics and ultimately corruption. Since so many positions are elected or appointed by those in elected positions, there is also greater emphasis on personal gain and getting re-elected than on actual public service.

    Spain’s government structure enables corruption, but I believe corruption is also rooted in Spain’s political culture and history. The state does not have a long tradition of accountability (Franco’s regime didn’t really allow for it), so people are still learning to expect more from their officials, and officials have to adjust to their roles as true public servants.

    I think corruption in Spain will diminish with time, as the government and citizenry adjust to the new balance of power between those in office and those they are meant to be serving. Also, Spain is currently experiencing developmental booms in real estate, clean energy, etc. As development slows down, opportunities for scams and corruption will not be so readily available simple.

    Although corruption may diminish naturally, I do think there are some steps that may be taken to decrease it more swiftly and by a much greater amount. The most obvious step would be to switch Spain’s local governments from strong-mayor systems to city-manager systems like those found throughout the rest of Europe, in which the legislative bodies are elected, but the executive is a de-politicized manager appointed based on his qualifications. Even if this particular switch is problematic, I do think it is imperative that local government be de-politicized in some way, meaning less elected officials, and more appointed based on their qualifications. It may sound contradictory, to advocate reducing elections to facilitate democratization, but I believe it is a necessary step to eliminate machine politics and encourage local officials to really be public servants. I also believe the national government needs to take a firmer and greater role in oversight and investigation, as many of the corruption schemes went unnoticed for far too long, and the less likely people are to get away with embezzlement and bribery, the less likely they are to try.

    Revisiting Franco
    Based on these four articles: What, if anything, should be done now to address the abuses of Franco’s regime? Should Garzón’s investigation have continued, or is it better the past be left undisturbed? How can Spanish democracy best move forward from this brutal authoritarian period?

    Although legally, Garzón’s investigation was on tenuous ground, ethically and pragmatically, I think it was a necessary measure that should have been carried to completion. While the 1977 Amnesty Law pardoned all atrocities committed by both sides during the war, the law simply doesn’t seem that important considering the crimes against humanity committed under Franco’s rule and during his rise to power. It is time to break this bizarre pact of silence. Even though such a prosecution would be largely symbolic, as most of the officials are long dead, the government needs to clearly assert its position that Franco and his crony’s actions were unpardonable and require castigation.

    This is clearly a message that has yet to fully disseminate in Spain, as there are still those who believe that Franco was good for Spain, as he was decidedly hard on crime and brought stability to the nation. Vestiges of Franco’s regime still exist even in the administration, as veteran officials such as Manuel Fraga were one part of Franco’s government.

    There are those that argue that reopening queries into Franco’s atrocities is akin to opening old wounds, and that Spain must move forward and leave the past behind. But I believe Spaniards must confront the past, before they can embrace their future. Franco’s actions have had indelible effects that may not cause much friction now, but if left inadequately addressed, will fester and result in conflict later. Spain’s historical demons must be confronted, or they will continue to haunt the state’s progress for generations to come.

    For this reason, the government must take action. It has made progress with the Law of Historical Memory, which grants reparations to those who fought against Franco. But the government has yet to address or even acknowledge other victims. And there have been other missteps along the way. For instance, Zapatero’s proposed ban on tributes to Franco would not only violate freedom of speech, but also fail to address the underlying problem of sympathy, instead limiting only the expression of such sympathy. Also, Garzón’s campaign to exhume victims’ bodies seems uncalled for – the victims are dead, why do they need to be dug up to prove that fact?

    Ideally, the government would find a way to reopen Garzón’s case, overturning in some way the 1977 Amnesty Law. If this could not be accomplished, some sort of formal statement denouncing Franco’s atrocities would at least address the issue, as would publicity campaigns detailing victims’ struggles. Then, at least the government’s position would be clear. Of course, this may not be feasible, considering there may be Franco sympathizers in the government yet.

    Something also needs to be done, I believe, in way of reparations to the families of victims. Finally, general awareness about the regime would be helped by the addition of information about Franco to schools’ curriculum. Ignoring this stain on Spain’s record will not make it disappear.

    The Basques and ETA
    Based on these five articles: Should the Spanish government continue its hard line policy against the Basques and the ETA, or are further attempts at negotiation preferable? What, if anything, should be done to address the larger issue of regional autonomy?

    For once I believe negotiation is not the answer here. The national government has already attempted negotiations twice in the past, and both times ETA has quickly broken the ceasefires. And it is hard to justify negotiating with a group that has no problem attacking its own citizens (especially right after it pledges not to). It is rare that ETA is amenable to negotiations, but I see this as less of a reason to attempt negotiations, and more of a reason to defeat the group while it is weak, as it so clearly is. After all, what insurgency proposes negotiation when victory could be within reach?

    Even with relative peaceniks in charge, I believe negotiations in the long-term would result in stalemate. ETA has made it clear it wants nothing less than full independence, which the national government has been equally clear in denying. At this stage, with ETA weak, I think the government should continue its aggressive policy of international cooperation in the hopes of crippling or defeating this terrorist group.

    That being said, I do not think the Spanish government should devote all their attention to counterterrorism, and ignore the issue of autonomy altogether. Not everyone advocating for greater autonomy is a terrorist, and the voices of the more moderate nationalists deserve to be heard and considered. While I do not see justification for secession, I do think the national government needs to be more open-minded regarding regional autonomy within the bounds. Zapatero appears reluctant to truly address the issue until more people get behind it. While this is reasonable, considering his job is to act in the best interests of the majority of the population, I believe this is such a contentious issue for those that do care, that it deserves special attention. The national government is stable and powerful enough that if there are ways to give regional governments more power within constitutional constraints, I see no obvious reasons not to make these adjustments.

    US-Spain Relations

    Describe the relationship between Spain and the US over the past decade. When were there times of friendship and communication, and when were there periods of tension? What attributed to these ups and downs in the US- Spain relationship? Since Obama became president, things seem to be looking up for relations between the two countries. The two countries can clearly maintain a good relationship when presidents of similar political ideologies are in power, but must communication stop when there is a change in power and the two presidents’ political ideologies differ?

    From 2000-2004, Bush was president in the US, and Aznar was president in Spain. Both of these leaders were conservatives, and a good relationship was maintained between the US and Spain. Both of the presidents expressed admiration for one another, and remained dedicated to the US-Spain relationship (see press conference video here: ).

    In 2004, Zapatero was elected as president of Spain, and he quickly withdrew all Spanish troops from Iraq criticizing Bush for creating a war based on lies. For the rest of the Bush Presidency, and Zapatero’s first term, US-Spain relations were very tense. From 2004 to 2008, the two presidents did not, and a rather cold relationship was maintained between the two (see clip). Bush did, however, in March 2008, personally call President Zapatero for his re-election as Spanish president.

    With Obama’s inauguration in Jan. 2009, and the US-EU summit in Prague in April of this year, it seems as if some progress has been made, and things look promising for the relationship between the two countries. After the Summit, the two presidents held a 45 minute meeting, and both expressed gratidute for one another, and the promotion of a better US-Spain relationship. Obama said Zapatero was “a man who not only understands the extraordinary influence of Spain in the world, but also takes seriously responsibilities”, and that he was “happy to call him a friend”. Upon Obama’s election, Zapatero claimed, “[the election] opens a new era for dialogue in international relations” and that “Obama gives us hope and his words put us on a better path for a smooth and fruitful relationship with the Spanish government. The arrival of Obama gives us an opportunity we won't pass up.” So, hopefully, with these two presidents, former tensions will be eased, and the two countries can work together with open and honest communication, and not experience the same tense relations from 2004-2008 when Zapatero and Bush were both in power.

    Though things do seem to be looking up for the US-Spain relationship at the moment, there will inevitably be a shift in power, and at some point, the political party of the president in office will eventually switch in one of the countries. Given what has happened within the past decade, it seems that as long as the presidents have similar political ideologies (conservative or liberal), relations are good, and when the ideologies differ, the relationship is strained. While it is only natural to disagree with and dispute a leader from the opposite side of the political ideology spectrum, tensions like the one between Zapatero and Bush are unacceptable. To me, it seems ridiculous that the US and Spain could even have a strained relationship. Perhaps the tension was an effect of Bush, seeing as he was not well liked among many foreign leaders, but relations were good between Aznar and Bush. Spain is clearly a strong country (though their economy today may say otherwise) with whom the US should maintain a good relationship, and hopefully Zapatero and Obama can create s strong enough relationship so that tensions will not resume upon a shift in power.


    Immigration in Spain has been a growing concern, particularly within the past decade, as hundreds of thousands of immigrants have been coming into Spain, particularly from areas such as Morocco and other countries in northern Africa, and eastern European countries. What are the advantages of the abundance of immigrants? How do they help the Spanish economy? How have things shifted since the recent economic downturn? How are the immigrants hurting the economy now, and how have the immigrants’ hopes for a better, more prosperous life in Spain been tarnished by the current recession and high unemployment rates in Spain?

    During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the housing industry was booming, as was the construction industry which build thousands and thousands of new houses in a period of only a few years. Spain witnessed great economic prosperity during this time, and much of it was fuelled by immigrants who took the low paying construction and service jobs. Nearly 5 million new jobs were created during this time (a majority of which were in the service sector and construction, taken by immigrants). It was basically a win-win situation for Spain’s economy and the immigrants.

    Since the recent economic meltdown began, Spain’s economy has suffered greatly, particularly due to the fact that much of it was successful because of the housing market, which has been hit the hardest. Unemployment is up at 17.4%(the highest in Europe), and nearly 4 million people have suffered job losses within the past year, many of whom were immigrants. Now that many of the immigrants no longer have jobs, they have to rely on the aid of the federal government which is having a difficult time supporting all of the recently-unemployed immigrants and native Spaniards.

    Previously, immigration policy had been fairly lenient in Spain (as seen by the undreds of thousands of new immigrants within the past decade). Part of the reason why Zapatero was re-elected in 2008 was because of his denouncement against his opponent’s proposal for a harsh immigration policy. Now that the government cannot sustain the immigrants, the government is rethinking their immigration policy. Furthermore, the lives of the immigrants have also been changed. Before, many were able to come to Spain, find work relatively easily, and be somewhat successful (more so than they would in their native countries, many times). Now, many are left unemployed and disillusioned.

    What is the significance of Gibraltar? Who legally has rights to the port? Does Spain have any right to claim Gibraltar? What are the possible options for the land? Would the proposed idea of joint sovereignty be feasible? What should be the most important consideration, the legal right the British hold, the desire of the Spanish for the return of their former territory, or the wishes of those who actually live in Gibraltar?

    Gibraltar, a port located on the southern tip of Spain is of vital importance, as it is the link into the Mediterranean. It has proved critical historically, as many British naval missions were launched from there, and today it receives a great deal of trade.
    Legally, the British have the right to Gibraltar. During the war of Spanish Succession, Britain captured the port (1704), and Spain later ceded the land to the British in 1713. The Spanish have made attempts to recapture the port, but all efforts have been fruitless. Gibraltar is on the Iberian, and lies adjacent to Spain, so one might think that it is Spanish territory, when, it is indeed not. Though many Gibraltarians speak a semi-Spanish mix, the town is most definitely British, culturally and politically. The residents of Gibraltar are granted suffrage in the British parliamentary elections, a right they do not take for granted. The Gibraltarians are politically active and take advantage of their voting rights as British citizens.
    Spain only has a right to the port because of its geographical location. Legally, culturally, and politically it is British, but it is on the Spanish mainland, and was historically Spanish. However, Spain voided itself from any rights to the port when it ceded the land to the British. Yes, many Spaniards claim Gibraltar as part of Spain and believe that it is/ should be that was, but I think what’s most important in this situation are the Gibraltarians. Most of them are staunchly for keeping things the way they are, to remain British. There have been proposals for joint sovereignty between the Spanish and the British, which the Gibraltarians are adamantly opposed to. As long as those most directly affected by the issue are content, I don’t see a reason in changing anything.

    Service Learning

    For our service learning component, we have planned a letter writing campaign to be introduced to Spanish National Honors Society next year as a possible way of earning points (a certain number of which are needed to maintain membership). Our basic premise is to offer club members points to write letters to officials in Spanish-speaking countries (including Spain) about their opinions on certain country-specific policy issues. Essentially, these letters would be similar to our think pieces, but more policy oriented and in Spanish. Each cycle we would focus on a different country and issue. For Spain, we have brainstormed possible issues such as strained US-Spanish relations, immigration policy, and counterterrorism. This project would provide us with a great opportunity to learn more about Spanish nations’ unique situations, express concern for international issues, and practice our Spanish (and formal letter) writing skills.

    Useful Links

    Travel Document Systems: Spain : This site is designed for tourists and primarily provides information about entry requirements and other such touristy information. However, its "About Spain and Its Peoples" section provides succinct summaries of Spanish culture, geography, economics, history, politics, and government, as well as an excellent summary of terrorism in Spain. Unfortunately, upon further investigation, most of this information appears to have been lifted from the State Department.

    Background Note: Spain : This is the State Department's file on Spain, which also appears to be designed for travelers. It contains all of the summary information found on the Travel Documents site, as well as a section on foreign relations, including a section specifically on Spanish-American relations. It appears to be updated fairly frequently (with the last update at the end of last year). The only drawback is its layout - it has fairly dense text all on one page in a somewhat scattered order, with navigational links only at the top of the page.

    Country Briefings: Spain : This is the Economist's briefing on Spain. It provides the perfunctory historical, economic, and governmental information (summarized most succinctly in the factsheet). However, it is set apart by its other pages. The first is its Recent Articles section, which provides easy access to all of the Economist's in depth but easy to read articles on the nation. The second is the political forces section, which provides a good guide to the various factions in Spanish government. Finally, there is the Forecast section, which provides bullet points of the writers' predictions for Spain in the next couple of years. Although they are not daring predictions, I think they could be interesting to follow and evaluate for those interested in the country.

    El País : This is the PDF of the English version of Spain's most widely circulated newspaper, El País, presented in collaboration with the International Herald Tribune. The short document is updated daily to provide current articles with headlines similar to those one might find in a typical US paper (though perhaps a bit more highbrow). Obviously, it is not the right source for those in search of general information about the country, but it is a valuable resource for those interested in the most up-to-date information about the country, provided from a native point of view. The day I happened upon it, it also had an interesting article on Franco's rise to power. I would say it's worth an occasional visit for those interested in the country, provided they're not looking for anything too specific.

    CIA World Factbook : This site provides a cursory look at many different aspects of Spain. It includes descriptions of the location, the geography, the climate, the history, the population, the government, the economy, the military, transportation, and international issues relating to Spain. It is operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency, and provides useful specific information and facts about different aspects of Spain. The website is brief in each sction, yet thourough. It provides good basic information about Spain, and is an excellent resource for specific factual information and data.

    Tourism in Spain : This website is designed for tourists in Spain however, it provides much information on the culture, hitory, and places to see in Spain. It is intendesd as a resource for those looking to travel to Spain, but it also provides significant background information on the country and provides the reader with relevant information on many different aspects of Spain. It includes information on the seventeen autonomous regions of Spain, major cities, currency, communications, transportation, climate, and other more practical aspects of the country.

    UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office: Spain : The website, run by the British government, provides relevant specific factual information on several different aspects of Spain, including statistics of Spain today, history, geography, politics, the economy, international relations, and trade and investment. There is not an overabundance of detail, but the information is enough for one searching for general and basic information on Spain. Other information is included about political parties, tourism, immigration, terrorism, elections, and llinks to online newspapers from Spain are provided as well.

    Just Spain : This website, though a tourist website, provides a great amount of information on the history of the country as well and the culture and important attractions in Spain. The website contains a significant amount on information on communications, transportation, currency, specific autonomous regions, and food and customs. Though it is promoting and advertising Spain, the website weaves in relevant historical and cultural information regarding the country, and provides a window into actual life in Spain.


    A Taste of Spanish Culture:
    Eurovision Song Contest 1968 (Winning Song):

    Eurovision Song Contest 1969 (winning song):

    Eurovision Song Contest 2008 (most definitely not the winning song):

    Bull Fighting in Spain:

    Ave Maria, David Bisbal: