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Culture, Society and Religion

Spain - Culture, Society and Religion

Spain has been strongly influenced for centuries by cultures from other parts of the world. For many years the Moors of North Africa ruled parts of the Iberian peninsula and other cultures that have had an impact include the Romans and the Greeks. Each area of the country shows the different influences that have been there in the past. Spain was under the control of Franco for many years during the 20th century and it was only in 1975 that the monarchy was restored.

When the monarchy resumed there was a change in Spanish culture as the focus turned to tourism. The welcoming nature of the country is one of the reasons that so many expats choose to set up home there each year. The variety of languages and dialects are also an important part of the Spanish culture and demonstrate the diversity of culture and society to be found in the country. Spain has other official languages besides the standard Spanish that most of us recognize and there are also hundreds of regional dialects. These stem from the time that the country was divided into different regions, each one with its own ruling family and customs.

There are unique aspects to the culture in Spain such as bullfighting and flamboyant dance such as the flamenco, which make it very different to other countries in Europe but there are also other things which are very important to the Spanish people. One of these is family. The family in Spain forms the centre of a person’s social life and support network. Until recently it was common for people to begin work in the family business when they left education, although as certain industries grow in Spain, this is becoming less common. Family networks are not as close-knit as they used to be but are still strong.

There is a class system in Spain which is headed by the Royal family, followed by the titled aristocracy. There are different levels of society with the wealthy, the middle classes and the working classes. It is usual for the Spanish to look down on those who have no permanent home. Gender roles are also still fairly traditional, with men carrying out tasks such as maintenance and women being responsible for running a home. This is beginning to change as more and more women are choosing to work.

The arts are a strong part of Spanish culture and Spain has produced world famous artists such as Goya, Picasso and Dali. Spanish cinema is currently becoming recognized as a tour de force with directors such as Pedro Almodovar and actors such as Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz successfully making their names in Hollywood.

The religion in Spain is mainly Roman Catholic, although there are many other religious communities in the country. The influence of Islam can be seen in many areas of the country, although particularly in the South, due to the arrival of the Moors. The Spanish Inquisition attempted to remove other religions from the country and for many years religious freedom was not permitted. Catholicism became the official religion of the country in 1851. While Franco was in charge in the country all other religions were not permitted to advertise their services and they were not allowed to own property. This policy continued until 1966 when other religions found some of the restrictions lifted on them but the Roman Catholic Church was still the strongest.

Spain developed a new relationship with Rome when the monarchy was restored, giving the church the right to choose its own bishops. When the new constitution was formed in 1978, Spaniards were given the right to choose their own religion. Spain has a population of approximately 40 million people and it is estimated that less than 300,000 people are not Catholic. Of these, almost 250,000 belong to another Christian group and less than 20,000 are Jewish. Spain also boasts high numbers of regular churchgoers, with around 60% of Catholics regularly attending Mass. As the country becomes more industrialized it is mainly those in rural areas that keep up traditions such as attending Mass. Those who live in an urban area are considered to be less likely to go to church regularly.

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