Spaniards live in an increasingly modern and urban society. Their standard of living is high. Most Spaniards eat and dress better, live in better homes and receive more education and better health care than earlier generations did. Compared with people from other countries, Spaniards have a relatively long life expectancy.
Spain is a modern, industrialized nation but it maintains strong ties to traditional ways. Most Spaniards live in rural areas before the country’s rapid economic development in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Many owned small farms. Others worked on large estates. A Roman Catholic church stood in the center of most villages though many Catholics did not actively practice their religion. Regionalism and Catholicism remain important forces in Spanish life. However, rapid economic and social change has reduced the influence of these forces on many people.
Ancestry and population. People lived in what is now Spain for more than 100,000 years. About 5,000 years ago, Iberians occupied much of Spain. During the next 4,000 years, other groups came to Spain as conquerors, settlers or traders. Phoenicians, the first of these groups, were followed by Celts, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Jews, Germanic peoples and North African and Arabian Muslims. These groups mixed with one another and helped shape the ancestry of the present-day Spanish people.
Most of Spain’s people live in cities. The country has two cities with more than a million – Madrid, the nation’s capital, and Barcelona, which sits on the Mediterranean coast.
Language. Castilian Spanish is Spain’s official language and the language spoken by most of the people. Pronunciation varies slightly from region to region.
In several regions of Spain, a second official language is used in addition to Castilian Spanish. Many people in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands speak some form of Catalian, a language similar to southern France’s Provencal. Some Basques speak Euskara, also called Basque, which is not known to be related to any other language. In Galicia, in northwestern Spain, most people speak Galician, a language related to Portuguese.