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Spain is separated from North Africa on the south by the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea, which also washes Spain's entire east coast.

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About 17% of the population speak Catalan, 7% speak Galician and 2% speak Basque. Remember this is only a very basic level introduction to Spanish culture and the people; it can not account for the diversity within Spanish society and is not meant in any way to stereotype all Spanish people you may meet!Throughout rural Spain, despite the strength of localism, there is also a perception of shared culture in rural zones called comarcas.The comarca is a purely cultural and economic unit, without political or any other official identity.This image of variety is itself a shared element of Spanish identity.The populations least likely to feel Spanish are Catalans and Basques, although these large, complex regional populations are by no means unanimous in their views.It was not until 1975, following the death of Franco, that Spain was able to establish a peaceful and democratic society which saw a rapid growth in modernisation and the economy.They joined the European Union in 1986 and became a world-wide leader in freedom and human rights.Important regions within the modern nation are the Basque Country (País Vasco), the Catalan-Valencian-Balearic area, and Galicia—each of which has its own language and a strong regional identity.Others are Andalucía and the Canary Islands; Aragón; Asturias; Castile; Extremadura; León; Murcia; and Navarra, whose regional identities are strong but whose language, if in some places dialectic, is mutually intelligible with the official Castilian Spanish.Spain’s powerful empire began when Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas in 1492 which led to the colonisation of most of South and Central America, Mexico, parts of the Caribbean and much of what is now the USA.During the 16th and 17th Centuries the Spanish lost command of the seas to England and subsequently struggled to embrace the industrial and mercantile revolutions taking place over the next century.

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