Read about Spain's Culture
Located on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain has a vibrant culture that is a melting pot of elements of Celtiberian, Latin, Iberian, Visigothic, Roman Catholic and Islamic cultures. Widely known for its Flamenco music and dance, as well as its dramatic bullfights, Spain has long been considered as one of the important cultural centers of Europe.
Spanish fiestas (festivals) are a highlight of exploring this beautiful country. Celebrations of dance, music, feasting and fireworks take place throughout the year. Some may be exclusive to a certain area, while others are observed on a national basis. Some are of religious significance, others are to remember historic events, and all are about having a good time. Possibly the most widely recognized Spanish festival is San Fermin in Pamplona, more commonly known as “the running of the bulls”. Another festival that has gained world-wide recognition is La Tomatina in Bunol, Valencia, where on the last Wednesday of August each year, the world’s largest tomato fight (batalla) takes place in the town square, ending a week of revelries. Other notable fiestas include La Candelaria in Madrid, Lunes de Aguas in Salamanca, and Carnaval Tenerife.
While Spanish and Latin American music are similar and have found recognition worldwide, one genre of music and dance form that is truly Spanish, is Flamenco. This passionate art form is all about expressing deep feelings, for both the performers and the audience. Art is another way of expressing emotions, and art features prominently in Spain’s culture. Known as Spain’s Siglo de Oro, or Golden Century, the mid 16th century and stretching into the early part of the 17th century was a significant time for the development of artistic talent, producing legendary artists such as Velázquez, El Greco, Ribera and Murillo. Francisco de Goya made his mark in the 18th century, and the 20th century saw artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Joan Miro display their immense and enduring talent. Spain has produced many writers of note. Who has not heard of Miguel de Cervantes and his famous work “El ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha” (The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha)?
Spanish cuisine has unmistakable Mediterranean influences, with seafood, tomatoes, peppers and olive oil being the mainstay in many recipes. A particularly popular custom is the serving of tapas with a drink, and tapas restaurants and bars have grown in popularity in many parts of the world. Tapas consists of a wide variety of snacks, or appetizers, such as olives, cheese, seafood fried in batter, different meats, eggs and vegetables – all in bite-size portions. And while the food is tasty, the emphasis is on socializing when enjoying Tapas with family and friends.
In general, Spaniards are very expressive, with gesturing and physical contact forming part of their conversation style. Visitors from more reserved and conservative backgrounds may find this a little unnerving at first, but soon start warming to this more relaxed way of socializing once they realize that this seeming invasion of their personal space is not disrespectful, but in fact a form of hospitality. So, if you happen to have the good fortune of visiting Spain, unwind and enjoy the many facets of this beautiful country and its friendly people.