|Spain's strategic and accessible
location enabled countless invasions from neighboring civilizations.
North Africans, Celtics, Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians
all had their hand in settling the Iberian Peninsula. Although
it took them two centuries to control the region, invaders from
the Roman Empire arrived in the 3rd century BC. During the first
century AD, Christianity arrived in Spain, and it was then that
the country’s rich religious and culture landscape
began to emerge. When it was first introduced, Christianity was
strongly opposed by the Romans, and the opposition led to years
of persecution – the first of more to come. For the next hundred
years, the area was dominated by the Romans until German tribes
invaded it and Christian Visigoths took over until the Moors migrated
from Northern Africa in 711.
By the time Moors introduced Muslim culture to Spain, the country
had centuries of Christian beliefs and customs. But by 714, the
Moors had conquered most of the peninsula, and the country became
deeply rooted in Moorish culture, as their dominance lasted nearly
800 years. The area under Moorish control was called, Al-Andalus,
and it flourished in the arts and sciences. As a result, the area
today is one of the most culturally aesthetic regions in Spain.
In 722, the Spanish Reconquista began when a small army of Christian
Visigoths defeated the Moors in northern Spain. Gradually, Christians
began taking back territory that was under Moorish control, and
by the middle of the 13th century, Christians had regained most
of the country with the exception of Granada. During that time,
yet another religion made its presence felt in the area. A large
community of Jews made Spain their home and they experience relative
freedom under Muslim and Christian rulers. All this changed during
the infamous and tragic Spanish Inquisition.
In the late 15th century, Catholic monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand
expelled, tortured or executed thousands of Muslims, Jews and non-believers
if they did convert to Christianity. Individuals were hired to seek
out Muslims or Jews who claimed to have converted, but were secretly
practicing their religion behind closed doors. Punishments and tortures
were often conducted in public squares and would last, on many occasions,
all day. In 1492, the last of the Moorish-controlled territory,
Granada, fell to the Christians and the Reconquista was complete.
The same year Granada succumbed to the Christians, Christopher
Columbus embarked on an overseas trip that led him to the Americas.
Subsequently, Spanish dominance in the new territory became abundant,
and extreme wealth and prosperity followed for the next few centuries,
until the Spanish-American War of 1898 ended Spanish rule in the
The 20th century saw extreme political and social unrest. The Spanish
Civil War (1936-1939) left 350,000 Spanish civilians dead. General
Francisco Franco led a party of Nationalists that was backed by
Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and were pitted against the leftist
Popular Front. Franco established a dictatorship that ruled until
his death in 1974. King Juan Carlo became his successor, and it
was under his leadership that Spain emerged from a tightly-controlled
dictatorship to democracy.