When you think of stereotypical Spanish culture you probably envisage a land of flamenco dancing and bullfighting as portrayed by some of the world’s travel media. Yet these traditional elements of Spanish society are essentially regional in nature and are barely part of daily life on a national scale. Spain consists of 17 autonomous communities which are fiercely independent of one another.
Flamenco Dance in Spain
Flamenco music and flamenco dance originate from Andalucia where it thrives to this day in many towns and cities. Beyond Andalucia you’ll find specialist flamenco venues in cities around the country but it isn’t a way of life in the way it is in Andalucia. The work of some contemporary artists such as the classical guitarist Paco de Lucia and pop stars such as Alejando Sanz has its roots in flamenco music but is a far cry from the traditional artform. These performers are well known on the world stage well beyond the Barrio La Triana in Seville from where flamenco in Spain originates.
Bullfighting in Spain
Bullfighting in Spain
The history of bullfighting can also be traced back to Andalucia but whilst flamenco adapts to the modern era the practice of bullfighting is under threat in many quarters. Bullfights are now banned in Catalonia and pressure from animal rights groups together with the indifference of Spain’s young people towards it cast a shadow of doubt as to its future. The regional factor is again significant as bullfighting remains very popular in many parts of Castile and in Andalucia and Extremadura. At major national festivals such as San Isidro in Madrid, La Feria de Abril in Seville and Las Fallas in Valencia it is almost impossible to get bullfighting tickets for events which attract all the country’s top ‘matadors‘. So whilst bullfighting is dead in some regions it continues to thrive in others.
Aside from bullfighting in Spain the bull itself remains a crucial element of many of the thousands of weird and wonderful festivals in Spain that are central to Spanish culture. In Pamplona the running of the bulls is perhaps Spain’s most famous fiesta whilst in Valencian villages the Correbous consists of bulls running around the streets with flares attached to their horns. Another bizarre appearance of ‘El Toro’ is in coastal towns of Valencia where bulls can end up in the sea!
But the Spanish fiesta is about more than bulls. Every city, town and village in the country has its own festival in which practically the whole population gets involved in some form. The fiestas are a time of great local joy when everyone gets to celebrate, a time when the Spanish people are at their best, enjoying themselves with their friends and family. Food and wine are central to such celebrations and Spaniards are so fiercely proud of their gastronomy believing that nowhere on the planet can compete with them when it comes to eating. Every region has its own specialities with an emphasis on using fresh produce to create relatively simple dishes. As well as producing great Spanish food the country is also well represented on the world wine stage with fine reds and whites from the various wine regions of Spain winning excellence awards.
Spain is home to some of the greatest artists and its cities are some of Europe’s top destinations for art enthusiasts. The main Spanish artists represented in the major galleries of Spain include:
Whilst it’s impossible to list the major works of these Spanish artists a special mention must go to Picasso’s Guernica which is the main attraction in Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.
Regions of Spain
The regional factor in Spanish society is a major issue on a political level but even on a personal level visitors to Spain with an ear for language might notice that people in different regions are speaking different languages. Whilst Castilian Spanish is the official Spanish language which is spoken by the whole population there are other living languages that are the first choice of much of the country. In many homes in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands a dialect of Catalan is spoken whilst some regional tongues can be heard in Galicia and the Basque Country. Andalucia actually speaks Castilian Spanish but in some cases the accent is so strong that many vsitors don’t recognise it as Spanish! There are Spanish Language Schools all over Spain offering courses throughout the year which attract students from all over the world. If you’d like to learn Spanish you can try to learn Spanish Online or better still learn Spanish in Spain by attending a specialised course geared specifically to your current level of Spanish whetehr you’re a beginner or an intermediate speaker.
Spanish Sporting Culture
And finally, what about popular culture in Spain? Football is the world’s sport and Spain is the best at it. As well as winning the World Cup in 2010 at international level the country’s two main club sides FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are amongst the best in the world. The Madrid based sports only newspaper has a daily circulation of over 2.7 million readers passionate about their sports stars which include many footballers as well as tennis sensation Rafa Nadal and motor racing star Fernando Alonso.
More Spanish Culture Links
Federico García Lorca
Read about Granada’s most famous son and Spain’s most frequently translated author.