The Geography of Spain

How does geography impact the culture of a country? The Canada example.

“La geographia manda”

 Spanish proverb meaning: Geography controls everything

Examine the satellite map of Europe. Before even thinking about where modern countries may be located, examine what stands out about different locations on the map. Look at where the colours are different due to mountains and deserts. Look at the parts that are surrounded by water and those that are in complete isolation.


When you examine where nations did develop, you can see "la geographia manda." The Italian peninsula is in the middle of the Mediterranean, appearing to be pulled toward the East. As a result, it is a region that flourished on being the trading hub between the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Great Britain is an island, and as such it became a great seafaring nation.

Spain, in the far west occupying roughly 85% of the Iberian peninsula, is a mountainous region jutting deep out into the Atlantic and separated by only 14 km from the African nation of Morocco. How would these geographic realities have impacted Spanish culture and history?

Mountain ranges separate the Iberian peninsula from the remainder of Europe and are one of the main reasons as to why Spanish culture often developed separately from much of the rest of the continent. Below are the Pyrenees mountains that serve as the natural border between Spain and France. To the right are the Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe) 20 km south of the northern coast.

The arable land of Spain is notable for its ability to produce citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and lemons, in addition to other warm weather crops like apples, pears, peaches, tomatoes, onions and almonds.

Spain is a country of approximately 47 million. Among the great ancient cities of the country are its capital and largest city, Madrid (right), host of the 1992 Summer Olympics Barcelona (below, with the beautiful Sagrada Familia Cathedral rising from the cityscape) and the former Muslim capital of Europe, Cordoba (below, right).

The proximity of Spain to Morocco would have major implications on the history of the country, and indeed, on all of Europe. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, nearly everyone in Spain was a Christian. Internal struggles and weak rulers left the region vulnerable, and susceptible to assault from abroad. In 711, a group of Muslims called the Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula and nearly conquered it entirely in a few years, fighting all the way up to France before being pushed back by Charles "The Hammer" Martel (a great wrestling name!), naming it Al-Andalus. The Moors were Muslim living in North Africa in the modern day country of Morocco.

Al-Andalus is pictured to the right.