Spain is a country that is rich in history and has been influenced by many cultural groups, which makes this country an amazing and fascinating place. Spain has some of the oldest cultural groups in Europe. The Basque people of the region that is named for them (Basque country) have a language that is said to be one of the oldest in Europe. Their language Euskara has been compared to other European languages and non common origins have been found.
Spain is unique in that it has been a mixing pot for cultures for thousands of years. First the Iberians from the south came, followed by the Celts, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, Romans, and the Moors. Today you see the remnants of many of these cultures in every parts of Spanish life. From the Spanish language itself, to the architecture Spain shows its history. Most notably is the Spanish language which is a Romantic language that has been influenced in many ways by the Arab influence of the Moors. Words and phrases still make reference to the Moorish time period of 711-1492.
When the country of France was able to push the Moorish invasion from their borders thanks to Charlemagne, the Spanish were not. For over 700 years the Moors became a part of the Iberian Peninsula. During this time there was a constant struggle for power and control and eventually the Moors were pushed into what is now Andalucía.
Often this period is depcited in Spanish history extremely negatively suggesting it was of little value. This is something that is being revised slowly as many of Spain's monuments that hint at the prosperity of this period gain importance.
This was called the Reconquest and took hundreds of years to accomplish, for example Cordoba fell in 1236, but it was not until 1492 that Granada fell. Today this is most notable in the architecture. In the Northern areas of Spain you see influence from the Romans and very little in the way of the Arab influence. When you travel farther south you begin to see more signs of the Arab influence in cathedrals, baths, etc. Granada is the best example of this influence with its centerpiece of the Alhambra.
Spain was a peninsula of many smaller kingdoms in the years before 1492. It was with the marriage between Isabel I of Castile and Fernando II of Aragon in 1469 that essentially united Spain. Called the Catholic Monarchs their goal was to bring the entire country under the Catholic religion. In 1492 they accomplished their goal by conquering the last Moorish kingdom, Granada. It is in Granada today that you will find the burial place of the monarchs that in many ways changed the world. Shortly after the January conquering, the Monarchs sponsored Christopher Columbus in his quest to find a route to the orient by traveling west. Later that year Columbus found the new world.
It was this adventure that made Spanish into a “superpower.” With the well known Armada, and gold flowing in from over seas, Spain was a power to be with which to be reckoned. But the assimilation of Spain into a cultural and religiously unified nation did not end with the expulsion of the Moors, but also included the expulsion of the Jews who refused to convert to the Catholic religion. Today in areas such as Extremadura you can find places that were once Jewish towns and still show signs of their history. (Note that the Spanish Inquisition began in 1483 by request of the Catholic monarchs)
In 1588 the Invincible Armada was conquered off the Coast of Ireland by the English Navy. A great step for England but for told the decline of Spain.