Spaniards,[lower-alpha 1] or Spanish people, are a Romance nation native to Spain.[27][28] Within Spain, there are a number of National and regional identities that reflect the country's complex history and diverse cultures. The official language of Spain is known as "Spanish"; it is only one of the national languages of Spain. Formally it is known as Castilian, a standard language based on the medieval Romance language of the Kingdom of Castile in north and central Spain.

Españoles  (Spanish)[lower-alpha 1]
Rojigualda (historical Spanish flag)
Total population
Spain nationals 41,539,400[1]
(for a total population of 47,059,533)

Hundreds of millions of Latin Americans of full or partial Spanish ancestry[2][3][4][5][6][7] Nationals abroad : 2,183,043[8]

Total abroad: 2,183,043,[9] which of them:
733,387 are born in Spain
1,303,043 are born in the country of residence
137,391 others[9]
Regions with significant populations
 Spain   41,539,400 (2015)[10]
Argentina404,111 (92,610 born in Spain)[8][11][11]
France215,183 (124,153 born in Spain)[8][11]
Venezuela188,585 (56,167 born in Spain)[8][11]
Germany146,846 (61,881 born in Spain)[11][12][13]
 Brazil117,523 (29,848 born in Spain)[8][11]
 Cuba108,858 (2,114 born in Spain)[8][11]
 Mexico108,314 (17,485 born in Spain)[8][11]
United States
(including Puerto Rico)
103,474 (48,546 born in Spain)[8][11]
Switzerland103,247 (46,947 born in Spain)[8][11]
 United Kingdom81,519 (54,418 born in Spain)[8][11]
 Uruguay63,827 (12,023 born in Spain)[8][11]
 Chile56,104 (9,669 born in Spain)[8][11]
 Belgium53,212 (26,616 born in Spain)[14]
 Colombia30,683 (8,057 born in Spain)[8][11]
 Andorra24,485 (17,771 born in Spain)[8][11]
 Netherlands21,974 (12,406 born in Spain)[8][11]
 Italy20,898 (11,734 born in Spain)[8][11]
 Peru19,668 (4,028 born in Spain)[8][11]
 Dominican Republic18,928 (3,622 born in Spain)[11][14]
 Australia18,353 (10,506 born in Spain)[8][11]
 Costa Rica16,482[15]
 United Arab Emirates12,000[17]
 El Salvador2,450[15]
 Czech Republic1,007[11]
Spanish (see languages)
Catholic Christianity[lower-alpha 2] (see religion)
Religious affiliation
Religion in Spain (2013 census):[24]
Christianity: ~75%
Catholic Church: 73.4%[25]
Orthodox Catholic Church: Unknown
Spanish Evangelical Church: ~Less than 1%
Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church: ~Less than 1%
Palmarian Christian Church: ~Less than 1%
Non-religious: 24%[26]
Other religions: 4%
Related ethnic groups
White Hispanic Americans, Mestizos, Mediterranean people, Romance people, Celtic people
Part of a series on the
Spanish people

Regional groups

Other groups

Other languages
Spain portal

Commonly spoken regional languages include, most notably, Basque (a Paleohispanic language), Catalan and Galician (the latter two are both Romance languages like Castilian). In addition many populations outside Spain have ancestors who emigrated from Spain and share elements of a Hispanic culture. The most notable of these comprise Hispanic America in the Western Hemisphere.

The Roman Republic conquered Iberia during the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. As a result of Roman colonization, the majority of local languages, with the exception of Basque, stem from the Vulgar Latin. The Germanic Vandals and Suebi, with part of the Iranian Alans under King Respendial, conquered the peninsula in 409 AD.[29] They were followed by the Visigoths, who founded the Visigothic Kingdom.

In 711 the Iberian Peninsula was conquered and brought under the rule of the Arab Umayyads. In the 11th and 12th centuries the Almohads and the Almoravids established Berber North African dynasties extending to this area.

Following the Christian Reconquista against the Moors, the modern Spanish state was formed in the late 15th century by the union of the Kingdoms of Castille and Aragon, the conquest of the last Muslim Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, and the Canary Islands. In the early 16th century Spain also conquered the Kingdom of Navarre. In this period, Spain began to creat an empire in the Americas. It persecuted religious minorities in Spain, such as Jews and Muslims, requiring them either to convert to Catholicism or be expelled. Heresy was persecuted by the established Catholic Church, the state religion, by the Spanish Inquisition.

Given the expulsions of the 15th and 16th centuries, in the 21st century, a relatively small number of Spaniards have been found to have Jewish and/or Berber ancestry.[30][31][32][33] Those who avoided expulsion or who managed to return to Spain merged into the dominant culture.[34] The last mass prosecution against Moriscos for crypto-Islamic practices took place in Granada in 1727, with most of those convicted receiving relatively light sentences. By the end of the 18th century, indigenous Islam and Morisco identity were considered to have been extinguished in Spain.[35]


Suspicions and tensions between Moriscos, who were called New Christians, and the other Christians, who were called Old Christians,[36] were high in some parts of Spain and practically nonexistent in others. While some Moriscos did hold influence and power, and even had positions in the clergy, others, particularly in Valencia and Aragon, were a source of cheap labour for the local nobility. Where sectarian conflict existed, old Christian communities suspected the Moriscos of not being sincere in their Christianity. The Moors who remained Muslims were known as Mudéjar.[37] Many of these Moriscos, on the other hand, were devout in their new Christian faith,[38] and in Granada, many Moriscos even became Christian martyrs, as they were killed by Muslims for refusing to renounce Christianity.[39] As such the conflict between Old Christians and New Christians was an ethnically inspired one.[40] The nation has formally apologized to expelled Jews and since 2015 offers the chance for people to reclaim Spanish citizenship. By 2019, over 132,000 Sephardic Jewish descendants had reclaimed Spanish citizenship.[41][42]

During the colonial period (1492-1824), a wave of emigration to the Americas began with explorers and conquering expeditions. In total an estimated more than 1.86 million Spaniards emigrated to the Spanish Americas. The population of the Spanish Empire was estimated to be 16.8 million by the end of the 18th century, including the many indigenous peoples of the empire.[43]

In the post-colonial period (1850–1950), a further 3.5 million Spanish emigrated to the Americas, particularly settling in Mexico, and in South American nations: Argentina, Uruguay,[44] Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela; and on the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico (under control of the United States after 1898) and Cuba.[45]

Spain is home to one of the largest communities of Romani people (commonly known by the English exonym "gypsies", Spanish: gitanos). The government's statistical agency CIS estimated in 2007 that the number of Gitanos present in Spain is probably around one million.[46] The Spanish Roma, who belong to the Iberian Kale subgroup (calé), are a formerly nomadic community believed to originate in the Indian sub-continent, whose people migrated across Western Asia, North Africa, and Europe. They are first recorded in Spain in the 15th century.

The population of Spain has become more diverse due to immigration of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. From 2000 to 2010, Spain had among the highest per capita immigration rates in the world and the second-highest absolute net migration in the world (after the United States).[47] Immigrants now make up about 10% of the population. But Spain's prolonged economic crisis between 2008 and 2015 reduced economic opportunities, and both immigration rates and the total number of foreigners in the country declined. By the end of this period, Spain was becoming a net emigrant country.

Historical background

Early populations

The earliest modern humans inhabiting the region of Spain are believed to have been Neolithic peoples, who may have arrived in the Iberian Peninsula as early as 35,000–40,000 years ago. The Iberians are believed to have arrived or emerged in the region as a culture between the 4th millennium BC and the 3rd millennium BC, settling initially along the Mediterranean coast.

Celts settled in Spain during the Iron Age. Some of those tribes in North-central Spain, who had cultural contact with the Iberians, are called Celtiberians. In addition, a group known as the Tartessians and later Turdetanians inhabited southwestern Spain. They are believed to have developed a separate culture influenced by Phoenicia. The seafaring Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians successively founded trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast over a period of several centuries. Interaction took place with indigenous peoples. The Second Punic War between the Carthaginians and Romans was fought mainly in what is now Spain and Portugal.[48]

The Roman Republic conquered Iberia during the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, and established a series of Latin-speaking provinces in the regioin. As a result of Roman colonization, the majority of local languages, with the exception of Basque, stem from the Vulgar Latin that was spoken in Hispania (Roman Iberia). Modern languages of the Iberian Peninsula developed from this, including Castilian, which became the main lingua franca of Spain. Most countries know this dominant form as the "Spanish language". Hispania emerged as an important part of the Roman Empire and produced notable historical figures such as Trajan, Hadrian, Seneca and Quintilian.

The Germanic Vandals and Suebi, with Iranian Alans under King Respendial, arrived in the peninsula in 409 AD. Part of the Vandals with the remaining Alans, now under Geiseric, removed to North Africa after a few conflicts with another Germanic tribe, the Visigoths. The latter were established in Toulouse and supported Roman campaigns against the Vandals and Alans in 415–19 AD.

The Visigoths became the dominant power in Iberia and reigned for three centuries. They were highly romanized in the eastern Empire and already Christians, so they became fully integrated into the late Iberian-Roman culture. They accepted the laws and structures of the late Roman World with little change, more than any other successor barbarian state in the West after the Ostrogoths; in addition, they shifted away from Arianism in Christian thought.

The Suebi were another Germanic tribe in the peninsula; some sources said that they became established as federates of the Roman Empire in the old Northwestern Roman province of Gallaecia. But they were largely independent and raided neighboring provinces to expand their political control over ever-larger portions of the southwest after the Vandals and Alans left. They created a totally independent Suebic Kingdom. In 447 AC they converted to Roman Catholicism under King Rechlar.

After being checked and reduced in 456 AD by the Visigoths, the Suebic Kingdom survived to 585 AD. It was decimated as an independent political unit by the Visigoths, after having been involved in the internal affairs of their kingdom. The Suebi had supported Catholic rebellions and sedition within the Royal family.

Middle Ages

After two centuries of domination by the Visigothic Kingdom, the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by a Muslim force under Tariq Bin Ziyad in 711. This army consisted mainly ethnic Berbers from the Ghomara tribe, who were reinforced by Arabs from Syria once the conquest was complete. The Visigothic Kingdom totally collapsed and nearly the entire peninsula was conquered. A remote mountainous area in the far north retained independence, eventually developing as the Christian Kingdom of Asturias.

Muslim Iberia became part of the Umayyad Caliphate and would be known as Al-Andalus. The Berbers of Al Andalus revolted as early as 740 AD, halting Arab expansion across the Pyrenee Mountains into France. Upon the collapse of the Umayyad in Damascus, Spain was seized by Yusuf al Fihri. The exiled Umayyad Prince Abd al-Rahman I next seized power, establishing himself as Emir of Cordoba. Abd al Rahman III, his grandson, proclaimed a Caliphate in 929, marking the beginning of the Golden Age of Al Andalus. This polity was the effective power of the peninsula and Western North Africa; it competed with the Shiite rulers of Tunis and frequently raided the small Christian kingdoms in the North.

The Caliphate of Córdoba effectively collapsed during a ruinous civil war between 1009 and 1013; it was not finally abolished until 1031, when al-Andalus broke up into a number of mostly independent mini-states and principalities called taifas. These were generally too weak to defend themselves against repeated raids and demands for tribute from the Christian states to the north and west, which were known to the Muslims as "the Galician nations."[16] These had expanded from their initial strongholds in Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque country, and the Carolingian Marca Hispanica to become the Kingdoms of Navarre, León, Portugal, Castile and Aragon, and the County of Barcelona. Eventually they began to conquer territory, and the Taifa kings asked for help from the Almoravids, Muslim Berber rulers of the Maghreb. But the Almoravids went on to conquer and annex all the Taifa kingdoms.

In 1086 the Almoravid ruler of Morocco, Yusuf ibn Tashfin, was invited by the Muslim princes in Iberia to defend them against Alfonso VI, King of Castile and León. In that year, Tashfin crossed the straits to Algeciras and inflicted a severe defeat on the Christians at the Battle of Sagrajas. By 1094, Yusuf ibn Tashfin had removed all Muslim princes in Iberia and had annexed their states, except for the one at Zaragoza. He also regained Valencia from the Christians. About this time a massive process of conversion to Islam took place, and Muslims comprised the majority of the population in Spain by the end of the 11th century.

The Almoravids were succeeded by the Almohads, another Berber dynasty, after the victory of Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur over the Castilian Alfonso VIII at the Battle of Alarcos in 1195. In 1212 a coalition of Christian kings under the leadership of the Castilian Alfonso VIII defeated the Almohads at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. But the Almohads continued to rule Al-Andalus for another decade, though with much reduced power and prestige. The civil wars following the death of Abu Ya'qub Yusuf II rapidly led to the re-establishment of taifas. The taifas, newly independent but weakened, were quickly conquered by the kingdoms of Portugal, Castile, and Aragon. After the fall of Murcia (1243) and the Algarve (1249), only the Emirate of Granada survived as a Muslim statet. It was a tributary of Castile until 1492.

In 1469 the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile signaled a joining of forces to attack and conquer the Emirate of Granada. The King and Queen convinced the Pope to declare their war a crusade. The Christians were successful and finally, in January 1492, after a long siege, the Moorish sultan Muhammad XII surrendered the fortress palace, the renowned Alhambra.

Spain conquered the Canary Islands between 1402 and 1496. Their indigenous Berber populations, the Guanches, were gradually absorbed by unions with Spanish settlers.

Spanish conquest of the Iberian part of Navarre was begun by Ferdinand II of Aragon and completed by Charles V. The series of military campaigns extended from 1512 to 1524, while the war lasted until 1528 in the Navarre to the north of the Pyrenees. Between 1568-1571, Charles V armies fought and defeated a general insurrection of the Muslims of the mountains of Granada. Charles V then ordered the expulsion of up to 80,000 Granadans from the province and their dispersal throughout Spain.

The union of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon as well as the conquest of Granada, Navarre and the Canary Islands led to the formation of the Spanish state as known today. This allowed for the development of a Spanish identity based on the Spanish language and a local form of Catholicism. This gradually developed in a territory that remained culturally, linguistically and religiously very diverse.

A majority of Jews were forcibly converted to Catholicism during the 14th and 15th centuries and those remaining were expelled from Spain in 1492. The open practice of Islam by Spain's sizeable Mudejar population was similarly outlawed. Furthermore, between 1609 and 1614, a significant number of Moriscos— (Muslims who had been baptized Catholic) were expelled by royal decree.[49] Although initial estimates of the number of Moriscos expelled such as those of Henri Lapeyre reach 300,000 moriscos (or 4% of the total Spanish population), the extent and severity of the expulsion has been increasingly challenged by modern historians. Nevertheless, the eastern region of Valencia, where ethnic tensions were highest, was particularly affected by the expulsion, suffering economic collapse and depopulation of much of its territory. Two of the eight masterpieces of Islamic architecture from around the world are located in Spain: The Alhambra of Granada and the Cordoba Mosque.[50]

Colonialism and emigration

In the 16th century, following the military conquest of most of the new continent, perhaps 240,000 Spaniards entered American ports. They were joined by 450,000 in the next century.[51] It is estimated that during the colonial period (1492–1832), a total of 1.86 million Spaniards settled in the Americas and a further 3.5 million immigrated during the post-colonial era (1850–1950); the estimate is 250,000 in the 16th century, and most during the 18th century as immigration was encouraged by the new Bourbon Dynasty. In contrast, the outcome for indigenous populations was much worse, with an estimated 8 million deaths following the initial conquest through contact with old world diseases.[52] After the conquest of Mexico and Peru these two regions became the principal destinations of Spanish colonial settlers in the 16th century.[53] In the period 1850–1950, 3.5 million Spanish left for the Americas, particularly Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico,[44] Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, and Cuba.[45] From 1840 to 1890, as many as 40,000 Canary Islanders emigrated to Venezuela.[54] 94,000 Spaniards chose to go to Algeria in the last years of the 19th century, and 250,000 Spaniards lived in Morocco at the beginning of the 20th century.[45]

By the end of the Spanish Civil War, some 500,000 Spanish Republican refugees had crossed the border into France.[55] From 1961 to 1974, at the height of the guest worker in Western Europe, about 100,000 Spaniards emigrated each year.[45]

Peoples of Spain

Nationalisms and regionalisms

Within Spain, there are various regional populations including the Andalusians, Castilians, the Catalans, Valencians and Balearics (who speak Catalan, a distinct Romance language in eastern Spain), the Basques (who live in the Basque country and north of Navarre and speak Basque, a non-Indo-European language), and the Galicians (who speak Galician, a descendant of old Galician-Portuguese).

Respect to the existing cultural pluralism is important to many Spaniards. In many regions there exist strong regional identities such as Asturias, Aragon, the Canary Islands, León, and Andalusia, while in others (like Catalonia, Basque Country or Galicia) there are stronger national sentiments. Some of them refuse to identify themselves with the Spanish ethnic group and prefer some of the following:

Regional identities


Spain is home to one of the largest communities of Romani people (commonly known by the English exonym "gypsies", Spanish: gitanos). The Spanish Roma, which belong to the Iberian Kale subgroup (calé), are a formerly-nomadic community, which spread across Western Asia, North Africa, and Europe, first reaching Spain in the 15th century.

Data on ethnicity is not collected in Spain, although the Government's statistical agency CIS estimated in 2007 that the number of Gitanos present in Spain is probably around one million.[46] Most Spanish Roma live in the autonomous community of Andalusia, where they have traditionally enjoyed a higher degree of integration than in the rest of the country. A number of Spanish Calé also live in Southern France, especially in the region of Perpignan.

Modern immigration

The population of Spain has become increasingly diverse due to recent immigration. From 2000 to 2010, Spain had among the highest per capita immigration rates in the world and the second highest absolute net migration in the World (after the United States)[47] and immigrants now make up about 10% of the population. Since 2000, Spain has absorbed more than 3 million immigrants, with thousands more arriving each year.[56] In 2008 immigrant population tops over 4.5 million.[57] They come mainly from Europe, Latin America, China, the Philippines, North Africa, and West Africa.[58]


Languages spoken in Spain include Spanish (castellano or español) (74%), Catalan (català, called valencià in the Valencian Community) (17%), Galician (galego) (7%), and Basque (euskara) (2%).[59] Other languages with a lower level of official recognition are Asturian (asturianu), Aranese Gascon (aranés), Aragonese (aragonés), and Leonese, each with their own various dialects. Spanish is the official state language, although the other languages are co-official in a number of autonomous communities.

Peninsular Spanish is largely considered to be divided into two main dialects: Castilian Spanish (spoken in the northern half of the country) and Andalusian Spanish (spoken mainly in Andalusia). However, a large part of Spain, including Madrid, Extremadura, Murcia, and Castile–La Mancha, speak local dialects known as "transitional dialects" between Andalusian and Castilian Spanish.[60] The Canary Islands also have a distinct dialect of Castilian Spanish which is very close to Caribbean Spanish. Linguistically, the Spanish language is a Romance language and is one of the aspects (including laws and general "ways of life") that causes Spaniards to be labelled a Latin people. The strong Arabic influence on the language (nearly 4,000 words are of Arabic origin, including nouns, verbs and adjectives.[61]) and the independent evolution of the language itself through history, most notably the Basque influence at the formative stage of Castilian Romance, partially explain its difference from other Romance languages. The Basque language left a strong imprint on Spanish both linguistically and phonetically. Other changes in Spanish have come from borrowings from English and French, although English influence is stronger in Latin America than in Spain.

The number of speakers of Spanish as a mother tongue is roughly 35.6 million, while the vast majority of other groups in Spain such as the Galicians, Catalans, and Basques also speak Spanish as a first or second language, which boosts the number of Spanish speakers to the overwhelming majority of Spain's population of 46 million.

Spanish was exported to the Americas due to over three centuries of Spanish colonial rule starting with the arrival of Christopher Columbus to Santo Domingo in 1492. Spanish is spoken natively by over 400 million people and spans across most countries of the Americas; from the Southwestern United States in North America down to Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost region of South America in Chile and Argentina. A variety of the language, known as Judaeo-Spanish or Ladino (or Haketia in Morocco), is still spoken by descendants of Sephardim (Spanish and Portuguese Jews) who fled Spain following a decree of expulsion of practising Jews in 1492. Also, a Spanish creole language known as Chabacano, which developed by the mixing of Spanish and native Tagalog and Cebuano languages during Spain's rule of the country through Mexico from 1565 to 1898, is spoken in the Philippines (by roughly 1 million people).[62]


Religious affiliation in Spain in (2013)
according to Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas.[24]
Religion Percent
Roman Catholic
Other religions
Not stated

Roman Catholicism is by far the largest denomination present in Spain although its share of the population has been decreasing for decades. According to a study by the Spanish Centre for Sociological Research in 2013 about 71% of Spaniards self-identified as Catholics, 2% other faith, and about 25% identified as atheists or declared they had no religion. Survey data for 2019 show Catholics down to 69%, 2.8% "other faith" and 27% atheist-agnostic-non believers.[59]

Emigration from Spain

Outside of Europe, Latin America has the largest population of people with ancestors from Spain. These include people of full or partial Spanish ancestry.

People with Spanish ancestry

CountryPopulation (% of country)ReferenceCriterion
Spanish Mexican94,720,000 (>80%)[2]estimated: 20% as Whites
75-80% as Mestizos.
Spanish American50,000,000 (16%)[3]10,017,244 Americans who identify themselves with Spanish ancestry.[63]
26,735,713 (53.0%) (8.7% of total U.S. population) Hispanics in the United States are white (also mixed with other European origins), others are different mixes or races but with Spaniard ancestry.
Spanish Venezuelan25,079,923 (90%)[64]42% as white and 50% as mestizos.
Spanish Brazilian15,000,000 (8%)[5]estimate by Bruno Ayllón.[65]
Spanish Colombian39,000,000 (86%) Self-description as "Mestizo, white and mulatto"
Spanish Cuban10,050,849 (89%)[6]Self-description as white, mulatto and mestizo
Spanish Puerto Rican3,064,862 (80.5%)[66][67]
Self-description as white.
83,879 (2%) identified as Spanish citizens
Spanish Canadian325,730 (1%)[70]Self-description
Spanish Australian58,271 (0.3%)[71]Self-description

The listings above shows the ten countries with known collected data on people with ancestors from Spain, although the definitions of each of these are somewhat different and the numbers cannot really be compared. Spanish Chilean of Chile and Spanish Uruguayan of Uruguay could be included by percentage (each at above 40%) instead of numeral size.

See also


  1. Native names and pronunciation:
    • Asturian and Spanish: españoles [espaˈɲoles]
      • Dialectally also:
        • Extremaduran pronunciation: [ɛʰpːaˈɲɔlɪʰ]
        • Asturian pronunciation: [espaˈɲoles -lɪs]
    • Basque: espainiarrak [espaɲiarak] or espainolak [espaɲiolak]
    • Aragonese and Catalan: espanyols
      • Aragonese: [espaˈɲols]
      • Eastern Catalan: [əspəˈɲɔls]
    • Galician: españóis [espaˈɲɔjs, -ˈɲɔjʃ]
    • Occitan: espanhòls Occitan pronunciation: [espaˈɲɔls]
  2. Catholicism is the traditional and predominant religion of the Spanish people. See also: Religion in Spain


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  4. Resultados Básicos Censo 2011 Archived 13 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine
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  28. Minahan, James (2000). One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 776. ISBN 0313309841. Romance (Latin) nations... Spaniards
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