Wednesday, May 18, 2016

To explain Spain: Madrid - I

I'm so sick of writing about Donald Trump that I've decided to write about the country where I live, Spain. I usually don't do this in my English language blog, because what knowledge of Spain I may have achieved by now is very long learned and intensely personal, with plenty of "skin in the game", and I would be loathe to do a superficial, touristy travelogue for English speaking day trippers; coyly loaded with bulls and flamenco and tips on where to dine, etc. That sort of thing makes me squirm.

However, I can imagine that I might have some things to say about Spain that someone genuinely curious to learn about one of Europe's oldest and most historically rich and important countries might find useful. 

To begin with, forget about all the classic cliches about Spain, from Bizet to Mérimée to Hemingway, and take a close look at this map:

European population density
You'll notice that most of the center of the Iberian Peninsula has a population density similar to the outback of Sweden or Finland or the forests and western Steppes of Russia... or the Alps... and you see that smack dab in the middle of that vast yellow emptiness on the map, floating like an asteroid, there is a blue star-shaped blob called Madrid (where I live). This is a city with a population of 3.165 million people.

According to the map's legend, the blue color of the blob shows that Madrid has a density of population similar to Paris or London. Spain has a total population of 46.77 million, while France has 66.03 million, Britain 64.1 million and Germany 81.1 million .

More or less one out of every 15 Spaniards lives in the blue blob in the middle of nowhere.

Madrid is not only the largest city in Spain, it is also the political, financial, cultural and communication capital of the country. To put this into an American context, try to imagine if Washington, New York and Los Angeles were all in one city... located somewhere in Montana.

If you now move your attention to the right toward the Mediterranean coast you'll see a large, long and narrow area with a brick-red color similar to most of Germany and the dynamic northern region of Italy around Milan.

At the top of the red patch sits Barcelona, the capital of the Catalonian region of Spain which produces some twenty percent of the Spanish GDP.

So without any knowledge of the history, culture and languages of the blue blob and red patch, separated as they are by a great expanse of yellow, it's easy to imagine the tension that might exist between the blob and the patch.

My next post on Spain will be about why the blue blob got to be where it is. DS

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