People hold a large flag of Spain as they take part in a pro-Spanish unity demonstration organised by the Catalan Civil Society organisation in Barcelona. October 8, 2017

Spain is the second largest country in the European Union. It is located in the southwestern corner of Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Its capital, Madrid, is the third largest city in the EU, and known for its distinctive neighborhoods. 

The Spanish region was ruled for centuries by the Romans, and later the Islamic Moors. In the 15th century under the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand V and Isabella I, Spanish explorers travelled the world, laying claims to the lands they "discovered," making Spain the first global colonial empire in the world. The legacy of its colonization is the Spanish language, which is now the second most spoken language in the world, with about 500 million speakers.

In 1492, when Christopher Columbus reached the shores of America, the Jewish and Muslim populations of Spain were banished or made to convert to Catholicism, under the Spanish Inquisition.  The exiled Jews of Spain – who had arrived under the Romans – settled in the Middle East and North Africa. The others converted and stayed in Spain, but were often accused of being false Christians.

It was only after Moroccan independence in the 1950s, that the Jewish population moved to Spain. The Jewish community of Spain is a miniscule 50,000, in a country of 46 million. But in 2015, the Spanish parliament passed a bill granting citizenship to Shephardic Jews.

Spain was a dictatorship for four decades after the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) under Francisco Franco. After his death in 1975, Spain became a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.

It is the fifth largest economy in Europe. And among its regions, Catalonia is the most prosperous, and constitutes 16 percent of the population. There has been a secessionist movement in Catalonia since 1922, but it has seen a resurgence since 2010