Today’s Spain has one of the fastest-growing standards of living in Europe with tremendous infrastructural improvements in recent years. With the reign of King Juan Carlos, a strong, modern democracy had arisen and until the recent global financial crisis, Spain had seen political stability and economic growth.
It wasn’t always like this. In the 1930s, Spain suffered tremendously from a civil war, resulting in massacres of civilians and prisoners all over the nation. The war cost over hundreds of thousands of lives and ended in a nationalist dictatorship, led by General Francisco Franco. During his ruling, Spain remained largely isolated from the outside world – both economically and culturally.
The death of Franco in 1975 marked a new era for Spain: a transition from dictatorship to liberal democracy and the return of the Bourbon monarch headed by Prince Juan Carlos (then). In 1981, members of the Guardia Civil attempted a coup d’etat, but failed thanks to the intervention of the King.
In 1986, Spain joined the European Union (then known as European Economic Community) and in 1999, it exchanged the peseta for the Euro currency. Since hosting the 1992 Olympics and Seville Expo, the country has undergone tremendous progress in development over the past few decades.
The Socialist Party came to power in 2004, with Prime Minister Zapatero leading the country into a period of on-going economic growth; Zapatero withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq and instituted social reforms including legalisation of same-sex marriage, modernisation of divorce laws, and increase of the minimum wage. Infrastructural improvements such as the proliferation of the high-speed train network were also been a feature of his premiership, which had been strongly pro-European.
However, ongoing financial turmoil in the Eurozone, combined with a shrinking economy and high unemployment, saw the Socialist Party ousted in 2011 in favour of the centre-right Populist Party, led by Mariano Rajoy.