VIVA ESPAÑA: Spanish Citizenship – Things You Should Know Part 4

In Spain, you can apply for Spanish citizenship after ten years’ of legal residency in the country through naturalisation. However, this requires taking two tests – the DELE A2 Spanish language test and the CCSE cultural test.

The Conocimientos Constitucionales y Socioculturales de España (CCSE) is a test to determine your knowledge of the Spanish Constitution and how much you know about Spanish culture, history, and society. It is a PASS or FAIL test in which you must answer 25 questions – in multiple-choice format – about Spanish Government, Law, and Citizenship (60% of the test) and about Spanish Culture, History, and Society (40%).

The Cervantes Institute provides a manual (in Spanish) to prepare for the CCSE test and we have used this document to create a special feature which we think might be of interest to people, regardless of whether or not they intend to apply for citizenship in Spain.

The manual is split into five parts and we will deal with each part in an individual manner.

Part 1 – Government, Legislation and Citizen Participation.
Part 2 – Fundamental Rights and Duties.
Part 3 – Territorial Organization of Spain. Geographical, Physical and Political.
Part 4 – Culture and History of Spain.
Part 5 – Spanish Society.

The fourth section is about the Culture and History of Spain. We have highlighted certain information just as the Cervantes Institute has done which indicates that it is important to know. We have also kept a lot of organizations, government departments and other references in Spanish since the CCSE test will be taken in that language but have provided a translation where appropriate.

Part 4 – Culture and History of Spain

Literature, Music and Performing Arts

Spain has a long literary tradition. Many authors and works are internationally recognized.

  • One of the best known is Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616), born in Alcalá de Henares (Madrid). His work “Don Quixote” is considered the first modern novel and its main characters, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, are known throughout the world.
  • Another famous work is the “Cantar de Mio Cid“, written in the 13th century, which immortalized Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, a Castilian knight who managed to conquer the Levant of the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the 11th century.
  • A famous character in the Spanish literary tradition, a universal literary myth, is Don Juan, who appears for the first time in Tirso de Molina‘s work “El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedrain” in 1630.

On the other hand, the two most representative moments of Spanish literature and its most outstanding authors and works are:

  • The Siglos de Oro (Golden Age) of Spanish literature (16th and 17th centuries):
    Lope de Vega (Fuenteovejuna) and Calderón de la Barca (La vida es sueño); the picture novel (El Lazarillo de Tormes); religious literature, Saint Teresa of Jesus and Saint John of the Cross; poetry, Garcilaso de la Vega, Góngora and Quevedo.
  • The Siglo XX (20th century), la Edad de Plata (the Silver Age):
    La Generación del 98 (The Generation of ’98), in which Antonio Machado, Valle-Inclán and Miguel de Unamuno stand out;
    La Generación del 1914 (the Generation of 1914) with José Ortega y Gasset and Clara Campoamor;
    La Generación del 27 (the Generation of 27) whose greatest exponent is Federico García Lorca, with the work La casa de Bernarda Alba; , but also Rafael Alberti, M.ª Teresa León, María Zambrano, Miguel Hernández, Rosa Chacel and Vicente Aleixandre;
    los años de la posguerra (the post-war years) Camilo José Cela, with La colmena; Carmen Laforet with Nada; Ana María Matute with Los hijos Muertos and Miguel Delibes with El Camino.

    We can also mention authors who write in the other languages ​​of Spain: Rosalía de Castro with Follas Novas, Bernardo Atxaga with Obabakoak and Mercè Rodoreda with La Plaça del Diamant.

Spanish music has a long tradition. Among its most prominent representatives we can mention:

  • Composers: Manuel de Falla with El Amor Brujo, along with Joaquín Rodrigo, who composed the Concierto de Aranjuez.
  • Lyrical Singers: Montserrat Caballé and Ainhoa Arteta, sopranos; Plácido Domingo, Alfredo Kraus and Josep Carreras, internationally famous Spanish tenors.
  • Modern Song: Joan Manuel Serrat and Alejandro Sanz, singer-songwriters; Rosalía, Luz Casal and Enrique Iglesias are singers with great impact in the US and Latin America.
  • Flamenco: Lola Flores «La Faraona», singer; Camarón de la Isla, singer; Paco de Lucía, composer and guitarist; Carmen Amaya and Sara Baras, dancers; all are essential artists in the history of flamenco.

Spain is one of the Spanish-speaking countries that has received the most Latin Grammy awards in the last fifteen years.

In Spanish cinema, Luis Buñuel must be named as one of the fathers of the seventh art. But also to great directors such as Berlanga, Fernando Trueba, Alejando Amenábar, Pedro Almodóvar, Isabel Coixet, Paula Ortiz, Juan Antonio Bayona and Jaume Collet Serra who make Spanish cinema one of the most internationally recognized.

Among the actors, there is Antonio Banderas, Fernando Fernán Gómez, Mario Casas, Ana de Armas, Luis Tosar, Maribel Verdú, Carmen Maura, Victoria Abril, Clara Lago and Karra Elejalde.

Spain manages theatres, national auditoriums and national artistic companies through its Ministry of Culture and Sport, such as:

  • el Ballet Nacional de España (National Ballet of Spain) which offers various styles of dance;
  • the National Orchestra and Choir: symphonic-choral music that promotes classical music from various perspectives;
  • la Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico (National Classical Theatre Company) whose main mission is to recover, preserve, produce and disseminate the theatrical heritage prior to the 20th century.

Architecture and Visual Arts

Spain has a rich heritage. UNESCO has recognized 49 Spanish assets as Patrimonio de la Humanidad (World Heritage Sites) – cultural, natural and mixed assets – placing Spain as the third country with the most recognized assets, behind Italy (58) and China (56).

In 1984 Spain incorporated the first five assets to the list of World Heritage Sites: the Alhambra and the Generalife (Granada, 10th-14th centuries); la Catedral de Burgos (13th century); la Mezquita de Córdoba (8th-13th centuries); el Monasterio y Sitio de El Escorial (Madrid, 16th century), and el Parque Güell, el Palacio Güell and la Casa Milà in Barcelona (20th century).

Subsequently, the Cueva de Altamira and the Paleolithic cave art of northern Spain (Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country); the Acueducto de Segovia and the Conjunto Arqueológico de Mérida (from Roman times); la fachada de la Natividad and la cripta de la Sagrada Familia de Gaudí (Barcelona, ​​19th-21st centuries), among others, have been added.

Another of the Spanish assets declared a World Heritage Site is the Camino de Santiago, one of the most important European artistic-religious routes.

Patrimonio Nacional is the public body responsible for the care and maintenance of artistic assets that currently belong to the Spanish State. It is an organization that makes historical-artistic heritage available to citizens for cultural, scientific and educational purposes.

Some internationally famous Spanish painters, works and museums are:

    San Francisco en oración            
    Museo del Prado (Madrid)
    Las meninas                              
    Museo del Prado (Madrid)
  • FRANCISCO DE GOYA (1746-1828)                
    Fusilamientos del 3 de mayo y La maja desnuda    
    Museo del Prado (Madrid)                      
  • JOAQUÍN SOROLLA (1863-1923)                 
    Paseo a orillas del mar               
    Casa Museo Sorolla (Madrid)
  • PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)                      
    Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid)
  • JOAN MIRÓ (1893-1983)                              
    Logotipo de Turespaña               
    Mural del Palacio de Congresos de Madrid
  • MARUJA MALLO (1900-1995)                       
    La verbena                                
    Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid)
  • SALVADOR DALÍ (1904-1898)                     
    Muchacha en la ventana            
    Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid)
    Galatea de la esferas                  
    Teatro-Museo Dalí (Girona)
  • ANTONIO LÓPEZ (1936)                     
    Madrid desde Capitán Haya       
    Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid)

In addition to the Prado and Reina Sofía national museums, there are others that are well known internationally: the Museo Picasso in Barcelona; the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, and the Museo Guggenheim in Bilbao.

Science and Technology

Spain had a time of splendour of science in the Middle Ages, with the work of the Escuela de Traductores de Toledo (Toledo School of Translators), those carried out in Córdoba, or advances in specialties such as navigation, astronomy and astrology, in the imperial era. In the first third of the 20th century, Ramón y Cajal, Severo Ochoa and Gregorio Marañón stood out, and in the last third of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, Valentín Fuster and the Barraquer family stood out in medicine; in psychiatry, Luis Rojas Marcos; in biochemistry and molecular biology, Margarita Salas, etc.

The El Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), the largest public institution dedicated to research in Spain and the fourth largest in Europe, has as its main objective to develop and promote research to achieve scientific and technological progress.

Numerous technological parks and astronomical observatories have been created in Spain, among which the Estación de Seguimiento de Satélites de Villafranca del Castillo (Satellite Tracking Station) stands out, now converted into the Agencia Espacial Europea (European Space Agency – ESA).

Relevant Events in the History of Spain

Some of the most internationally known events in the history of Spain from the 13th century to the present:

Alfonso X turns Toledo into a reference point for medieval culture. It is known as the city of three cultures: Jewish, Muslim and Christian.

Cristóbal Colón discovers America. The Reyes Católicos conquer Granada. The first grammar of the Castilian language was published.

Magallanes and Sebastián Elcano begin the first circumnavigation of the world.

16th and 17th Centuries – Siglo de Oro del Imperio Español
The Spanish Empire was the first with large extensions of territory not united by land in all continents, which included the territories of America, the Pacific, Italy, and central Europe. The most important reigns of this period are those of Carlos I and Felipe II. Carlos I is considered the first king of Spain, because the Spanish kingdoms were unified with him. Felipe II governed the largest extension of territories in the world by unifying the Kingdoms of Spain and Portugal and their respective territories in America and Asia.

1705-1715 – Guerra de Sucesión
When Carlos II, the last king of the Austrian dynasty, died without an heir, a war began between the Austrian house and the Bourbons. The latter won and Philip of Anjou was crowned Felipe V.

1808-1814 – Guerra de Independencia
War of the Spanish against the French invasion and the French king Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. When the war ends, Fernando VII becomes king of Spain again.

1895-1898 – Guerra de Cuba / Desastre del 98
Spain and the United States fought in 1898 in the War of Cuba or Disaster of 98. Spain lost the war and its last colonial possessions, the island of Cuba, which was proclaimed an independent republic and Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam became colonial dependencies of the United States.

1936-1939 – Guerra Civil
The Spanish Civil War was a social, political, military and economic conflict between the supporters of the II República, legally constituted in 1931 (los republicanos), and the rebels led by much of the military high command (los nacionales).

1939-1975 – Franquismo
Francisco Franco wins the Civil War and becomes head of the Spanish State until his death. Spain was isolated until the start of the Cold War due to the international rejection of the dictatorship. Franco’s dictatorship is characterized by exclusionary Spanish nationalism, Catholicism and anti-communism.

1975-1982 – Transición Española
The Spanish Transition is the period between the death of Francisco Franco (November 20, 1975) and the democratic elections of 1982. The transition period was led by Adolfo Suárez and the Unión de Centro Democrático party. The 1982 elections were won by the Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol (PSOE).

1978 – Referendum sobre la Constitución
On December 6, 1978, the first referendum of the Spanish democracy was held to vote for the Constitution. There was a turnout of over 66% and it was ratified by nearly 88% of the voters.

1986 – Spain’s Entry into the EEC
The Tratado de Adhesión de España to the European Economic Community (EEC), signed in June 1985, enters into force on January 1st 1986. Spain begins a new stage of economic and institutional transformation, due to European integration: member of the euro zone (January 1st 1999), of the Schengen area (March 26th 1995) and is present in European institutions such as the Council, the European Commission, the European Parliament (it has 54 representatives), the European Central Bank, etc.

1992 – Celebrations
In 1992, the Barcelona Olympics, the Fifth Centenary of the arrival of Colón in America, the Universal Exhibition of Seville and the First Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State or Government are celebrated; Madrid is the European City of Culture and the Spanish High Speed Train (AVE) is inaugurated.

2014 – Monarchy
Felipe VI becomes King of Spain, succeeding his father, Juan Carlos I.

Festivals, Celebrations and Folklore

Some of the most internationally known festivals, their date and their symbols are:

    Celebrated between December 24 and January 6 in all of Spain.
    Symbols: The belén (nativity scene) and Christmas tree; the procession of the Kings.
    Traditions: Grapes on the night of New Year’s Eve. Shoes on the eve of the Kings (January 5).
    Food & Drink: turron, Mazapan, polvorones, cava.
    Music: villancicos (carols).
    Celebrated in February in all of Spain, although the most known celebrations are those in Tenerife and Cadíz.
    Symbols: fancy dress o pageant dresses, masks.
    Traditions: parades, competitions, dances.
    Music: chirigotas in Cádiz.
    Celebrated in the month of March, for the feast day of San José (March 19)
    Symbols: fallas, ninots.
    Traditions: burning the fallas, flower offering to the Virgen.
    Celebrated in the month of March or April in all of Spain, but most famous in Andalucia.
    Symbols: Passion plays and Nazareno dress
    Traditions: Religious processions
    Music: processional marches
    Celebrated in Sevilla, normally in the month of April
    Objects: guitar, castanets, sevillana dresses and dances
    Traditions: dances, horse and cart parades with traditional dress
    Music: sevillanas
    Celebrated on April 23 in Cataluña and Baleares
    Objects: roses and books
    Traditions: gifting a rose and a book
    Celebrated 50 days after easter, usually in May, in Almonte (Huelva)
    Objects: carts, guitars, castanets, traditional Rocio costumes
    Traditions: a pilgrimage to the Rocío chapel by horse and cart (also one can walk). During the descent and at night, sevillanas music and dancing.
    Music: sevillanas y salve.
    Celebrated on the night of June 24 in all of Spain
    Traditions: lighting bonfires of old junk and jumping over it to demonstrate bravery and skill, and receive the new that is to come.
    Celebrated in July, during the fiestas of San Fermín, in Pamplona (Comunidad de Navarra)
    Objects and Dress: red handkerchief and sash; white clothes
    Traditions: running with the bulls, popular dances
    Music: Navarra jota
    Celebrated on the last Wednesday in August in Buñol (Comunidad Valenciana).
    Traditions: during the week of fiestas, amongst other traditions, there will be a day when the participants throw tomatoes at each other.

In Spain, other important holidays are also celebrated that appear in the work calendar approved annually in each community.

Each of the regions and areas of Spain has a rich folklore, which is the imprint of the cultures of its history (Celtic, Roman, Christian, Muslim…). In popular folklore it is worth noting:

  • the jota, a typical dance that is present in almost all of Spain;
  • flamenco, declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010. Among the best-known figures of flamenco are the singer Camarón de la Isla, the composer and guitarist Paco de Lucía and the dancer Sara Baras;
  • the sardana (Catalonia);
  • the muñeira (Galicia);
  • Sevillanas (Andalusia).

The typical musical instruments of Spanish folklore are: the guitar, the castanets, the gaita, the dulzaina, the acordeón, the txistu and the tamboril.

Bullfighting is a show that was born in the twelfth century. This is the festival in which brave bulls are fought on foot or on horseback in a place called “bullring”. Bullfighting is also practiced in Portugal, in the south of France and in various Latin American countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador or Mexico.

Cultural and Sporting Events

In Spain, cultural events of great relevance are celebrated every year, such as:

  • Premios Princesa de Asturias – The Princess of Asturias Awards, granted annually by the Princess of Asturias Foundation to promote scientific, cultural and humanistic values ​​that are universal heritage.
  • Los Premios Cervantes – The Cervantes Prizes, equivalent to the Nobel Prize for Hispanic writers, reward the complete literary work in Spanish by a Spanish or Hispanic-American author. The first prize was awarded to Jorge Guillén in 1976.
  • El Premio Nacional de las Letras Españolas – The National Award for Spanish Letters, awarded annually by the Ministry of Culture and Sports to reward the entire literary work of a Spanish writer, in any of the languages ​​of Spain.
  • Ferias del Libro – Book Fairs: they are held throughout Spain, usually in the spring, around Book Day, on April 23rd. Its objective is the dissemination and promotion of books and reading in Spain. The publishing sector in Spain is the main cultural industry.
  • Los Premios Goya – The Goya Awards, granted by the Spanish Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences, reward the best professionals in each of the technical and creative specialties of cinema.
  • Film festivals: the best known are those of San Sebastian, Sitges, Malaga and Valladolid.
  • Classical theatre festivals: they are usually held in summer. The most famous theatres are the Corral de las Comedias in Almagro, the Teatro Romano in Mérida and the Teatre Grec in Barcelona.
  • Feria Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo (ARCO), held annually in Madrid since 1981.

To date, the Spaniards who have received a Nobel Prize are:

  • 1904 – José Echegaray (Literature)
  • 1906 – Santiago Ramón y Cajal (Physiology & Medicine)
  • 1922 – Jacinto Benavente (Literature)
  • 1956 – Juan Ramón Jiménez (Literature)
  • 1959 – Severo Ochoa (Physiology & Medicine)
  • 1977 – Vicente Aleixandre (Literature)
  • 1989 – Camilo José Cela (Literature)
  • 2010 – Mario Vargas Llosa (Literature)


In Spain, the League and Copa del Rey soccer and basketball championships are very important; the Cycling Tour of Spain, as well as the participation of Spanish athletes in European and World Championships or the Olympic Games.

Some of the most internationally known athletes are: Rafael Nadal (tennis); Pau and Marc Gasol (basketball); Fernando Alonso (motor racing); the men’s and women’s national soccer and basketball teams; Edurne Pasabán (mountaineering); Mireia Belmonte and Gemma Mengual (swimming); Carolina Marin (badminton); Lydia Valentin (weightlifting).

The Marca España project aims to promote the image of Spain, both at home and abroad, and offers information on the successes of Spain and Spaniards with international influence.

The Honorary Ambassadors of the Marca España 2020 are: LaLiga (International Relations), Ana Botín (Business Management), ONCE (Social Action), Isabel Coixet (Art and Culture), Red de Paradores (Tourism and Gastronomy), Carolina Marín (Sports), Francisco Mojica (Science and Innovation) and José Luis Bonet (Extraordinary Accreditation).

For many years, you’ve told us how much you love what we’re doing and some of you have even asked for ways to say thanks. For us, there really is nothing easier to show someone how much you appreciate their efforts than buying them a beer (or a wine; or even a coffee) – it’s so simple. Click on the image to find out more.