Do You Talk Politics in Spanish?

By admin ~ February 11th, 2011 @ 9:15 am

The four keys to Spanish politics.

Hi! I’ve been living in Spain for almost twenty years. My wife is Spanish, my colleagues are Spanish, my customers are Spanish and by businesses are Spanish. Over these years I think I’ve learned quite a bit about “being Spanish”.

If you want to get into the under-exploited fast-growing Spanish market, you need to know more than just how to speak Spanish. You need to understand Spanish customs, Spanish etiquette and Spanish business culture. Otherwise, you’ll just be another American trying to “sell Spanish”.

There are three favorite topics of conversation in Spain: Football (soccer) Sex. Politics. Right now we’re going to talk about politics.

To understand Spanish politics you must be aware of four key issues: The legacy of Francisco Franco. The nationalists and the autonomous regions. Eta and the fight against terrorism. The Spanish integration into Europe Spain is a constitutional monarchy which was formed after forty years under the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Franco gained power after a bloody civil war whose scars are still evident in the Spanish society. Many people’s grandparents fought and died in the war on both sides.

Although Spain is now a consolidated European democracy the times of Franco left very clear marks. In the Spanish press its common to hear references to the “two Spains” characterized by the more conservative right and the liberal left. After almost thirty years, neither party maintains any ties to the old regime, but history is always a fair weapon to use against political adversaries. The truth is that both major parties in Spain are more to the left than the democrats are in the U.S.A.

One of the principle legacies of the dictatorship is the no resolution of many small “nationalisms” inside Spain. In fact, Spain has four official languages and the central government is in constant negotiations with the three principle nationalist groups in order to maintain itself in power. These three groups belong to the Basque, Galician and Catalan regions.

Due to the complicated electoral system in Spain, the nationalists have more power than there numbers would suggest as reasonable. In fact, they almost always act as “hinge” parties which are able to effect the balance of powers in Madrid. In order to assure this power, the nationalist parties are continually looking for reasons to “sell” their ideas to the people who live in their regions. This makes for very interesting politics!

Without a doubt the most negative force in Spanish politics is the Basque terrorist group called Eta. This group has been setting off bombs and shooting people for over forty years. Although progress has been made, they are still a serious problem for every Spanish government.

Finally, the incorporation of Spain in the European community and the adoption of the euro (abandoning the peseta) has been the most overwhelming force acting on Spanish society for the past two decades. Most of the major infrastructures have been built using European funds and the spectacular growth of the Spanish economy is largely due to the benefits of joining the EC.

If you want to do business in Spain, it’s a good idea to understand the basics of their political system.
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