'Cultural identities come from somewhere, have histories. But, like everything which is historical, they undergo constant transformation. Far from being eternally fixed in some essentialised past, they are subject to the continuous "play" of history, culture and power' (Stuart Hall, 'Cultural Identity and Diaspora' in Jonathan Rutherford (ed.), Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990, pp. 222-37).
As an example of a country where the national cultural identity has undergone extensive transformation throughout history, Spain has repeatedly sought to define new cultural values, social structures and beliefs regarding what it truly 'means' to be Spanish. Some of these changes, rather than developing through contemporary society itself, have been passed on from existing traditions, or in other cases, 'forced' upon the Spanish people by the country's rulers. In the modern, democratic post-Franco era, the cultural identity which has developed was forged in a time of rebellion against the form of Catholic nationalism which the Francoist regime sought to impose upon the population. However, the Francoist ideology, in itself, bore little similarity with that which prevailed during the Spanish Golden Age in the 15th to 17th Centuries, despite Catholicism also being integral to the Spanish identity at this point in history. In this sense, it can be argued that, whilst religion has often provided something of a foundation for the Spanish cultural identity, many of its evolutions can be linked to the prevailing ideologies of the nation's rulers at given points in Spanish history.
Jordan and Morgan-Tamosunas (2000: 3-4) describe how identity "...emerges in the interplay between what we call a 'discourse', a sort of language or mode of language use... and our willingness to be called upon, to be 'hailed' by that discourse...and step into the slot or subject position it constructs for us". Discourse can take many forms, and the success of certain forms of discourse is largely dependent on the prevailing social contexts of the period in question. Thus, it is possible to conclude that events in history, and actions taken by those people in positions of power, can have an influence on cultural identity; the discourse and ideology of such significant 'players' in the key points of a nation's history have the capacity to impact upon a whole culture, and as Jordan and Morgan-Tamosunas acknowledge (2000: 3), "cultural changes have probably had the deepest impact on our sense of who we are".
In the Golden Age (or 'Siglo de Oro') of Spanish history, the prevailing ideology had largely been influenced by the Catholic religion; after all, the Spanish state had only been forged through the exclusion of all other religions or concepts which were not considered to be Spanish - most definitively with the ultimate expulsion of the 'moriscos' in 1609, but in reality, a gradual marginalisation of all other religions or ideologies had been taking place ever since the end of the 'Reconquista' in 1492. Those who were considered to be true Spaniards were welcomed into society, and the doctrine of 'limpieza de sangre' ('cleanliness of blood') sought to 'purify' Spanish society, giving increased status to those who could prove themselves to have 'old' Christian ancestry, whilst devaluing those whose Christian ancestry had been 'tainted' by influence from the Jewish or Muslim religions. This strongly Catholic society was symbolically reinforced by the addition of Catholic features to the famous Alhambra palace, which had been the residence of the previous Muslim rulers of Granada. The choice to build the Palace of Charles V at this historic site would not have been accidental, nor its significance in terms of reinforcing the authority of Catholic tradition in Spain unappreciated. The Alhambra also proved to be the site where the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, granted Christopher Columbus funds for his maiden voyage to the 'New World' in 1492. Columbus's voyages inspired the famous 'Conquistadores', whose conquests were crucial in establishing Imperial Spain as a global power. In a society where honour, ancestry and nobility were of enormous value, the quest for wealth and an increased social status influenced the actions of many Spaniards, not least the conquistadors; Elliott (2002: 65) quotes Bernal Díaz del Castillo, "a devoted companion" of the famous conquistador Cortés, as saying "We came here to serve God and the king, and also to get rich". The ostensible aim of the conquests was to spread the word of Christianity to an uncivilised 'New World', but the conquistador was acutely aware, as Elliott (2002: 66) also notes, that "if he survived, he would go back rich to a world where riches conferred rank and power". It can consequently be concluded that, whilst the foundations of much of Golden Age Spanish culture were inextricably linked to Catholic orthodoxy, the nation's cultural identity was also associated with a desire for ever-greater wealth, and thus an elevated position in the social hierarchy.
A strict Catholic orthodoxy once again became integral to Spanish culture under the Nationalist regime of General Franco from 1939 to 1975. Under Franco's authoritarian rule, as De Meneses notes (2001: 87), Franco wanted to "preserve Spain from change, or even to return it to a mythical time when there was no regionalist feeling, when the Catholic church dictated both social norms and the pace of intellectual progress, when the army was respected, and when the workers - in rural and urban areas - had no power." An extreme orthodox form of Catholicism, as part of Franco's 'nacionalcatolicismo' ideology, was adopted, with the exclusion of other ideologies, under strict censorship, mirroring the period following the end of the 'Reconquista'.
However, where these two examples of change in the fabric of Spanish culture differ somewhat is in the exact manifestation of censorship by the rulers of the country. Whereas the emphasis in Golden Age Spain was on the exclusion of other religions and their supposed negative influences on the pure 'Old Christians', the Francoist period saw greater censorship applied to concepts such as regional identity, particularly through the medium of languages. In Franco's regime, there was no place for the regionalist tendencies exhibited by many of the Republican fighters in the Spanish Civil War; many of those supporting the Republicans were Basque or Catalan citizens seeking autonomy for their respective regions. The Basque and Catalan dialects, along with those of other regions (such as Galician), were, according to Thompson (2007: 29), "treated as inferior dialects...denounced as unpatriotic and eliminated from official business, the communications media and public utterances", in favour of the more recognised 'Castillian' Spanish. Francoist propaganda from the Civil War (University of Lyon) proclaimed "Si eres español, habla español", and the Spanish people were considered duty-bound to "propagar la belleza de nuestro magnífico idioma castellano". Indeed, propaganda played a crucial role in cultivating a unified national identity for Franco's Spain, both during and after the Civil War. A statement released by Franco on the 18th July 1938 (Spartacus Educational) clearly expresses this objective of achieving unity through religious and military means: "The nation needs unity to face modem problems...separatism and class war must be abolished...the new leaders must be characterized by austerity, morality, and industry...Spaniards must adopt the military and religious virtues of discipline and austerity. All elements of discord must be removed". Although this statement was released during the Civil War itself, it clearly demonstrates the nationalist ideology with which Franco approached his ultimate role as 'Generalíssimo'. It also provokes further comparisons with the social cohesion created in Golden Age Spain; once again, a unified cultural identity, or 'self', is only created through the expulsion or strict censorship of discordant 'other' elements of society, whether these elements take the form of religious, political or linguistic opposition.
The Francoist social model, as Thompson (2007:30) describes, was mirrored in the home: "The individual was seen primarily as a member of a family with a structure that matched that of the state, under the absolute authority of the father". Consequently, the Spanish cultural identity, at all levels of society, could be described as patriarchal; Thompson adds that "the centrality of the family to the Francoist conception of social structure and national identity meant an insistence on rigidly fixed gender roles". Richardson (2001: 121-2) describes how the Franco era dictated how the woman's place was "in the home", and how the "husband's power over his wife was not only a social reality, but was also written into law"; Franco's rise to power saw the return of the 1889 Civil Code and 'permiso marital' laws, which, as Bullen (2003: 172) describes, "meant that without her husband's authorization a married woman was unable to undertake any kind of activity outside the home". However, towards the end of Franco's rule, opposition against this patriarchal model of society grew, particularly among the younger generations, and as Spain moved into its 'Transition' following Franco's death, the rise of the 'Movida madrileña', and the increased sense of freedom within this movement, gained momentum. The movement had been instigated by the more tolerant liberal attitudes towards issues which had previously been considered 'taboo' in the austere, Catholic Franco years. One notable exponent of this movement was the director Pedro Almodóvar, and it was his critically-acclaimed 1988 feature film 'Las mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios' which was particularly noted for its farcical subversion of the gender and social models so prevalent under Franco's rule. Throughout the film, it is women, not men, who are in control of proceedings and authority (such as the lawyer Paulina Morales) with the male characters portrayed as weaker, more emotionally pliable and less powerful. The final scenes encompass a total reversal of the patriarchal stereotype, with Pepa cast as the 'heroine', coming to the airport not to salvage her relationship with Iván, who is left broken-hearted by her refusal to 'kiss and make up', but rather to rescue Iván from being attacked by the maniacal Lucía. This 'role reversal', giving women greater power and freedom, was at least partially reflected in reality, with the legalisation of divorce, abortion, and an end to the 'permiso marital' system of patriarchal superiority. Other features of the film, such as the 'drugged' gazpacho soup, are used symbolically to represent this new liberalisation of Spanish culture in the post-Franco years; the traditional aspect of Spanish culture (in this case, the gazpacho) is given a modern, liberal 'twist', mirroring the liberalism with which many aspects of the Spanish cultural identity were undergoing a process of change during, and even following, the Spanish Transition.
With this increased democratic liberalisation also came the recognition of the different dialects, and the right to autonomy for the Catalan, Basque and Galician regions. However, as Thompson (2007: 34) writes, "the 'Estado de las Autonomías'... quickly turned into 'café para todos'...(bringing) varying degrees of autonomy for all parts of Spain". For many Spaniards, the sense of regional identity appears at least as strong as the sense of national pride, resulting in statistics such as those of a 1997 CIS survey, quoted by Richardson (2007:32), with 54.7% of 'young Spaniards (aged 15-29)' considering themselves as showing "an equal commitment both to being Spanish and to belonging to their Autonomous Community". Furthermore, as Thompson (2007: 35) describes, a policy and discourse of "linguistic normalisation" has been pursued by the Catalan government, giving greater prominence to the Catalan dialect, albeit possibly at the risk of creating an "oppressive 'official' nationalism" for those who live in the region as "monolingual Castillian speakers". These efforts at promoting Catalan have clearly had a tangible effect; for instance, Catalan has increasingly become the language of commerce, with 49.2% of Catalunya's population speaking "only Catalan" in financial institutions according to a 2003 survey for Idescat, which also indicated that 50.1% of Catalan citizens speak Catalan as their "habitual language". Such evidence adds credence to the concept that regional cultural identities arguably carry as much significance to Spanish people as their national identity, particularly in the regions which have fought the longest for autonomous independence.
In conclusion, it is evident that Spanish national cultural identity has evolved almost constantly through the centuries, and the process continues today, with many Spaniards considering themselves part of their Autonomous Community as much, or perhaps even more than, their country. The foundations of this cultural identity were built upon Catholic traditions, which were strongly supported by Franco at the expense of more liberal, modern ideologies being employed in other Western European countries at the time of his rule. However, it could be argued that since the demise of Francoism, Spanish national identity is now better defined than ever before, now that the many regions of Spain are able to exhibit their own idiosyncrasies, without being coerced into a repressive 'unity from above'.
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