Culture is one of the most valuable aspects of the projection and identity of Spain worldwide. Monuments like the Alhambra, the Sagrada Familia and the Santiago cathedral; legendary texts like those of El Quijote, Bécquer and the poetry of Lorca; the brushstrokes of Velázquez, Goya and Picasso; or the taste of paella, gazpacho and wine form part of the DNA of a country whose cultural influence has remained very much alive today.
According to the results of the latest study on The reputation of Spain worldwide by the Reputation Institute and the Elcano Royal Institute, Spain “makes a major contribution to global culture; and it was here that many well-known artists, scientists, inventors, writers, sports people and politicians were born”. With a score of 72.9 points out of 100, it is ranked ninth amongst those countries that have contributed most to global culture out of a total of 55 countries analysed, with Italy, France and the UK leading the way.
The RepTrak index from the Reputation Institute also confirms that culture features amongst those attributes of Spain that are most appreciated by citizens all over the world. Cultural diversity, the variety of our languages and the historic bonds with those countries that speak also Spanish are just some of the bases for the cultural strength of Spain.
Vast historical and cultural heritage
With such an extensive, rich history, it is no surprise that UNESCO has recognised 47 places in Spain as heritage of humanity, making us the third ranked country in the world by number of places with this denomination, only behind Italy and China. The Córdoba Mosque, the historic case of Segovia, the Alhambra in Granada, the modernism of Gaudí, the caves of Altamira and the city of Toledo are just some of the enclaves whose universal value has been recognized by UNESCO. In addition to those customs and traditions regarded as Intangible Cultural Heritage such as Flamenco, the Mediterranean diet, the Courtyards of Córdoba, the Fallas of Valencia or the Tamborradas. With 18 acknowledgments -14 of them exclusive to Spain – Spain is the fourth ranked country with the most designations of this type by UNESCO.
In addition to the monuments, cities and traditions with universal projection, Spain has an array of central institutions in the Spanish cultural system which are also institutions of European culture. The Prado Museum, which houses masterpieces by universal artists like Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Rafael and Tiziano, is regarded as the third best museum in Europe and the fifth best in the world, according to the Traveller’s Choice awards at the TripAdvisor website. The National Library, with a collection of 26 million items compiled during its history of more than 300 years, is on the list of the 25 best libraries in the world compiled by The Writers’ Academy, from Penguin Random House, along with other references such as the US Library of Congress and the National Library of France.
And there are also other worldwide landmarks such as the National Archaeological Museum, the MNCA Reina Sofía, the Contemporary Culture Center of Barcelona and the National Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza and the more recent additions such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. As well as guaranteeing and promoting access to culture, these major cultural players are also responsible for an ever larger part of the eighty million people who visit Spain every year.
The cultural sector is a significant source of economic wealth: its contribution to the GDP is around 3%; it employs almost seven hundred thousand people in more than one hundred thousand companies; it accounts for 2.5% of the expenses of homes on goods and services; and it produces public expenditure of around five billion Euros a year.
A third of the economic activity of culture is generated by the publishing sector which for decades now has been a leader in the worldwide production of books in Spanish and has impulsed some of the major contemporary literary movements.
The audio-visual field, thanks to international cooperation in the Iberoamerican market and the originality of our creators, has taken the vision of Spain to screens worldwide. What’s more, according to the report by Deloitte Free-access TV. Contribution to Spanish society. The Shaping role of Free-access TV in the framework of Cultural and Creative Industries, from 2017, the Spanish free-access channels are ranked fourth worldwide and second in Europe in exporting TV formats. The production of series contributes around 655 million Euros to GDP, according to the report “The opportunity of fiction content” by PwC (2019) which also highlights Spanish series like La Casa de Papel and Elite as being amongst the most viewed worldwide on streaming platforms.
Networks to expand Spanish culture
Spanish culture, despite its potential and attraction, is based on a powerful network of cultural institutions which promote Spanish cultural projection abroad through the coordinated action of the Culture and Foreign Ministries. In Latin America, Africa and the US, the 19 cultural centres managed by the AECID maintain the link with Spanish culture in Spanish-speaking countries. The public company Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) provides extensive, diverse programming to diplomatic delegations and centres abroad, as well as promoting the mobility of our creators and demonstrating the innovation of our creative sector at international events and exhibitions.
The most extensive network is that of the Cervantes Institute, with 87 centres and classrooms in 44 countries in five continents whose duties include not only the promotion of the languages of Spain, but also the projection abroad of the cultural creation of Spain. Alongside them, several autonomous cultural institutes such as Etxepare, Institut Ramon Llull and numerous networks of cultural associations and houses look after the culture of Spain abroad.