Spain. Visit Countryaah official website to get information about the capital city of Spain. The Basque separatist movement ETA (Euskadi ta Azkatasuna, Basque Country and Freedom) declared late in the fall that it intended to resume its armed struggle for an independent Basque country. In September 1998, ETA announced an unconditional ceasefire and began negotiations with the Spanish government. But negotiations have been slow since ETA has set demands that the Spanish government with Prime Minister José María Aznar at the head could not accept. ETA demanded, among other things, that its imprisoned members would be released and that a referendum in the Basque region would determine whether total autonomy would be introduced, implied independence, instead of the extensive autonomy that now prevails. In addition, ETA wanted three convicted ETA men to lead their negotiating delegation – one of which has, among other things, was convicted of attempted murder against Spain’s King Juan Carlos.
ETA’s announcement that it would resume its armed struggle triggered a storm of protest throughout Spain where people marched in large demonstration trains against the violence. The government announced that there would be no more talks with ETA until the organization had distanced itself from violent acts. ETA responded by starting again to send threatening letters to businessmen in the Basque Country. Extortion of businessmen and ransom in case of kidnappings have long been the organization’s main sources of income.
At the autumn regional elections in Catalonia, the Union Party (CiU, Convergència in Unió) with party leader Jordi Pujol at the head won a tight victory. A loss to the party would have meant a threat to Prime Minister Aznar, who needs the Catalans’ support to retain government power.
In the spring, the Swedish company Boliden was granted permission to restart the quarrying of zinc in the Los Frailes mine outside Seville. Operation had been stalled since the dam, where heavy metal-containing residual products from the mine were stored, burst in the summer of 1998 and caused an environmental disaster around the Doñana National Park. The park was threatened again on New Year’s Eve when close to 50 million toxic water leaked from a pond where residual products from a fertilizer plant were stored not far from the Boliden mine. However, the leaks could be sealed fairly quickly.
In the fall, the Spanish lawyer Juan Garcés was awarded the Alternate Nobel Prize, or the Right Livelihood Prize, together with two other award winners. The three had a share of SEK 1.8 million. Juan Garcés was rewarded for his hard work to bring Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet to trial. Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon last year requested that Pinochet be extradited from the UK where he was staying for medical treatment. Garcés investigates cases involving Spaniards who were murdered or disappeared in Chile between 1973 and 1990. The British courts have found it compatible with the law that the 83-year-old, who has been in house arrest in London since late 1998, can be extradited to Spain.
In September, Spain rejected a request from Chile for mediation in the case. When Spain declined, Chile called home its ambassador from Madrid. Chile then announced its intention to draw Spain before the International Court of Justice in The Hague in order to try to stop the expulsion of the former dictator.
Few cities can compete with Madrid in terms of art museums and art collections. These of course have the rich Spanish classical art as the main object, but the palace of the Habsburg kings came to include many works also by Flemish, Dutch, Italian and German masters. Of the art museums, Prado is the foremost, inaugurated as a royal art museum in 1819. Adjacent to Prado is also the Palacio de Villahermosa, where a large part of the German-born industrialist Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s art collections, now redeemed by the Spanish state, is housed.
Other cultural institutions in the same part of the city, near the large Parque del Retiro, include the National Library and the Botanical Garden. The 20th century art, including Picasso’s “Guernica”, is well represented in the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía near the latter. On the opposite side of the city center is the royal palace with collections of tapestries and Armería Real, the royal rust chamber. To the north there is a relocated Egyptian temple from Debod and further north to the University City. Between these poles in the east and west are found, among other things. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts museum with a number of classics, not least Goya and Zurbarán.
Theater life is rich; Among the significant scenes are the Teatro María Guerrero and the opera stage Teatro Real. Madrid houses a large Islamic cultural center, with mosques for all faiths in Islam, conference facilities, libraries and theater.
In 1992, Madrid was the European Capital of Culture.
Madrid was founded in the 8th century under the name of Majrit as a small Moorish village with a fortress. The city was finally re-conquered in 1083 by Alfonson VI of Castile and León. During the following centuries, several cortes took place in Madrid. Emperor Charles V used Madrid as a temporary residence and kept Frans I imprisoned there in 1525–26.
Madrid became a permanent political center only when Philip II moved the court there in 1561. The city then had just under 10,000 residents, but then began to expand. Several of the Castilian golden age cultural foregrounds during the 17th century were active in Madrid, for example. Lope de Vega and Quevedo as well. The city was particularly favored by the Bourbon dynasty, which came to power after the Spanish war of succession 1701–14, and during the reign of Charles III (1759–88) it was adorned with some of its most emblematic monuments. A popular uprising against Napoleon’s troops in Madrid in May 1808 became the starting point of the Spanish War of Independence 1808-13. During the rest of the 19th century, the city was the foremost scene of Spain’s dramatic domestic political struggles.
Madrid’s capitulation to Franco in March 1939 marked the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). The post-war period was dominated by population explosion and violent industrialization, which turned Madrid into Spain’s second industrial city after Barcelona. Following Franco’s death in 1975, Madrid’s authorities have placed particular emphasis on improving urban planning and promoting the city’s cultural life.
In March 2004, Madrid was hit by a terrorist attack. Ten bombs on four local trains on the way to Madrid’s central station, Atocha, exploded, killing 191 people and injuring over 1,800. The perpetrators were linked to the terror-stamped organization al-Qaeda.