The cultures of Spain are European cultures based on a variety of historical influences, primarily that of Ancient Rome, pre-Roman Celtic, Iberian culture, Phoenicians and the Moors. The subsequent course of Spanish history added other elements to the country’s culture and traditions.
The apex of Spain’s social pyramid is occupied by the royal family, followed by the titled nobility and aristocratic families. In today’s modern and democratic Spain, the circles around the royal family, titled nobility, and old aristocrats are ever widened by individuals who are endowed with social standing by virtue of achievements in business, public life, or cultural activity.
The institution of Marriage
Spaniards today marry for mutual attraction and shun the idea of arranged marriages. Class consciousness and material self-interest, however, lead people to socialize and marry largely within their own social classes or to aim for a match with a spouse who is better off.
Traditionally, access to property was an important concern with well-being often counting for more than love. But today marriage is considered a partnership, although different input is expected of the two sexes, and the rearing of a family is regarded as central to it.
Remarriage for widowed individuals beyond childbearing age was traditionally greeted with community ribaldry, since a sexual relationship was being entered into without the end of family-building. These views and customs are becoming archaic. Divorce is now permitted; liaisons outside of marriage are increasingly common and accepted; and the economics of marriage for most people are freed from the ties to landed property that obtained when Spain was more heavily rural and agrarian.
Most Spaniards live in nuclear-family households of parents and unmarried children, and this is widely held as ideal. A Spanish saying goes “casado casa quiere ” (“a married person wants a house”). Older couples or unmarried adults tend to live on their own.
Two kinds of household formations produce stem families.
Where estates are impartible, the married heir lives and raises his children on the parental estate and expects his heir to do likewise.
Where estates are divided, an adult heir may nonetheless stay on with his or her parents on their house site. This is often the youngest child, who agrees to stay on in the aging parents’ household.
The acknowledged strains between co-resident married couples suggest that indeed casado casa quiere, and demographers find the stem-family régime to be waning. This does not mean that the philosophy of estate impartibility is any weaker, however, in areas where it is traditional.
Culture of Kinship
All Spaniards reckon kinship in effectively the same way: bilaterally and using an Eskimo-type terminology—the same as most Europeans and Americans. Kinship relations beyond the household are nonetheless supremely important in social life.
Family and relatives are defined broadly (without genealogical limits) and inclusively (embracing in-laws as well as blood relatives) to create a large pool of relations beyond the limits of any single household or locality.
Within this pool, people socialize as much by choice as by obligation. Although this field of relations is at best loosely structured and relations between kinsmen from different households must be viewed as voluntary, kinship networks are extraordinarily important in Spaniards’ lives and serve as vital connectors in many realms, influencing such choices as those of residence, occupation, migration, and even marriage. Despite diminishing family size, the Spanish family as an instituted set of relationships remains extremely strong.