The New Faces of Spain

By Mcguire, Stryker; Daly, Emma | Newsweek International, May 8, 2000 | Go to article overview

The New Faces of Spain


Mcguire, Stryker, Daly, Emma, Newsweek International


There was dancing in the streets of Madrid. It was election night, March 12. Jose Maria Aznar had just led his center-right Popular Party to a big victory over the Socialists, winning an outright majority when many had predicted a less conclusive outcome. "Torero!" roared the crowd outside party headquarters, as they would to a matador executing an artful kill. Up in the balcony, the prime minister eschewed triumphalism. It was his second victory in four years. He could afford to be statesmanlike and embrace all of Spain's people--from all of its sometimes quarrelsome regions, all of its parties. "We are all necessary to the progress of Spain," he said. Privately, though, he savored the importance of what he had accomplished. As he told his friend, the newspaper editor Pedro Ramirez: "This [election] means the end of the Civil War."

These are heady times in Spain. A world power that was humbled across the centuries as it lost its empire and then plunged into sterile isolation in the 20th, Spain is at last truly emerging from the shadows. As with the British Empire, there was a time when the sun never set on Spanish possessions; unlike Britain, Spain did not lose gracefully. An embittered country was torn asunder by Civil War in the late 1930s. The victor, Generalisimo Francisco Franco, presided over a debilitating, authoritarian dark age of Spanish history. His death in 1975 opened Spain to massive change. But only now--with the old Francoist right and the old Socialist left converging on a sensible middle ground--has Spain attained the kind of political maturity that will allow it to contemplate anything like greatness. "Aznar created the center, and everyone wants to be in the center," says Emilio Lamo de Espinosa, director of the Ortega y Gasset Institute, a Madrid think tank. …

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