7 Fascinating Maps about Spain to Geek out Over

I could probably spend hours on end poring over maps, and the fact that Spain is one of my favorite geographical subjects comes as a surprise to nobody. So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite Spanish maps I’ve stumbled across in my internet travels.

Evolution of Languages in the Iberian Peninsula (credit)

Spain is a country that is still peppered with a wide variety of dialects and independent languages (just where did Basque come from, anyway?), so it’s interesting to see how the languages spoken across the peninsula have evolved over the centuries, as Castilian came to dominate the country.

Evolution of Languages in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal)

Largest Foreign Community by Province (credit)

As evidenced by the evolution of languages map, Spain has a long history of immigration and mixed cultures. For non-Spanish speakers, brown represents German, blue English, green Portuguese, yellow Romanian, purple Bulgarian, and pink Moroccan. With a population of over 47 million, immigrants still make up a relatively small percentage of Spain, but the country’s cultural makeup is evolving and will certainly continue to look different in years to come.

Biggest foreign communities in Spain

Favorite Soccer Team by Province (credit)

Fútbol rules Spain (my kind of country!), and hardly a week went by when I was teaching English that a student didn’t ask me, “¿De qué equipo eres?” (“Which is your favorite team?” although it literally translates to “Of what team are you?” which seems to imply an even more deeply ingrained alliance than simply being a fan). Real Madrid dominates the country, even in provinces with their own local teams. ¡Hala Madrid!

Spain's favorite soccer teams by province

Percentage of Population Born Outside Each Autonomous Community  (credit)

The majority of Americans I know fled the state as soon as they graduated from high school, but most Spaniards I met were born and raised in the same area in which they now live. One small village adjacent to where I taught in Andalucía is known for having an accent very distinct from those even a few miles away and a strikingly high population of red-heads, both indicators that the vast majority of the population has stayed put over the last few decades. Not surprisingly, Madrid and the Balearic Islands (Mallorca and Ibiza can be found there) have the highest number of people born elsewhere, while the proud people of Andalucía, Extremadura, Castilla y León, and Galicia often stay close to home. [Edit: Although that is what I anecdotally observed in Madrid versus Andalucía, Manuel pointed out in the comments below that my logic was flawed in interpreting this map! It’s about how many people move into each autonomous community, not out of. Duh!]

Spain: percentage of population born outside each autonomous community

Map of Madrid’s Metro, 1926-1928

Madrid’s metro opened in 1919, and, not surprisingly, it’s grown significantly since then. I love comparing the map of today’s metro to the simple layout it had in the 20s and imagining what Madrid would have been like back in the day.

Map of Madrid's Metro, 1926-1928

Percentage of Students in Spain Studying Catholic Religion in Public Elementary Schools by Autonomous Community (credit)

Coming from a country where separation of church and state and freedom of religion are a concept that is taken extremely seriously, one of the things I was surprised by teaching in Spain is that public schools offer Catholic religion classes to students. These classes are optional, so the public school system doesn’t impose any religion on students, but it’s still very different from public schools in the U.S.

Percentage of Students in Spain Studying Catholic Religion in Public Elementary Schools by Autonomous Community

The Old Spanish and Mexican Ranchos of Los Angeles County (credit)

Sometimes I wonder if the Spanish heritage of the area I group up in means I was destined to fall in love with Spain. Anyone who’s been to California knows just how many names of streets, neighborhoods, and cities are in Spanish, and it’s clear how important the Spanish were to the development of the area. L.A. was once divided into various Spanish and then Mexican ranches, and it’s pretty neat to see how those ranches match up with modern-day areas.

Spanish and Mexican ranchos in Los Angeles

The Decline of the Spanish Empire Since 1581 (credit)

Considering what a relatively small land mass Spain occupies today, it’s amazing how extensive the Spanish Empire was in its heyday. It certainly explains why Spanish is the second most popular language in the world today and why, as mentioned above, we have so much Spanish influence in the U.S. The future projections in this animation don’t make a ton of sense, and, hey Spain, it’s okay, I wouldn’t call it a fail, but I enjoy watching the evolution nonetheless.

Evolution of the Spanish Empire
Do any of these surprise you? For more maps of Spain and elsewhere, check out the subreddit r/MapPorn, and share any neat ones you come across!

From historical maps to demographics to fun facts you never knew, here are some of the coolest maps of Spain that will change the way you see the country.

22 Responses

  1. I am such a map nerd, too (have a ton of jewelry and furnishings, and am using maps in my wedding decs!), but my favorite has to be the football teams. DUH.

    • Ooh I can’t wait to see photos of your wedding decorations! I know Real Madrid is popular, but I didn’t expect it to dominate just that much. Sevilla is a little Betis island in the sea of Real Madrid!

  2. Paige says:

    I’m also really into maps! My favorite of these has to be the languages in the Iberian peninsula. So fascinating! I wish this kind of linguistic diversity was still prominent as it used to be in Spain.

    • I love that one too! I guess having less linguistic diversity makes it easier to travel around the country, at least. And it’s neat to see how those languages have influenced different regional dialects. I took a really great Spanish dialectology class when I was studying at Complutense, and this explains a lot of the differences.

  3. Manuel says:

    As a Galician myself, one thing I’d like to point out is that the Percentage of Population Born Outside Each Autonomous Community map doesn’t reflect as much the % of people that often stay close to home, but more the % of people from other Autonomous Comunities that move to another one. Basically, Galicians have traditionally moved away from Galicia to work in other parts of Spain or abroad ( see wikipedia article about it), but almost no-one from other areas of Spain move to Galicia to work.

    Congratulations for the article, btw.

    • Oh wow, you’re completely right! That was a pretty silly logic mistake on my part! Thanks for pointing that out. To be honest, I’m surprised there aren’t more people migrating to places like Galicia and Andalucía, considering how beautiful they are.

  4. I love Spain, specially the parts without tourists. 🙂 I’ve seen beautiful places and met such nice people in Spain.
    I will miss Spain or the possibility to quickly go there for a short break once I”ve moved to/traveling Asia.

  5. Ashley says:

    I’m such a weirdo for maps and these are awesome! I especially love the ones that show changes over time, the one showing languages being my favourite.

  6. Huge cartophile over here!!! Loved staring at these maps you put together here—one I found most interesting was the foreign population. I can attest to the fact that Moroccans make up the highest immigrant population in Jaén province, where I lived two years ago, but I was not aware that there were so many Portuguese in NW Spain; I’ve never come across a Portuguese restaurant in Galicia so far (although perhaps I haven’t looked hard enough!)

    • Hm, that’s surprising! I mean, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to pick them out based on their appearance, but you would think there would be more restaurants. Maybe they just hop on over the border for their fix of food 😛

  7. Maps are so amazing!
    Visually I love the old world looking one as i love the pictorial elements 😉
    But the first language map is fascinating seeing the Arabic Moor influence slowly getting pushed back .

  8. What a fabulous article, and – loving the London Underground maps – found the simple Madrid metro map fascinating. For reasons not for now, we have a soft spot for Valencia but, hey, we are in Granada!. We are going to pore over these maps for sometime. Thank you.

  9. Courtney says:

    I seriously LOVE this. I’ll geek out over maps any day, but these are particularly fascinating! I thought the language one was so interesting. And the last map is a big fat reminder of how little Spanish history I actually know… time to go brush up 😉

  10. Tess says:

    WOW love this! I love Spain and maps! Thanks for sharing (I am going to share this on twitter!)

  11. pedro says:

    Spanish Imperium for 80 year included also Portugal and all their colonies. Its explorers got to Alaska and it possessions in Europe I think were greater than what your map shows.

  1. February 8, 2015

    […] 7 visualizaciones del mapa de España curiosas de ver. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *