The Puerta del Sol is at kilometer zero for Spain's road system. Spain's population of 39,852,651 in early 1999 represented a slight decline from levels earlier in the decade.The population had increased significantly in every previous decade of the twentieth century, rising from under nineteen million in 1900.
Other entities in Iberia are the Principality of Andorra in the Pyrenees and Gibraltar, which is under British sovereignty and is located on the south coast. The Atlantic Ocean washes Spain's north coast, the far northwest corner adjacent to Portugal, and the far southwestern zone between the Portuguese border and the Strait of Gibraltar.
Spain is separated from North Africa on the south by the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea, which also washes Spain's entire east coast.
The populations least likely to feel Spanish are Catalans and Basques, although these large, complex regional populations are by no means unanimous in their views.
The Basque language is unrelated to any living language or known extinct ones; this fact is the principal touchstone of a Basque sense of separateness.
Cataluña has had greater autonomy in the past and had, at different times, as close ties with southwestern France as with Spain.
The Catalan language, like Spanish, is a Romance language, lacking the mysterious distinction that Basque has.
This growing power was soon to be enhanced by the Crown's monopoly (vis-a-vis other regions and the rest of Europe) on all that accrued from Christopher Columbus's discovery of the New World, which occurred under Crown sponsorship.
Madrid, already at the time an ancient Castilian town, was selected as Spain's capital in 1561, replacing the court's former home, Valladolid.
Others are Andalucía and the Canary Islands; Aragón; Asturias; Castile; Extremadura; León; Murcia; and Navarra, whose regional identities are strong but whose language, if in some places dialectic, is mutually intelligible with the official Castilian Spanish.