Spain has given a lot to the world over the centuries through its people's inventiveness. Obvious examples are flamenco, paella, tapas, and sangria. Some would herald the country, others would condemn it, for inventing bullfighting. But Spain has also invented many other less obvious items... or at least it claims to.
Because not only are the Spanish inventive with their hands, they can also be inventive with their words too (not that the Spanish are unique here - anyone involved in myth-making will bend the truth somewhat). Whether all of these inventions really came from Spain or not is debatable. Decide for yourselves which of these famous things really were Spanish inventions.
- Ten things that are definitely not true: Myths and Misconceptions About Spain
Let's start with the big one. That's right, it is claimed that the world's favorite soft drink was invented in Spain. Though the official line is that Coca-Cola was invented by a pharmacist in Atlanta, the citizens of Ayelo de Malferit, near Valencia, say it actually originated there.
JuanJo Mica claims that his great-great uncle invented the drink, at the time called Nuez de Kola Coca, in 1884 and took it to the United States, where it won a prize at a fair in Philadelphia. He then apparently sold the recipe to the Americans.
Likely? There is plenty of photographic evidence for a Spanish drink from this period called Nuez de Kola Coca (see this page for a picture of the Spanish Kola Coca, or this Spanish Kola Coca advertisement). However, precisely which came first is debatable, especially as copyright and patent laws were fuzzier then than they are today. Check out this page for more on the legal disputes between the American and Spanish Coca-Cola Companies.
The story has a lot in common with that of Budweiser and Budvar (called Czechvar in the US), which may give it some credence.
Again the Valencians make a bold claim - that they invented the game of chess! The rumor resurfaced during a recent Kasparov match that took place in the city. But with so many learned intellectuals interested in chess, is it a bad move to make such a grand claim?
Likely? This article, Valencia and the Origins of Modern Chess, doesn't make the claim that the game was originally thought up in Spain, but it does say that radical rule changes took place in the 15th century, and that "all contemporary sources point towards Spain". So it seems this one is true.
3. Christopher Columbus's Discovery of the New World
Parts of this are in no doubt - it was indeed the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that financed Columbus's voyage to the New World.
However, many in Spain go further and claim that Columbus himself was born in Spain. Both Wikipedia and the Britannica encyclopedias say the explorer was born in Genoa in present-day Italy. However, many Catalans (the inhabitants of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands) claim that he came from their part of Spain, many specifically saying he was born on Ibiza. One article, Christopher Columbus, was he Catalan?, says his coat of arms was Catalan.
Likely? It is ironic that though we all know where Columbus went, no-one seems sure where he came from! The pride associated with claiming where Columbus comes from means it is unlikely many can be objective about his birthplace. But it seems likely to me that such a wandering spirit would have had similar nomadic parents - so even if he was born in Genoa, his family may well have been from Ibiza.
4. Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle
The start to every Disney movie begins with the famous Sleeping Beauty castle - and the citizens of Segovia swear the castle was based on one in their city.
Likely? See for yourself: the picture to the left is of the Segovia castle, and here are a few Sleeping Beauty Castle Pictures. So, they both have the turrets, and the turrets are the same colour. But Germany has countless more similar castles (check out these Pictures of Sleeping Beauty's Castle in Germany), with the Neuschwanstein castle the most likely model for the Disney icon. Sorry, Segovia, it looks like you're mistaken.
Sherry is a drink associated with every British grandmother, and many popular brands have British names, such as Harveys. A popular type of sherry is even called "Bristol Cream", but who ever heard of a Spanish town called Bristol? So why do the Spanish say sherry is Spanish?
Likely? Hundred per cent true. Sherry comes from the Spanish town of Jerez, near Cadiz, in Andalusia. The English pronunciation comes from the Arabic name for the town, Sherish.
So why the English names for so many of the brands? This comes from the strong British presence in the area. The ports here were important for trade with Britain, as well as for political reasons - the Protestant Huguenots fled here from France, where they were helped by the English.
This connection also led to another surprising cultural exchange...
6. Fish and Chips
Fish and chips?! Could this one be true? Could the most famous dish in the UK come from Spain? Many foolishly claim the only dish to come from the UK is fish and chips - so how could it come from Spain?
Likely? As mentioned above, the British had strong connections with the south-west of Spain. Andalusia is famous for its freidurias, fried fish shops, and the best one can be found in Cadiz. Check out the picture to the left of Fried Fish in Cadiz - look familiar? It looks a lot like a British fish and chip shop to me, albeit with even more types of fish in this Cadiz restaurant than you'd find in the UK.
However, I've rarely ever had good chips, or fries, in Spain, so the marriage of fried fish and fried potato most certainly did not originate in Spain. British chips come from Belgium.
7. The Acoustic Guitar
Probably the most famous of the rumored Spanish inventions on this page (many refer to the acoustic guitar as the "Spanish guitar"). But is it true?
Likely? This isn't disputed. As with chess, the guitar wasn't invented, it evolved. But most attribute the modern acoustic guitar to a Spaniard, Antonio Torres Jurado.
8. The Beret
The beret is usually associated with a garlic smelling Frenchman who carries a baguette and wears a string of onions around his neck. But is this stereotype appropriate? Or can the Spanish have this one?
I've only ever seen a couple of Frenchmen wear berets, and I lived in Paris for over a year. Where I have seen numerous berets is in the Basque Country in northern Spain. But just because the fashion has endured there doesn't mean it was necessarily invented there.
Likely? In fact, no-one disputes the fact that the beret is Basque. But the Basque Country straddles Spain and France, with Pyrenean shepherds usually credited with starting the fashion. When you're herding sheep up a bitterly cold mountain, it is likely you'll have more important things on your mind than whether you're in France or Spain (especially as the locals claim that they are neither - they're just Basque) so maybe we should similarly give up on such needless distinctions. Let's give this one to both France and Spain.
9. The Mop
The mop? Yes, apparently the mop is a Spanish invention. That is what this article, A Spaniard Invented the Mop?, claims. It is said that the Spaniard Emilio Bellvis thought up the present-day mop-and-bucket combination.
Likely? Historians generally have more perplexing conundrums to, erm, mop up, so I think we can give this one to them.
10. Table Football
If you speak English over a table football in Spain, some local with a strong patriotic spirit (isn't that all of them?) will stumble over to you and tell you that the game is Spanish. But many in the English world assume it to be German - after all, many call it foosball, from the German Fußball.
Likely? For a start, let's clear up the German name: it is not called Fußball in Germany, this is the name for soccer, or football, in general. The formal name is Tischfußball ("Table football") or, more commonly, "Kicker". No-one knows why the English-speaking world gives it this cod German name.
The first patent for table football does belong to a Spaniard, Alejandro Finisterre, though he credits his friend, Francisco Javier Altuna, with the invention. However, it seems that here the Spanish jumped the gun a little on the patent front - most attribute the invention of the game to either a Briton, Evan Dube, or French Citroen worker Lucien Rosengart.
11. The Submarine
The mop-related article above also claims that the Spanish invented the submarine. Is this true?
Seafarers and spies (and seafaring spies) had dreamed of traveling under the sea longer than anyone had wanted to get to the moon. So, unsurprisingly, this is another one that was tried with various degrees of luck by various nationalities through the ages. But which country can definitely claim it was they who invented the submarine as we know it today. Maybe it was the Spanish?
Likely? The first submarine was human-propelled, and was invented during the American Civil War, with help from the French, not the Spanish.
The first non-human propelled submarine was also invented by the French. The submarine was called the Plongeur, which sounds to me like something you'd unblock your sink with.
So where do the Spanish come in? Apparently, they invented the first combustion-powered submarine (the Ictineo II, converted to steam-propulsion in 1867). They were also behind the Peral submarine, the first all electric submarine.
So, while the Spanish were pioneers in making the things move, calling them the 'inventors' is a tough call.
12. ...And Just About Everything Else You Can Think Of
Usually, if you're asked to guess where something was invented, your best guess will be the Greeks or the Chinese. But I've found an interesting article that suggests most things we take for granted today were invented by Muslims, much of which originated in Muslim-ruled Spain (Spain was ruled by Muslims, to various extents, for four hundred years, up until the end of the 15th century). The article claims that the Spanish Muslims invented (or at least worked on early prototypes of) the printing press, eye glasses, clocks, flying machines and mirrors.
Read more about these assertions here: Inventions by Muslims