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Wednesday, October 24, 2007 (read 1855 times)

Spain's most famous: with vocabulary and phrases to learn

by Erin

Here's a Spanish culture article prepared by don Quijote for the English language local press in Spain - with a bit of vocabulary and a few handy Spanish phrases waiting at the end of the read. These are people you will read about, sometimes daily, in the Spanish news:

Spain's most famous "Los más famosos de España"
Smooth Latino crooners? Hip-swinging dance stars? Fancy-footworking football legends? These are probably the stereotypes you'd bet would top a list of most influential Spanish celebrities … and you wouldn't be too far from the truth. But how about a King, a leading economist and a 50-something gay film director? Thought not. From politics to music and from sport to film Spain has an eclectic mix of rich and famous. Here is a short guide to the country's ten most influential and revered ….

1. El Rey Juan Carlos
The Spanish Royal Family enjoys almost unrivalled popularity amongst its people compared to most other European monarchies. But what makes this Bourbon King so popular in Spain?

El Rey Juan Carlos was appointed the rightful King of Spain by Franco before his death in 1975. The monarch's popularity is largely due to the King's critical role in Spain's smooth transition to democracy after 36 years of dictatorship. On assuming power he immediately democratised the state to the surprise and great displeasure of many Franco supporters who had expected him to mainatin an authoritarian state.

El Rey Juan Carlos gave up his absolute power to the government and became a "reigning" rather than "ruling" monarch. The entire royal family including the King are approachable and involved with the life of Spain, most noticeable after the Madrid bombings in 2004, when they met with the victims' families and publicly shared their grief.

2. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
Zapatero is the leader of the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers Party) and, since becoming Prime Minister of Spain on 14th March 2004, has withdrawn troops from Iraq, legalised same-sex marriages and granted legal amnesty for illegal immigrants. Zapatero is supported by PRISA, a huge Spanish media group which produces El País and Canal+. Owned by one of richest men in Spain, Jesús de Polanco (editor's note: recently deceased), PRISA is said to have more influence and control of the media than Berlusconi in Italy. Of course the nature of politics dictates that he is not everyone's cup of tea but, at any rate, he is Spain's Prime Minister and so is undoubtedly one of its most influential characters.

3. Felipe González
González is a rather controversial personality. While being at the forefront of the Spanish transition to democracy, elected to the House of Deputies in its first elections in 1977 and being Spain's longest-serving Prime Minister (1982-1996), he is also surrounded by scandal. A series of political and financial rumours tarnished his government but in spite of this he was elected to power for 4 terms! Despite his less-than-sparkling reputation, this charasmatic leader was incredibly important to Spain's political development towards the end of the twentieth century and is certainly, if not the most, one of its most influential politicians.

4. Pedro Almodóvar
Director, producer and screenwriter Pedro Almodóvar is possibly the most famous cinematic figure in Spain's history. He never judges his complex characters but portrays them in weird and wonderful situations, dealing with issues of desire, passion, family and identity. He has been nominated for four Oscars and has won two, his most famous works include Todo Sobre mi Madre, Hable con Ella and Volver. His success is inspirational. Coming from a poor and illiterate background, his family sent him to school in the hope that he would become a priest. Instead he moved to Madrid where he spent 12 years working for a phone company. Almodóvar has iconic status throughout the cinematic world and has been invaluable in promoting Spanish film.

5. Fernando Alonso
When he was three years old, Alonso's father gave him a home-made pedal kart which was meant for his sister but she showed no interest in it and passed it to her younger brother. Today, Fernando Alonso is the youngest person to become a Formula One champion! He is the reigning two-time world champion and one of racing's richest stars. However, Alonso is not without his critics, he has been the subject of controversy relating to break-tests and delaying other racers, even his own team-mates.

6. Seve Ballesteros
Ballesteros has 94 professional golf wins under his belt! He has won the British Open three times and the Masters twice. This golfing legend first learnt his craft at the beach near his home practising with the 3-irons his older brothers lent him. One of those brothers is now his manager. In fact Ballesteros comes from a family of golfers, his uncle Ramón Sota was a professional champion and finished 6th in the Masters in 1965 and his brother finished in the Top 100 of the European tour. Ballesteros helped to design many of the golf courses along the Costa Blanca.

7. Rodrigo Rato
This smooth economist, born into a rich textile company, comes from a family of business men, although his father, uncle and brother all went to prison for having capital hidden in Switzerland. Rato became involved in politics in 1977 when he joined the AP (Popular Alliance) before it became the PP (Partido Popular). This party was made up of ex-Franco ministers and Rato was considered their economics expert. When Aznar and the PP came to power Rato became the Economics Minister and later the 9th President of IMF in 2004, a post he will hold until next year.

8. Penelope Cruz
This international movie star started her career as a dancer before she made the transition to television presenting, and eventually film. Penelope's first major film was Jamón Jamón in 1992 and since then she has had huge success making major films in Spanish, English, Italian and French, all which she speaks fluently. As an "A-list" celebrity both in Spain and in the USA, she has had high-profile relationships with many Hollywood heart-throbs such as Tom Cruise, Orlando Bloom, Lenny Kravitz. Arguably her most successful role (to date) was in Almodóvar's recent production Volver, for this she has been nominated for various awards.

9. Antonio Banderas
Famous among kids for the voice of Puss in Shrek 2 and Shrek 3, Antonio Banderas is a Spanish actor and singer. He has made dozens of Hollywood films such as Philadelphia, Desperado, Evita, Mask of Zorro. This Spanish heartthrob, along with Penelope Cruz, carries the Spanish flag for Spain in Hollywood.

10. Alejandro Sanz
Grammy award-winning Spanish pop/ballad musician Alejandro Sanz has outsold Julio Iglesias as Spain's most successful singer-songwriter. He has sold 21 million albums worldwide. Sanz started playing the guitar at the age of seven and started writing songs three years later, since then he has taken home 14 Latin Grammys and 1 regular Grammy, an outstanding career by anyone's standards.

Without a doubt, there's many more famous people that need to be added to this list. Such a wide range of influential careers and professions demonstrates the variety of Spain's popular culture. Pick up any gossip magazine in Spain and you not only will be reading about the lives of pop-stars, actors and footballers… but also about royals, sportsmen and politicians, too!

Useful Vocabulary "Vocabulario Utíl"

  • Have you heard of …? ¿Te suena …?

Keywords: sports,spanish culture,penelope cruz,madrid,beginners,culture,news,spain,spanish,vocabulary


1 » Erin (on Wednesday, November 21, 2007) said:

Not nickpicking at all. I'm afraid you caught us slipping up in a very busy period. Not only is this "supposed to be" a language learning site, it IS a language learning site, sponsored by one of the industry's undisputed leaders - with a well earned reputation for quality. Quality that sadly, always slips more in English than Spanish…and that slipped here in the hands of 2 native speakers. The text was written, as I stated, for publication in an English language paper in Andalusia (a paper we'll hope edited it before publication) by a British (native English speaking) intern here at don Quijote. I foolishly cut and pasted it here before running off to the Camino for 5 weeks, without reading it carefully. Our apologies. You should indeed expect better of us.

Meanwhile, I'll correct the copy.
Appreciate the heads-up.


2 » Anonymous (on Thursday, November 8, 2007) said:

There are a couple of rather obvious mistakes in the English of this article: it might be an idea to put them right!
-- in the paragraph on Almodovar: "…has been nominated for 4 Oscars and has WON two" (preterite of the verb WIN)
-- in paragraph on Ballesteros: "…the 3-irons his older brothers LENT him" (preterite of the verb LEND)
-- also in the Seve paragraph, there's an apostrophe in the wrong place ("one of thse BROTHERS", not brother's), and the "Cosat Blanca" needs to be changed to COSTA!!
Nit-picking, yes -- but after all, this is supposed to be a language-teaching site!

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