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Running Head: A TRADITIONAL SPANIARD

A Day in the Life of a Traditional Spaniard


LeAnna Ceglia
California State University, Stanislaus

A TRADITIONAL SPANIARD

The person that was chosen for this cultural interview is a neighbor and family friend
who has a love and passion for his Spanish culture/heritage. Not only was it convenient to
interview a family friend who lived close to home, but he also has so much information to
provide on his culture due to his love and passion. Before the interview was conducted, a phone
call was made on March 27, 2014 to obtain permission to conduct an interview and to write a
paper on the information provided. Once given permission, Federico Varona was interviewed on
April 4, 2014 at his home in Hollister, California (F. Varona, personal communication, April 4,
2014). The interview covered a wide array of topics regarding his Spanish culture, ranging from
traditional family roles to health care practices.
Overview/Heritage
Federico was born and raised in a small, rural farming town in Spain called Ciadoncha.
Ciadoncha is located along the northern coast belt of Spain which is considered to be a
mountainous region that also consists of fertile valleys, large pasture areas, and a lot of forest
land (Rank, 2014). Overall, Federico states that his hometown was a very healthy, natural
environment. The people of the town believed in living in harmony with nature. With that being
said, Federico denies any effects on his health from his country of origin. However, due to it
being a farming country with hot summers, this population could be at risk for skin cancer due to
excessive sun exposure. When asked about this possible risk, Federico denied any knowledge of
skin cancer trends. However, this is mainly due to neighbors not discussing their illnesses with
one another, which will be further discussed later on in this paper. Also, Federico shares that due
to lack the of technology, there was no running water. This could place this population at risk
for ingesting contaminated water and living in unsanitary conditions due to having no indoor
plumbing.

A TRADITIONAL SPANIARD

Ciadonchas economy was considered very rural and poor. Although the farmers owned
their own land, the amount of land was very small and limited. With the small farms unable to
produce a vast amount of products and the products that were produced being of little value, the
town was barely able to support itself. According to Federico, The people farmed just to make
it by (F. Varona, personal communication, April 4, 2014). Although the town was very poor,
the people of Ciadoncha did not protest or fight against their government to improve their
conditions. Rather, this little conservative town was never really involved in politics. Instead
they just listened to what the government told them to do. This is because Ciadoncha consisted
mainly of a Catholic and Nationalist population. Catholics are very conservative and the
Nationalist party believes in a monarchy government, capitalism, the government being in
control, and that authority should be respected.
At the age of eighteen, Federico was sent from Spain to Central America. He was sent
through his Catholic church by the Christian Brothers to become a Catholic missionary in
Central American countries. During his mission, he found and married his current wife, Lucia,
and adopted her two children as his own. He lived in Guatemala for twenty-two years, teaching
high school students, until he finally moved to the United States (U.S) at the age of forty. The
reason he moved to the U.S. was to further his education. Although Federico received Masters
Degrees in both psychology and theory from the University of Salamanca, Spain, he wanted to
achieve the highest teaching degree, which was offered at the University of Kansas. Federico
received his PhD in Communications from the University of Kansas and took a job as a
communications professor at San Jose State University in 1991. They eventually moved to
Hollister to have larger house and property. Being a positive and optimistic person, Federico

A TRADITIONAL SPANIARD

denies his current residence having any negative effects on his health. This is because he claims
the air and water are clearer and cleaner in the United States due to much stricter regulations.
Communication
Federicos dominant language is Spanish. Although he denies his native language having
multiple dialects, according to Khodorkovsky, there are at least thirteen different dialects of the
Spanish language spread throughout the word (2008). In Spain alone, there are seven different
dialects. Castilian is the official Spanish language that is spoken primarily in the central and
northern part Spain. Since Ciadoncha is located in the northern part of Spain, it could be
assumed that Federicos speaks with a Castilian dialect. The other dialects include Andalusian,
Murcia, Catalan, Basque, Galician, and Extremaduran (M. Khodorkovsky, 2008).
When it comes to cultural communication patterns, Federico states that the Spanish are
very animated, active, and loud. They love to talk with their hands and talk with so much
passion that they often interrupt and talk over one another. They also like to make eye contact
and talk very closely to one another as if they are family. With that being said, it is common to
touch the other person while they talk such as putting a hand or arm around the shoulder. This is
a way of showing affection. When it comes to addressing one another in Spain, first names are
mainly used. However, traditionally, a Spaniards full name is their first name, their fathers last
name, and then their mothers last name. However, according to Federico, his culture can come
across as being very direct and impolite in the U.S. This is because not only do they interrupt
one another, but they are also very honest, say what they feel and dont say please or thank you.
Only strangers say please and thank you and not saying these words shows that the person is
comfortable and is considered family. Being such a friendly and passionate culture, the Spanish

A TRADITIONAL SPANIARD

are measured as being very loyal friends who consider any relationship as permanent and a lifelong treasure. However, someone is only considered a friend after a relationship has been
established over a long period of time. Also, unlike the U.S., they dont use terms such as close
friend, best friend, etc. because in their culture friendship is a term that is not loosely used.
Family Roles and Organization
In a traditional Spanish home, the father or oldest son is head of the household. As far as
gender roles, the males perform all of the tasks and work that is outside of the home. For
example, the men of Ciadoncha worked in the fields, built fences, tend to the animals etc. The
women perform all of the housekeeping tasks and work inside the house such as cooking,
cleaning, and taking care of the children. According to Federico, the roles of the children are
established since they are born. At a very early age, they know what is expected of them. The
sons help their dad outside such as carrying his tools, feeding the animals, bring lunch from the
house, and run errands for both parents. As they get older, their tasks are more extensive and
more similar to the tasks that their father does. Same goes for the daughters. They help their
mother inside by cleaning the boys shoes, cleaning the dishes, and helping with the younger
children. As they got older, they too, have more responsibilities so that one day they can take
care of their own house. Overall, the children were very involved in their household. Due to the
families being so close, the main family goal in a Spanish household is to have unity and the
wellbeing of their family. Their priority is to take care of each other, be together for every
holiday and special occasion, and to help family members financially if needed.
The elderly in the Spanish culture is sought for their wisdom and advice. They are well
respected and valued amongst the Spanish culture. Traditionally, the oldest daughter takes care

A TRADITIONAL SPANIARD

of the parents as they get older, however, it depends on the circumstances. If the family only had
sons or their daughter cant afford to take care of the parents by herself, another sibling can help
to relieve some of the burden. The Spanish are also very close with their extended family
members, who are present for every holiday and special occasion.
Due to Ciadoncha being such a small town, individual status and social status were very
important. According to Federico, it is important of what others thought of your family since it
is a small, close-knit town. Federicos family was an average, middle-class family that had a
good relationship with everyone and was well-liked within the community. Due to family
playing such a large role in the Spanish culture, ones individual status reflected, represented,
and affected the familys social status.
Overall, Federico states that the Spanish culture is very accepting of alternative lifestyles
such as divorce, single parenting, and childless marriages. It has not always been so accepting
due to their traditional Catholic religion, but their culture has evolved over the years. However,
they have a hard time accepting nontraditional sexual orientations and same-sex marriages. This
is because the Spanish culture is based off of Catholicism, which does not accept gay people.
However, the nation, as a whole, is slowly warming up to the idea. According to David Thyberg,
Around 70 percent of Spaniards supported a new law allowing gay marriage in 2005, according
to the Fodors Travel Guide (n.a.).
Workforce Issues
Federico believes in and feels that he has a lot of autonomy in his line of work as a
college professor. This is because he gets to choose the material he wants to teach and gets to
make his own schedule for the school semester. He believes in acculturation to a certain extent

A TRADITIONAL SPANIARD

because he feels that an individual should try and adapt to their new culture while also staying
true to their traditional culture. For example, at work, Federico uses methods of teaching he
learned from his Spanish culture, however, he has also adapted to the American ways of
teaching. Federico does not believe in assimilation because he feels that people lose their
individualism and it can cause them to also lose their culture identity. However, he does see this
in his work setting such as what qualifies as proper dress code, what is appropriate for teachers to
do and not do, etc.
As far as gender roles at his current job, Federico notices no distinct male/female gender
roles in the U.S. Due to Federicos work environment consisting of many different ethnic
backgrounds, communication can sometimes be a challenge. This is because in Spain, people
are used to being very direct with one another, standing very close, touching, and talking very
loud over one another which can come across as impolite and aggressive in the U.S. Federico
has learned to tone down his voice, keep his distance and wait for the other person to stop talking
before he starts talking.
Biocultural Ecology
Although Federico states that there is a variety of hair, skin, and eye color amongst the
Spanish culture, the most common ones consist of black hair, olive skin, and brown eyes.
Occasionally, someone will have the dark skin and hair with blue eyes. As far as body types, the
majority of Spaniards in Ciadoncha are short and a thin/healthy weight. This is due to working
hard around the house and walking almost everywhere instead of driving. It also helps that they
eat a healthy diet which will be discussed later. However, even with the majority of the
population is in good shape and eating healthy, a common disease that Federico has noticed in

A TRADITIONAL SPANIARD

the community is heart disease and dementia. Dementia is especially new because due to having
a good health care system, people are living longer than before, giving diseases such as this one
time to become more prevalent.
High-Risk Behaviors
Unfortunately, nicotine use is very high in Spain because smoking is very popular there.
Alcohol use is also very high because the Spanish grew up producing and drinking wine.
However, Federico states that drinking wine is very normal and is drank only with meals, not for
recreational purposes. However, alcohol and drug abuse have been a more recent issue amongst
the adolescence and young adults. Every weekend Botellon, meaning Big Bottle, is a big party
that occurs in which this age group gets together to drink hard liquor and consume drugs such as
marijuana, cocaine, and heroine. Unfortunately, this behavior leads to the areas number one
cause of mortality-motor vehicle accidents. Addiction to prescription drugs was also an issue
two years ago because health care was free and not as regulated as in the U.S, allowing people
free and easy access to drugs.
When Federico was a child, the use of safety equipment such as seatbelts and helmets
were not enforced due to a more relaxed time and government. Individuals were also held
responsible for their own well-being. However, times have changed in Spain in which driving
safely, using seatbelts, using helmets, etc. are highly enforced. If any of these safety regulations
are violated, the persons driving record is significantly reduced, and/or the person receives a
large fine. Due to his culture being conservative and based on Catholicism, the Spanish are not
prone to having multiple sexual partners. Also, in Federicos hometown, Spaniards dont lead
sedentary life styles. This is due to being very active out in the fields making a living and

A TRADITIONAL SPANIARD

walking almost everywhere. Cars are rarely used because most places are within walking
distance and the towns are old making it too narrow and crowded to drive or park. Due to no fast
food chains or grocery stores being nearby Ciadoncha, the people in that area dont have the
option of consuming very much unhealthy food. For the most part, they eat a Mediterranean diet
from food that they produce themselves. However, Federico admits that pork is a greasy meat
that is consumed quite often, especially bacon.
Nutrition
As far as food availability goes, basic foods are available to satisfy hunger, but no more
than that. This is due to producing very little food due to having small farm land. Since it is a
rural area, the populations diet consists of bread, eggs, pork products, a lot of fish and a wide
variety of fruit and vegetables that are grown in private orchards and gardens. Federico denies
having any food taboos in his culture that he is aware of. However, unlike American culture, in
Spain, it is considered normal to be served the entire body of the cooked animal versus only the
meat. Also, they dont believe in serving boneless meat because the meat that is attached to the
bone is considered the best meat. As far as food rituals, he states that there are certain foods that
they eat on special occasions, however, the type of food eaten also depends on the type of food
available during that particular season. Cod fish is always served as a main dish on Christmas
and lamb is served mainly on other holidays such as birthdays and First Holy Communions.
Food is important to Spanish culture because it symbolizes family unity. It is very
uncommon and unusual to eat alone. Food also represents the systematic and disciplinary
aspects of their culture. For example, they eat a big lunch every day at noon with their entire
family, followed by la siesta, which is a nap. According to Thyberg, schools and businesses
shut down for a few hours to accommodate la siesta (n.a.). It is thought that the Spaniards

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have embraced this custom to avoid the midday heat, to unite the family and to slow down their
lifes pace (Thyberg, n.a.). Dinner is also eaten every day at 5:30 p.m. Food can also be used as
home remedies. For example, dry bread is given for upset stomachs, honey and warm tea is used
to soothe a sore throat, and olive oil is used to help heal burns.
Pregnancy
Federico is unaware of any fertility practices. His culture is very natural and believes in
no family planning. Therefore, if a husband and wife have intercourse, they feel that it is Gods
plan on whether or not a child is conceived. Because of this practice, Spanish families are rather
large, with an average of six children. Women delivered at home with a midwife who used
home remedies, and a doctor was called if any issues or difficulties occurred. However, it was
cultural that Spanish males were not really involved with the pregnancy or present in the room
during labor. This is said to be a womans line of work and expertise. With that being said,
Federico was unable to provide information regarding pregnancy practices/taboos or
labor/postpartum practices and traditions.
Death Rituals
Death is viewed as both a sad and a happy occurrence. It is a sad occurrence because the
family and friends know that they wont see them again until it is their time to die. However, it
is also seen as happy because the Spanish culture believes in the Catholic afterlife and going to
Heaven to be with God. They also view death as the person no longer suffering. Within their
Catholic church, the Spanish culture was traditionally against euthanasia. However, Federico
states that due to the technology of modern medicine and the changing of time, his culture is now
open to the idea but it is not practiced very often. When it comes to preparing for a loved ones

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death, Federicos culture goes through the natural process of grieving and finally accepting the
reality. They also seek comfort amongst family and friends. Once the person has passed, the
burial usually takes place within twenty-four hours in which a Catholic priest blesses the tomb
site. The person is usually clothed in a special and traditional Spanish cloth. However, before
the burial at the cemetery, a traditional Catholic funeral takes place within the Church, including
reading appropriate readings from the Bible and having the priest bless the deceased and their
loved ones. Bereaving traditions consist of the individual families going back to their own
homes and comforting one another. The deceased person is then celebrated during mass on the
day he/she died. They are also celebrated on Day of the Dead which is every November 2nd. On
this day, the families visit their loved ones grave, bringing beautiful flowers to decorate the
tombstone, read some readings from the Bible and end by saying the Holy Father and Holy
Mother prayer. The Spanish are now more open to the idea of cremation, however, it use to be
frowned upon within the Catholic religion.
Spirituality
Federicos Spanish culture believes in and practices Catholicism. Practices that give his culture
strength and meaning to life are praying before meals, before going to sleep, in Church, and a
little throughout the day. In Spain, the father or oldest son blesses the food before every meal by
saying the prayer Our Father. They pray for help and to express gratuity. With their religious
practice being Catholic, this entails going to mass every Sunday morning, celebrating Catholic
holidays such a Christmas, Easter, Good Friday, etc., not eating meat on Friday during Lent,
praying, reading the Bible, and believing in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Health Care Practices

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Federicos culture takes preventative actions into their own hands by eating healthy and
being physically active on a daily basis. Home remedies are also performed such as drinking hot
beverages, drinking tea with different herbs and honey to soothe a sore throat, eating bread to
calm an upset stomach, placing olive oil on burns, and putting mud on bee stings. According to
Foster, it is a tradition that cold illnesses are treated with hot beverages and fevers are treated
with cold beverages (2008). Traditionally, the person who is sick is taken care of by their
family. The children and husband are generally cared for by the mother who provides food and
home remedies. The women of the household, on the other hand, normally take care of
themselves or by older daughters because they are the only ones who know how to take care of
themselves and what home remedies and food to eat. However, overall, it is the individual who
is solemnly responsible for getting himself/herself better and maintaining their health.

The only

time they see a doctor is if they are really sick/injured and home remedies are not working.
However, due to changing times and technology, Federico admits to more and more people of
his culture taking preventative precautions such as getting the flu vaccine and visiting the doctor
for more common illnesses/injuries. Even if a loved one is receiving professional medical help,
it is tradition for his culture to pray to God and the Holy Spirit to watch over them. It is also
believed that if someone is sick, God is punishing them for being bad and being healthy is a
blessing from God for being good. The Spanish believe in the evil eye, which can be ward off
by wearing or carrying magical amulets such as coral, jet azabache, small booklets that consist of
St. John and the other apostles, and tiny bags of garlic or salt (Foster, 2008).
When it comes to certain health topics, some things are ok to discuss and express while
others are not. For instance, pain is acceptable for women to express, however, for men it is not.
The men try and hide their pain because they dont want others to know that they are not doing

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well. The only time men can express their pain is at home when they are only surrounded by
immediate family. Organ donation is a topic that is now openly discussed because, according to
Federico, the Spanish are very generous and try to help family/friends in whatever way they can.
However, unlike organ donation, mental illness and rehabilitation are not discussed at all. They
hide these conditions as much as possible from their friends and public to protect their family
member and their familys reputation/social status.
Health Care Practitioners
Federico states that the type of practitioners his culture uses is mainly biochemical.
However, these practitioners practice some folk medicine in the sense that they always
encourage the home remedies that are being implemented at home. Doctors in Spain are well
respected, valued and appreciated. Unlike in other countries where doctors are paid with high
salaries, doctors in Spain receive an average, blue collar salary. It is common for them to
express emotions and sympathy and treat each patient like family. However, even with their
emotions and lack of salary, Federico feels that these doctors are just as good as the doctors in
the U.S. Also, due to having a good health care system, Federico feels that there are no barriers
to health except for conservative, traditional Spaniards who believe in using only home
remedies. Even with time changing and evolving, the medical field is still very male dominant
with hardly, if any, women doctors.
Nursing Interventions
Due to Federicos culture and religion, certain interventions would be implemented if he
were a patient in a hospital. For instance, Lent is a forty day period before Easter Sunday to rid
ones selfishness and prepare for the resurrection of Christ. During these forty days a person is

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supposed to make sacrifices such as giving up something special to them, pray more often, help
others more, and not eat meat on Fridays. A nurse should provide or offer more alone time for
Federico to pray, offer vegetarian alternatives for Friday meals, and respect his wishes of no
snacking in between meals. These actions would fall under Leiningers Mode of culture care
preservation or maintenance (Leininger, 1992). This is because Federicos culture is being taken
into consideration and not being changed or adjusted. The only time this ritual could be possibly
negotiated is if he were in need of a special diet such as high protein, high caloric, or had GERDs
where it is encouraged to eat small meals or snacks throughout the day. This would fall under
Leiningers Mode of culture care repatterning or reconstructing due to changing or greatly
modifying his culture due to health risk issues that can be life threatening (Leininger, 1992) .
Another intervention that could be implemented is providing or allowing traditional home
remedies. As Federico stated earlier, Federicos biomedical doctors also encouraged the use of
home remedies, indicating importance. Incorporating some of these traditions could help the
patient feel more at home and relaxed which would increase his recovery rate. For instance, a
cold beverage could be offered for a fever, tea and honey could be offered for a sore throat, etc.
This, again, would be considered Leiningers Mode of culture care preservation or maintenance
due to not changing his cultural practice (Leininger, 1992). The only instance that his home
remedies would not be implemented or not implemented right away is the use of olive oil on a
severe burn. This is because severe burns are treated a whole process involving removing of the
dead, burnt tissue, skin, grafting, dressings, etc. However, once his burn wound begins to heal, it
could be offered to have the nurse rub olive oil over the burnt area if it would make the patient
happy. This would be considered Leiningers Mode of culture accommodation and negotiation

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due to still implementing the patients wishes, just during a time that is more appropriate and not
putting the patients life more at risk (Leininger, 1992).
A third intervention that could be applied is in the case of the patient dying. Due to
Federicos religion being Catholic and believing in God, Heaven, and Hell, a nurse could take
some time and discuss his thoughts of being with God in Heaven and his fear of going to Hell. A
nurse of similar religion could offer to pray with and for the patient, read some readings from the
Bible, let family members come say goodbye, and ask if he wants a priest to come in to pray,
bless, and/or save him from his sins. Federico may also not want a lot of people in his hospital
room due to being male and not wanting to show weakness. This intervention would be
considered Leiningers Mode of preservation or maintenance due to accepting the patients
wishes and not changing/modifying his culture (Leininger, 1992).
Standard of Practice
The standards for culturally competent nursing practices are all of equal importance when
it comes to improving and providing care for multiple cultures. However, Standard 9: CrossCultural Communication appeared important and applicable to this situation. This standard
focuses on the importance of nurses using culturally competent verbal and nonverbal
communication skills to identify clients values, beliefs, practices, perceptions, and unique health
care needs (Douglas, et al., 2011). It is important as a nurse to receive as much information on
a patient a possible. By using communication skills that are used in your patients culture, the
patient might be more comfortable and more open. For example, knowing that Federicos
culture keeps eye contact, talks closely, and often interrupts one another, it was made sure during
the interview to keep eye contact, sit appropriately close, and to not be offended if interrupted.

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Instead, it was seen as a sign of acceptance and comfortably that Federico expressed towards his
interviewer.
Analysis of Cross Cultural Experience
Due to Federico speaking English fairly well, being a communications professor and
living in the United States of over twenty years now, there appeared to be no barriers when it
came to communicating. On occasion, Federico would be unsure of how to say a word in
English. However, due to being patient and Federico very understanding, this obstacle was very
easy to overcome. Other verbal differences included his Spanish accent, and talking loudly and
passionately. Also, as mentioned earlier that Spaniards speak their mind, it was noted when
Federico would make statements about wanting to finish the interview faster due to it taking a
long time. Some nonverbal differences that were noted were the excessive use of hand gestures,
and the need of getting up and moving around after sitting for a while. Americans would have
sat straight through the interview in the same spot. However, Federico needed to get up and
move around and appeared anxious when sitting too long. This is because it is cultural to work
hard for an hour and then take a ten minute break. During this interview I had to slightly change
my own communication pattern such as taking breaks every hour and changing locations
throughout the interview. The formality of the communication was adjusted due to the Spanish
talking to everyone in an informal manner as if they are family. Although this made the
interview more relaxed and natural, it appeared as slightly less professional. Overall, the
interview went very well. It was a pleasant conversation that left both parties feeling happy at
the end. However, some adjustments might have been made to make this interview a little
smoother such as finding a way to shorten the interview due to needing so much information.
Another way this interview could have been adjusted for the better was interviewing after lunch

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and the traditional la siesta. The interview originally took place in the morning, however, ran
into Federicos traditional lunch time. In a way it was great due to being welcomed and included
in lunch that consisted of traditional Spanish food, however, the interviewer felt as if she were
imposing on and interrupting a cultural tradition.
The interview was a lot of fun and growth permitting. This is because communication
skills were improving and learning to adjust to another cultures way of communicating.
Patience and being culturally accepting was the biggest take-away from this interview. This is
because it is traditional for American culture to power through work in one sitting to get it done
as soon as possible. However, during the interview, this was not the case. Instead, breaks were
taken every hour to walk around and change scenery and a longer break was taken for lunch. It
could have been very easy to be culturally insensitive and ask Federico to power through the
interview without any breaks until finished. However, by sitting back and going with the flow,
the interviewer got to participate and see first-hand into his culture.

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References
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Purnell, L. (2011). Standards of practice for culturally competent nursing care: 2011
update. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 22(4) 317 333.
doi:10.1177/1043659611412965
Foster, G. (2008). Relationships between Spanish and Spanish-American folk medicine. The
Journal of American Folklore, 66(261), 201-217. Retrieved from
http://people.ucsc.edu/~brogoff/Scanned-articles/537230.pdf
Khodorkovsky M. (2008, November 13). 10 Spanish Dialects: How Spanish is Spoken Around
the World [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.altalang.com/beyondwords/2008/11/13/10-spanish-dialects-how-spanish-is-spoken-around-the-world/
Madeleine Leininger cultural diversity in nursing practice: a tribute to the mother of
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http://n207groupf.blogspot.com/
Rank. J. (2014). Spain-topography. Encyclopedia of the Nations. Retrieved from
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Thyberg, D. Information on the culture, food, & entertainment of Spain. USA Today. Retrieved
from http://traveltips.usatoday.com/information-culture-food-entertainment-spain11450.html

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