Defining a Spanish person as someone who speaks Spanish as a first language is inadequate because not all Spanish speaking parents pass their native tongue to their children. Some people born in modern Spain do not call themselves Spanish and instead identify with regional ethic groups within the country. Maybe the best definition of a Spanish person is anyone who has ancestors from the part of the Iberian Peninsula currently known as “España.”
Spain got its original name, Hispania, from the Roman imperialists who dominated the Iberian Peninsula during 2 and 1 BC. Latin names were given to all of the regional provinces, and eventually interactions between Latin speakers and natives led to the development of modern Spanish, or Castilian, and its derivatives.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the territory was ruled by the Germanic Visigothic Kingdom and later by the Muslim Moors, further adding to the diversity of the peninsula’s population. Many scholars cite the merger of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon in 1469 as the emergence of a distinct Spanish culture and, subsequently, the Spanish Empire.
The majority of people with Spanish ancestry living outside of Spain today reside in North, Central and South America. Early settlers of the Americas intermarried with natives, giving rise to new distinct cultures. Additionally, France, Morocco and even Australia have welcomed thousands of Spanish immigrants in recent centuries. The large number of ethnic groups with ties to the Iberian Peninsula means that no matter what someone looks like or where they were born, they could be part of the “Spanish people” and not even know it.
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