Spanish Ambassador to the United States Javier Ruperez gave a presentation last night, detailing Spain’s significant progress concerning democratic development in the last 25 years.

Following the death of former dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War, the nation’s citizens were eager to put the past behind them, Ruperez said in his speech in the ICC Executive Conference Room.

“We were ready and willing to forgive and forget,” Ruperez said. “We wished to reconcile ourselves with our own people.”

According to the ambassador, while several different approaches to transforming the country existed, for the most part citizens were concentrated on the common goal of democracy.

“The time was one of great expectation and hope,” he said. “At the same time it was one of great uncertainty.”

Ruperez said that with a variety of ethnic and religious groups present immediately following the conclusion of the war, finding a unifying force posed a challenge. Yet, under the direction of two influential figures, King Juan Carlos I and the prime minister, the energy of the masses was streamlined into developing a democracy from the existing dictatorship.

According to Ruperez, the interplay of these two influential personalities and their common insistence on inclusiveness – that is, incorporating all of the disparate cultural groups into the cultural revolution – was the main thrust behind the change.

“Practically no one was excluded [from the transformation] with the exception of those who excluded themselves because they disliked change,” he said.

Ruperez said the constitution was adopted in 1978 as the result of strenuous consensus.

“All the previous constitutions were the result of the imposition of one party,” he told the audience. This new constitution, however, was different, as it was a joint effort of all the Spanish peoples. “[The Constitution of 1978] is legitimately the first Spanish constitution,” he said.

Ruperez continued to describe Spain’s lack of participation in World War II and the setback that this isolation posed to the country’s goal of democracy. Yet the nation’s political leaders ultimately realized that becoming part of a broader community would be an integral step in promoting Spain’s new vision. For this reason, the ambassador and his contemporaries eventually pushed the nation into joining the European Union and to becoming a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. These two decisive steps, he said, finally reintroduced the nation into the international scene. Presently, the country is divided into 17 autonomous regions, each distinctive in language and culture.

According to Ruperez, in addition to regaining a position of economic importance, Spain has also had the opportunity to address inherent problems such as unemployment. “We still have to improve our unemployment [rate], although it’s at the European average,” he said.

The ambassador concluded his presentation by emphasizing Spain’s recent thrust into the economic spotlight. “We have performed exceedingly well in the [European economy],” he said. “Some people say we are the generals of the south.”

“Democracy is a very fragile flower that you have to water every day,” Ruperez said, alluding to his nation’s continued prosperity. He noted that his country’s success is in large part due to constant upholding. “In many ways this is the happy story of a dream fulfilled,” the ambassador said, concluding his presentation.

The presentation, entitled “1975-2000: A Quarter Century in the Life of the Spanish People,” was funded by the BMW center for German and European studies.

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