Equatorial Guinea, located in Africa, is a land filled with Spanish culture. Formerly known as Spanish Guinea, Spain has played a key role in the country’s history, while its influence continues to remain evident in culture today. While language is the predominant example of Spanish culture, Spain still influences other areas such as architecture, industry, the legal system, and the method in which citizens are named among other areas.
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History of Equatorial Guinea
The Spanish history of Equatorial Guinea provides an explanation and insight into the progression and development of Spanish culture in the area. Spain had gained a large portion of Africa near the end of the 1700s in trade from Portugal, including the regions of Bioko and Rio Muni. Bioko was of particular importance at that time since it was both a successful and growing cocoa plantation as well as a center for slave trading. During this time, the island Bioko was one of Spain’s most profitable African territories. The Spanish takeover of this region began in the middle of the 1800s, while the island was administered by the English between 1827 and 1858. The mainland of Spanish Guinea was, however, not officially ruled by the Spanish until 1926 despite its long-standing claim to the region (Liniger-Goumaz,1988). Once Spain officially ruled the area they began expanding into the inside of Rio Muni, an area that had not previously been explored by Europeans. Spain began to further invest in the Spanish Guinea region after the Spanish Civil War came to an end in 1939. At this point, the country was experiencing increasing success and prosperity while receiving support and aid from both the Spanish Government and the Catholic Church. Cocoa and timber were the strongest areas contributing to the economy of the area while the industry grew overall (Sundiata, 1990).
Spanish remains the official language of Equatorial Guinea, and in the Spanish language, the nation is known as Guinea Ecuatorial. The area was only referred to as Spanish Guinea while it was a Spanish colony, and the name later changed to Equatorial Guinea or Guinea Ecuatorial as it became a nation. There are two major ethnic traditions and cultures in the area. On the mainland, the Fang is the major culture and tradition, while on the island of Bioko the Bubi prevails (Liniger-Goumaz,1988). In addition to Spanish, French is also a highly recognized language in Equatorial Guinea, however, only a small percentage of the population speaks either language. Overall, in regards to national identity, Equatorial Guineans first identity with their ethnic group or tribe and thus place a secondary priority with the nation. Though the country was formed during Spanish rule and linked the island of Bioko with the mainland territory, the distinct cultures that existed previously did not meld and reform entirely to foreign languages and culture (Perrois and Delage,1990). Since the combination of the two subareas, there has been only a moderate amount of migration and intermingling, mainly from the mainland Fang to the Bubi inhabited Bioko island (Sundiata, 1990).
Culture of Equatorial Guinea
Spanish culture and style remains evident in the development of the country. Nearly 40 percent of the population is considered urban while the remaining are considered rural. The population is spread out rather evenly on the mainland, with the exception of the largest city in the country, Bata. Many of the buildings throughout the nation are in Spanish colonial style, however they are normally not maintained to any high level of standards. The city of Bata functions as a busy commercial center, complete with markets, bars, and restaurants, and thus the ratio of Spanish influence is not as high here as it is in other areas. Most of the Bioko residents live in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. Malabo is both more finely maintained and exhibiting more Spanish influence in architecture and other ways than the other large cities (Equatorial Guinea Country Report, 1993).
Spanish influence is still evident in industrial development and the formal education system as well. Prior to independence, Equatorial Guinea’s primary source of income was cocoa production. However it was grown mainly by Spanish colonists and the production sharply fell when they departed (Reno, 2000). Forestry also could not maintain the pace of pre-independence as the rates and funds fell in this industry as well. The fishing industry, on the other hand, can now be developed further by Spain while before it was controlled by Russia. Regarding higher education, the country has two institutions for this in Malabo and Bata. Both of these are operated by the Spanish National University of Distant Education (Sundiata, 1990).
The legal system of the nation also shows influence from Spain, as it is based on a combination of the tribal systems and Spanish law. When compared to neighbouring nations, offenses of violence and theft occur only rarely. However, the government significantly restricts the rights of the citizens. Prisoners are often tortured with the judicial system does not guarantee due process. The government, unlike in traditional Spanish law, is known to arrest people for arbitrary reasons. Another immediately evident formal influence from Spain in Equatorial Guinea is the method in which citizens are named. Commonly babies are given both a Spanish first name and an African first and last name (Sundiata, 1990).
Brief concluding remarks
While once an area of tribal culture, the area of Equatorial Guinea is now an area rich in Spanish culture due to the Spanish development which occurred across the current nation. Though the tribal traditions and cultures have not either intermingled with each other or developed towards Spanish in significantly high numbers, Spanish culture is evident in many ways of the nation and plays a key role in the culture of today.
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Equatorial Guinea Country Report (1993). Gabon, Equatorial Guinea. The Economist Intelligence Unit.
Liniger-Goumaz, M. (1988). Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea.
Perrois, L. and Delage, M. (1990). Art of Equatorial Guinea: The Fang Tribes.
Reno, W. (2000). Clandestine Economies, Violence, and States in Africa. Journal of International Affairs.
Sundiata, I. (1990). Equatorial Guinea: Colonialism, State Terror, and the Search for Stability.