Alhambra at sunset, Granada.
Andalusia (Andalucía in Spanish) is the most populous and second largest Spanish autonomous community. It was officially recognized as a nationality of Spain, along with Galicia, the Basque Country, and Catalan-speaking regions. A large part of Spanish culture that fits the common stereotypes about the country actually originated in Andalusia, including flamenco, bullfighting, and the Moorish-influenced architectural styles.
Andalusia is the second poorest Spanish region (after Extremadura). Its GRP per capita is 25% lower than the national average, and comparable to that of Portugal.
Famous people from Andalusia include (chronologically): Roman Emperors Trajan and Hadrian, the Emir and Caliph or Cordoba Abd-ar-Rahman III, the social reformer Bartolomé de las Casas, the first viceroy of New Spain Antonio de Mendoza, the painter Diego Velázquez, the former Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, the writer Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, the former Spanish President Nicolás Salmerón y Alonso, the general and dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, the former Spanish President Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, the painter Pablo Picasso, the writer Juan Ramón Jiménez (Nobel Prize), the poet Vicente Aleixandre (Nobel Prize), the dramatist Federico García Lorca, the former Prime Minister Felipe González, and the actor Antonio Banderas.
Andalusia has one of the most distinctive regional history within Spain. Most of coastal Andalusia, and part of its interior, was colonised by the Phoenicians, starting with the foundation of Gadir (modern Cadiz) in 1104 BCE - the oldest city in Western Europe still standing. The Phoenicians and their descendants, the Carthaginians, controlled the region until the destruction of the Carthaginian Empire in Third Punic War in 146 BCE, and the takeover by the Roman Republic.
Andalusia flourished under Roman rule, and even provided two major Roman Emperor: Trajan and Hadrian. The region was then known as Hispania Baetica, with Córdoba as its capital. In the 5th century, the Vandals and the Visigoths, two Germanic tribes, invaded the Iberian peninsula. The Byzantines reconquered the Andalusian and Murcian coast under Emperor Justinian I, and created the Province of Spania (552–624). All Iberia was briefly reunified by the Visigoths in 624.
In 711, the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate invaded and conquered most of the Iberian peninsula, and ruled it from Córdoba under the Arabic name al-Andalus, which would be reintroduced into Spanish in the 13th century as el Andalucía..
The Spanish reconquest of Andalusia started in the 12th century and lasted until 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella took Granada from the last emir, and expelled all the non-Christians out of Spain. This year coincided with the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, a great opportunity for Andalusians to seek their fortunes on the new continent. Seville was awarded royal monopoly for trade with the growing Spanish colonies in the Americas, which initiated the city's Golden Age. Many conquistadors and colonial administrators came from Andalusia.
Andalusian cuisine is a complex blend of Spanish, Jewish and Arabic traditions. Its most distinctive dish is probably gazpacho, a cold tomato-based vegetable soup consumed mostly during the summer months due to its refreshing qualities. Fried foods, especially fried fish (pescaito frito), is very popular, as are dry-cured hams, such as the jamones of Jabugo, Valle de los Pedroches, and Trevélez. The Jerez region produces the most famous wines, particularly Sherry, a fortified wine that can be either dry or sweet.