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The comarca is a community of concrete relationships; larger regional identities are more easily characterized as imagined but emerge from a tradition of local difference and acquire some of their strength from that tradition.A recognition of difference among Spaniards is woven into the very fabric of Spanish identity; most Spaniards begin any discussion of their country with a recitation of Spain's diversity, and this is generally a matter of pride.The Puerta del Sol is at kilometer zero for Spain's road system. Spain's population of 39,852,651 in early 1999 represented a slight decline from levels earlier in the decade.The population had increased significantly in every previous decade of the twentieth century, rising from under nineteen million in 1900.The motive of this move was Madrid's centrality: it lies at Spain's geographic center and thus embodies the central power of the Crown and gives the court geographic centrality in relation to its realm as a whole.At the plaza known as Puerta del Sol in the heart of Madrid stand not only Madrid's legendary symbol—a sculpted bear under a strawberry tree ( madroño )—but also a signpost pointing in all directions to various of Spain's provincial capitals, a further statement of Madrid's centrality. The name España is of uncertain origin; from it derived the Hispania of the roman Empire.
The bulk of Spain's population is in the Castilian provinces (including Madrid), the Andalusian provinces, and the other, smaller regions of generalized Castilian culture and speech.Spain's perimeter is mountainous, the mountains generally rising from relatively narrow coastal plains.The country's interior, while transected by various mountain ranges, is high plateau, or meseta, generally divided into the northern and southern mesetas.Other entities in Iberia are the Principality of Andorra in the Pyrenees and Gibraltar, which is under British sovereignty and is located on the south coast. The Atlantic Ocean washes Spain's north coast, the far northwest corner adjacent to Portugal, and the far southwestern zone between the Portuguese border and the Strait of Gibraltar.Spain is separated from North Africa on the south by the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea, which also washes Spain's entire east coast.