The task of classifying the 10 most famous Spanish people of all time is not easy considering there is no objective measure of “fame” or “greatness” especially when the candidates are from different eras and their reasons for fame vary widely as well. While by no means definitive, the following list is a pretty comprehensive outline of the top 10 most famous Spaniards of all time.
10. Jose Carreras
Josep Carreras (more famously known as Jose Carreras) is an opera singer of international renown. Most people recognize him for his performance in the operas of Puccini and Verdi. He rose to prominence in the 1990s as he performed as one of The Three Tenors alongside fellow Spaniard Placido Domingo and Italian Luciano Pavarotti.
Carreras’ fame however goes beyond his stage performances and his humanitarian contributions come to mind easily. He runs a very successful foundation dedicated to educating society about Leukaemia and other haematological malignancies as well as funding research and providing better care for patients. Carreras started the foundation after he recovered from the disease in 1988.
9. Penelope Cruz
Penelope Cruz is a well known international actor and model from Spain. Her already stellar career reached its zenith in 2009 when she received the Academy Award (Oscar) for best Supporting Actress in the 2008 blockbuster, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She was the first Spanish actress to win an Oscar and also the first one ever to grace the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a star.
Ms. Cruz is also widely known for charity work and has volunteered her time and resources in the past, working in Uganda and India. She donated all her salary for her role in The Hi-Lo Country to Mother Theresa’s mission.
8. Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal is a Spanish Tennis player and the current World No. 1 . Owing to his imperious wins record against all his contemporaries in matches played on clay surfaces, Nada l is popularly known as “King of Clay”. In fact, many sports journalists and pundits consider Nadal to be the greatest clay court tennis player of all time.
Nadal has already won 13 Grand Slam singles titles as well as an Olympic Gold medal. He has also won 26 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles and 15 ATP World Tour 500 titles, both of which are world records. Other achievements which mark Nadal as a true world great are his achievement in 2010 when he became the seventh tennis player in history (and fourth youngest in the modern era) to achieve a career grand slam and the second male player (with Andre Ag’s) to complete a singles career Golden Slam.
7. Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II
The two monarchs are credited for laying the foundations for a united Spain. Isabella was the Queen of Ca stile while Ferdinand ruled over Leon. The two made a lot of contributions to making Spain a power to be reckoned with on the global stage. Perhaps the most evocative and lasting act in this respect was the funding of Christopher Columbus voyage to seek for a more direct route to India and other Asian markets in 1492. As everyone now knows, Columbus ended up discovering the Americas instead.
6. Salvador Dali
Born in 1904 in the Spanish region of Catalonia, Salvador Dali was a Spanish artist known for his unique, flamboyant style. Dali’s works are heavily influenced by Cubism and Surrealism. Throughout his lifetime, Dali produced well over 1,500 paintings along with sculptures and prints. His most easily recognizable work of art remains to be a painting christened ‘The Persistence of Memory’.
5. Antoni Gaudi
An architect of international renown, Antoni Gaudi produced designs of unparalleled brilliance. One of his more famous projects is the Sagrada Familia, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the most visited tourist site in Spain.
4. Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes, a seventeenth century author is undoubtedly Spain’s most famous literary figure. He was a prolific novelist, poet and playwright. His most enduring work remains to be “Don Quixote”, and many people still consider it the first ever modern European novel. His works have shaped not only Spanish literature but the very language itself.
3. Hernan Cortes
Hernan Cortes was a Spanish solder and explorer who is well known for the conquest of the Aztec Empire in modern day Mexico. His exploits are widely regarded as marking way for the wave of colonization of the Americas by such European powers as Great Britain, Spain, France and Portugal.
Though Cortes’ exploits are the stuff of legend in Spain and much of the world, he was not universally popular in his home country. When he returned to Spain in 1541, he faced up to a litany of lawsuits for debts and what many considered blatant abuse of power. During his last years, he slipped from great fortune to high levels of debt though he died a rich man.
2. El Cid
El Cid is Spain’s all time war hero. El Cid was born Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar in 1043 but was named El Cid (the Lord) by the Moors. He was the son of a minor nobility in feudal Spain and he grew up in the court of Ferdinand the Great. El Cid rose up the ranks as he served in the house of Spanish Royal Prince Sancho. When Sancho ascended to the throne in 1065, El Cid became a commander and the royal standard bearer of the Castile region.
El Cid lived to serve under both Sancho II and Alfonso VI. Over the years, he attained legendary status for his military prowess as he championed wars of conquest. After serving King Alfonso VI, he lived in Valencia with his family until his death in the hands of the Almoravids in 1099.
1. Pablo Picasso
Picasso is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most prolific artists of the 20th century. Millions of people around the world know him for what is arguably his greatest work of art: “The Guernica”. He was one of the most convincing proponents of the Cubism approach to art and sculpture.
Picasso’s legacy lives on today, immortalized in several museums in cities like Malaga (his native town), Paris and Barcelona dedicated to his name and works. In arts auctions around the world, Picasso’s paintings are invariably among the most expensive sells.
Spain is without a doubt one of the most important and influential nations on the globe today. Spanish is one of the leading international languages, perhaps only second to English in the spread of countries and territories where it is readily understood. Spanish culture has also captured the imagination of the world while her sportsmen and women continue to achieve greatness on the world stage.