LivingTravel11 things Spaniards claim to have invented

11 things Spaniards claim to have invented

Spain has given much to the world over the centuries through the inventiveness of its people. Obvious examples are flamenco, paella, tapas, and sangria. Some would announce the country, others would condemn him for inventing bullfighting. But Spain has also invented many other less obvious items, or so it claims.

It is debatable whether all these inventions really came from Spain or not. Decide for yourself which of these famous things were really Spanish inventions.


Let’s start with the big one. That’s right, it is claimed that the world’s favorite soft drink was invented in Spain. Although the official line is that Coca-Cola was invented by a pharmacist in Atlanta, the citizens of Ayelo de Malferit, near Valencia, say that it actually originated there.

Juan Jo Mica claims that his great-great-uncle invented the drink, at the time called Kola Coca Nut, in 1884 and brought it to the United States, where he won an award at a fair in Philadelphia. Then he apparently sold the recipe to Americans.

Probable? There is many photographic evidence of a Spanish drink from this period called Nuez de Kola Coca. However, what happened first is debatable, especially since copyright and patent laws were more diffuse than they are today.

The story has a lot in common with that of Budweiser and Budvar (called Czechvar in the US), which may give it some credibility.


Again, Valencians make a bold claim: they invented the game of chess! The rumor resurfaced during a recent Kasparov match that took place in the city. But with so many scholarly intellectuals interested in chess, is it a bad move to make such a grandiose claim?

Probable? This article, Valencia and the Origins of Modern Chess, does not claim that the game was originally intended in Spain, but it does say that radical rule changes occurred in the 15th century and that “all contemporary sources point to Spain.” So it seems that this is true.

Christopher Columbus

Part of this is undoubtedly true: it was the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who financed Columbus’s trip to the New World.

However, many in Spain go further and claim that Columbus himself was born in Spain. Both Wikipedia and British encyclopedias say that the explorer was born in Genoa, in present-day Italy. However, many Catalans (the inhabitants of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands) claim that he came from their part of Spain, and many specifically say that he was born in Ibiza.

Probable? It’s ironic that while we all know where Columbus went, no one seems to be sure where he came from! Perhaps a homeless man would have had similar nomadic parents, so even if he was born in Genoa, his family could have been from Ibiza.

Disney Sleeping Beauty Castle

The beginning of every Disney movie begins with the famous Sleeping Beauty castle, and the citizens of Segovia swear that the castle was based on one in their city.

Probable? See for yourself: the image on the left is the castle of Segovia. So they both have the turrets, and the turrets are the same color. However, Germany has countless more similar castles, with Neuschwanstein Castle the most likely model for the Disney icon. Sorry, Segovia, it seems like you’re wrong.


Sherry is a drink associated with all British grandmothers, and many popular brands have British names, such as Harveys. A popular type of sherry is even called ‘Crema de Bristol’, but who has ever heard of a Spanish city called Bristol? So why do the Spanish say that sherry is Spanish?

Probable? 100% true Jerez comes from the Spanish city of Jerez, near Cádiz, in Andalusia. The English pronunciation comes from the city’s Arabic name, Sherish.

So why the English names of so many brands? This comes from the strong British presence in the area. The ports here were important for trade with Great Britain, as well as for political reasons: Protestant Huguenots fled France, where they were aided by the English.

Fish and French fries

Fish and French fries?! Could this be true? Could the UK’s most famous dish come from Spain? Many foolishly claim that the only dish that comes from the UK is fish and chips, so how could it come from Spain?

Probable? As mentioned above, the British had strong connections to southwestern Spain. Andalusia is famous for its Frei durians, fried fish shops, and the best that can be found in Cádiz. Look at the image to the left, does it look familiar? It looks a lot like a British fish and chip shop, albeit with more types of fish in this Cadiz restaurant than found in the UK.

However, the union of fried fish and fried potato certainly did not originate in Spain. British fries come from Belgium.

Acoustic guitar

This is probably the most famous of the rumors of Spanish inventions (many refer to the acoustic guitar as the “Spanish guitar”). But it’s true?

Probable? This is not disputed. As with chess, the guitar was not invented, it evolved. But most attribute the modern acoustic guitar to a Spaniard, Antonio Torres Jurado.

The beret

The beret is usually associated with a garlic-scented Frenchman who wears a baguette and wears a string of onions around his neck. But is this stereotype appropriate? Or can the Spanish have this one?

Probable? In fact, no one disputes the fact that the beret is Basque. But the Basque Country straddles Spain and France, and Pyrenean shepherds often take credit for starting the fad. When you are herding sheep in a very cold mountain, you probably have more important things in mind than if you are in France or Spain (especially since the locals claim that they are not, they are only Basque) so maybe we should similarly resign to such unnecessary distinctions. Let’s give this to France and Spain

The mop

Apparently, the mop is a Spanish invention. Spanish Emilio Bellvis is said to have thought of the current mop and bucket combination.

Probable? Historians generally have more puzzling riddles to, erm, clean up, so we can give you this one.


If you speak English about a table football in Spain, some local with a strong patriotic spirit (isn’t it all of them?) Will bump into you and tell you that the game is Spanish. But many in the world assume it is German, after all, many call it foosball, from the German Fußball .

Probable? To begin with, let’s clarify the German name: it is not called Fußball in Germany, this is the name for football or soccer, in general. The formal name is Tischfußball (“table football”) or, more commonly, “Kicker.” No one knows why the English-speaking world gives it this strange German name.

The first patent for the football table belongs to a Spaniard, Alejandro Finisterre, although he credits his friend, Francisco Javier Altuna, for the invention. However, it seems that here the Spaniards jumped the gun a bit on the patent front, most attribute the invention of the game to a Briton, Evan Dube or French Citroën worker Lucien Rosengart.

The submarine

Seafarers and spies (and sea spies) had dreamed of traveling under the sea more than anyone would have wanted to get to the moon. So unsurprisingly, this is another one that was tested with varying degrees of luck by various nationalities through the centuries. But which country can definitely claim that it was they who invented the submarine as we know it today?

Probable? The first submarine was powered by humans and was invented during the American Civil War, with the help of the French, not the Spanish.

The first non-human powered submarine was also invented by the French. The submarine was called the Plongeur , which sounds to me like something to unlock your sink with.

So where do the Spanish come in? Apparently, they invented the first combustion-powered submarine (the Ictineo II , converted to steam propulsion in 1867). They were also behind the Peral submarine, the first fully electric submarine.

So while the Spanish were pioneers in making things move, calling them “inventors” is a difficult decision.

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