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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.
Perhaps because of this power, Cataluña has suffered longer from periodic repression at the hands of the central Castilian state than has any other of modern Spain's regions; this underlies a separatist movement of note in contemporary Cataluña.
The state now known as Spanish has long been dominated by Castile, the region that covers much of the Spanish meseta and the marriage of whose future queen, Isabel, to Fernando of Aragón in 1469 brought about the consolidation of powers that underlay the development of modern Spain.
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.
It is essential to realize that outsiders can legitimately consider some of Spain's diversity as imagined every bit as much as its unity might be—that is, Spaniards sort their differences with a fine-toothed comb and create measures of local and regional differences which might fail tests of general significance by other measures.
The comarca is a purely cultural and economic unit, without political or any other official identity.
In what are known as market communities in other parts of the world, villages or towns in a Spanish comarca patronize the same markets and fairs, worship at the same regional shrines in times of shared need (such as drought), wear similar traditional dress, speak the language similarly, intermarry, and celebrate some of the same festivals at places commonly regarded as central or important.
Such general geographic distinctions as north/ south, coastal/interior, mountain/lowland/plateau, and Mediterranean/Atlantic are overwhelmed by the variety of local geographies that exist within all of the larger natural and historical regions.
Great local diversity flourishes on Spanish terrain and is part of Spain's essence.
Cataluña has had greater autonomy in the past and had, at different times, as close ties with southwestern France as with Spain.