12 Spanish strokes of genius

The word siesta, known all around the globe, is associated with Spain, and rightfully so. It’s just a little nap after lunch, usually twenty or thirty minutes long. You may ask yourselves if it has any kind of benefit. Well, apart from what experts say, I’m sure siesta sharpens your mind. Yes, I have proof. I’m sure the Spanish people who invented the following things slept siesta regularly. Here’s a list of things you may not know are Spanish. Enjoy!

The mop

Created by Manuel Jalón, engineer and officer of the Spanish Air Force, the mop helped everyone who ever had to scrub the floor on their knees until its invention. The mop was successfully tried for the first time in Zaragoza in 1956.


The chupa-chups

Candy on a stick! This is revolutionary! This is a bigger thing than discovering fire or creating the wheel! And best of all, it’s Spanish. Eric Bernat had this stroke of genius almost fifty years ago. Salvador Dalí himself designed the logo. Oh, and in 1995, the chupa-chups was the first candy to be eaten in space.

After this outburst of euphoria and enthusiasm, please do allow me to admit I am not a candy lover and I have never had a chupa-chups in my life. But my sources tell me people like it, I promise.


The submarine

Surprise! The submarine was not inspired by the The Beatles in their famous song. It was actually Isaac Peral, an engineer from Murcia, who designed a submersible ship driven by electricity. The first workable submarine was constructed in 1888.

Table football

Table football, baby foot, foosball, I’ve heard many words for it and I’m never quite sure of which one to use (it’s futbolín in Spanish, by the way). Alejandro Campos Ramírez, poet and inventor, created this and for it he will always have my respect: what an addictive game!

The reason table foot was born is not as awesome as the game itself. Alejandro Campos was wounded in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. When he was at the hospital he met many wounded children, many of them crippled, who complained of not being able to play football. This gave him the idea of table foot, which he patented in 1937.


The digital calculator

Blaise Pascal created the first calculator, but it was Leonardo Torres Quevedo who created the first digital one in 1914. This calculator could do some pretty complex stuff.

The switchblade

Back in the 16th century, King Carlos V forbade peasants from carrying long blade weapons, like swords. The switchblade was a short blade weapon, plus the blade could be hidden.


The Spanish guitar

I admit this one was easy, yes. The classic six string guitar the way we know it today was developed in Spain between the 13th and 16th centuries as a modification of the old vihuela, a guitar-shaped string instrument used Spain, Portugal and Italy.

This is a vihuela. As you can see, the Spanish guitar is not very different in appearance

This is a vihuela. As you can see, the Spanish guitar is not very different in appearance

The gyroplane

Juan de la Cierva, an engineer from Murcia, is the creator. He built the first gyroplane in the 1920s. This machine could take off and land in very limited spaces.


The Molotov cocktail

You weren’t expecting this one to be Spanish, were you? Not gonna lie, neither was I. Apparently it was first used during the Spanish Civil War by the Republicans because of the lack of armament. The name, however, comes from Finland.

The cigarette

It originally comes from Sevilla. In the 16th century, homeless people started re-using tobacco waste, wrapping it with thin rice paper leaves. Proper cigarette commercialization, however, didn’t start until 1825.

Fun fact: the main building of Sevilla’s oldest university was originally a tobacco factory.

The disposable syringe

You may have heard about Manuel Jalón… specifically at the beginning of this article. Yes, it’s the guy who invented the mop. Quite versatile, this Manuel Jalón, as he created a hypodermic syringe which helped to stop some diseases from spreading.

The cable car

Here we have another inventor who was already mentioned in this list. Leonardo Torres, who invented the digital calculator, patented the cable car in 1887.


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Our Correspondent
Cult Spain correspondent
Juan - Madrid

Born and raised in beautiful Sevilla, I now live in Madrid. I'm a huge music lover (I started writing a music blog in January 2014). Travelling, learning about different cultures, walking around (and getting lost), reading and having meaningful conversations are some of ...

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