The world changed following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and for historians, these attacks marked the turn of the century. But since then and until now, there are many milestones that have transformed the reality of the world. AL DÍA has collected 20 historic events from the past 20 years since the fall of the Twin Towers.
2002. The euro arrives
In January 2002, the euro became the currency of the European Union. It has been adopted by 12 of its 15 member states, including Germany, Spain and France. The only major country excluded from this change was the United Kingdom, a premonition of its future exit from the EU.
With the institution’s expansion to 27 countries, today there are 19 that use it as their currency. A total of 340 million citizens spend in euros, making it the second most traded currency in the world after the dollar.
2003. Invasion of Iraq
A year and a half after the September 11 attacks, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq, marking the start of the Iraq War. According to President George W. Bush, the objective was to “disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction”, but they were never found, and also to “liberate the Iraqi people” from Saddam Hussein.
The war caused a political divide between the great powers. France, Germany, Russia and China opposed the invasion while Spain and the United Kingdom supported the United States. Another historic event also accompanies the invasion: the first global demonstrations against a conflict.
2004. The 11M in Madrid
On March 11, 2004, Al-Qaeda committed the most serious terrorist attack in European history. Four commuter trains exploded en route to Madrid, killing 200. The government, which faced elections three days later, claimed the attack was carried out by the terrorist group ETA.
The administration’s fear of admitting that the attack was produced by its support for the invasion of Iraq led it to try to hide the real al-Qaeda perpetrators. But the news broke first and the government lost the election to the Socialist Party.
2005. The Pope Dies
Pope John Paul II began his pontificate in 1978 and died in 2005. It took until the pontification of Francis for his canonization, which came in 2014.
He became the first Polish pope in history and the first non-Italian since the 16th century. After his death, the conclave elected Pope Ratzinger, who chose the name, Benedict XVI.
2006. Latin America’s left turn
It was a year of elections that confirmed the triumph of the left on the continent.
Evo Morales won the Bolivian elections. He was the first indigenous president, as well as a leading trade unionist. It was also the year that Venezuela re-elected Hugo Chávez, who first won elections in 1998 after a failed coup in 1992. His re-election comes after winning the presidential referendum in 2004.
Lula da Silva was also re-elected by the Brazilians that year. A metalworker and trade unionist, he won his first election in 2003. It would take another year for Rafael Correa to win the presidency in Ecuador, consolidating the left in Latin America.
2007. The iPhone
Some smartphones already existed, but Apple’s iPhone revolutionized the world. The first mobile phone with camera, music player and software to send and receive text messages, all in one device.
Steve Jobs announced his arrival and that year Time magazine named him Invention of the Year.
2008. Great Recession
On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. The investment bank had taken on too much risk in the subprime mortgage market.
Its bankruptcy, the largest in US history, was the start of the global financial crisis that devastated the economy of half the world.
2009. Barack Obama, first black president of the United States
Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States.
In his first address to the nation, he promised to close the Guantánamo Bay prison as soon as possible, a promise he broke during his two terms. What he achieved was to establish Obamacare and extend basic health care to millions of Americans.
2010. Latin America is shaking
Two earthquakes shake Chile and Haiti.
It was in the Chilean sea that a February earthquake had its epicenter, which lasted four minutes on the coast and two in its capital, Santiago. It caused 525 deaths.
In Haiti, the earthquake had its epicenter 15 kilometers from the capital, Port-au-Prince. It was the strongest in the region since 1770 and one of the most devastating in human history. The dead were more than 316,000.
2011. A nuclear disaster
After a magnitude 9 earthquake in Japan, a tsunami occurred off the northeast coast and hit the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Power to the reactors failed and there were three hydrogen explosions which released radioactive contamination. There was no nuclear explosion and fortunately, the accident caused only one death. As for the earthquake, that’s another story.
2012. Facebook goes public
The first major social network went public, hitting a $104 billion valuation on day one. It broke the company’s record with the highest value at the start of its listing. It now has more than 2.7 billion users worldwide.
2013. Two popes at once
In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI announced his desire to resign from the papacy, and the conclave elected the first Latin American pope, Francis.
For the first time, two popes lived together because the position is for life. Pope Francis is known for his humility and closeness to the poor, in addition to his commitment to dialogue with other religions.
2014. Snowden seeks asylum in Russia
Government technology consultant Edward Snowden leaked classified NSA documents and secured his residency in Russia.
A year earlier, the agency’s mass surveillance programs had been released due to leaks by Snowden via The Guardian and The Washington Post, causing great international uproar. Moreover, it was a major diplomatic crisis between the United States and many of its allies, known to have been spied on.
2015. Attack on Charlie Hebdo
On January 7, 2015, two masked men armed with assault rifles entered the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The religious fanatics fired 50 shots, killing 12 workers and wounding 11 others. In their flight, they also killed a policeman.
The publication had published cartoons physically depicting the Prophet Muhammad, a taboo in Islam.
Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack and two days later French soldiers killed the two terrorists. On January 11, 2 million people, including more than 40 heads of state and government from around the world, demonstrated in Paris in favor of freedom of expression.
2016. The Trump era begins
Donald Trump won the US election over Hillary Clinton. That year, he was the 324th richest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine and was the wealthiest president to ever take office.
During his campaign, the use of fake news became popular, which his team defined as “alternative truths”.
2017. Independence of Catalonia
On October 1, 2017, the Catalan government decided to hold an independence referendum despite the fact that the Spanish courts declared it illegal.
The state sent in thousands of police who violently suppressed voters at polling stations. The images went around the world.
Although unable to stand under normal conditions, the Catalan government recognized the results and symbolically declared independence three weeks later. Two days later, part of the executive went into exile in Belgium.
In the 2016 referendum, Britain chose, by little difference, to leave the European Union.
Two years later, the 27 member states approved the exit agreement and the declaration on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom after Brexit. The final departure only took place in 2020, after almost 50 years of relationship.
2019. Feminism is sweeping the world
Social protests around the world had a common component: gender equality.
In 2019, Las Tesis viralized their performance, “A rapist in your way”, which became the cry of women around the world. The #MeToo movement had been pushing to revitalize feminism since 2017, and in 2018 the first feminist general strike took place in Spain.
Although the coronavirus started affecting China in late 2019, it wasn’t until March 2020 that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. That month, more or less strict confinements were put in place in almost all countries of the world, which brought the world economy to a halt.
2021. The Hope of Vaccines
Less than a year after the outbreak of the pandemic, various pharmaceutical companies have approved vaccines against COVID-19. Vaccination became global in January 2021, although today many countries are still far from reaching percentages allowing to speak of herd immunity.