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Principality of Asturias

 

Principality of Asturias

For other uses, see Asturias (disambiguation).
Principality of Asturias
Principado de Asturias (Spanish)
Principáu d'Asturies (Asturian)
Autonomous Community
Principado de Asturias
Coat of arms
Anthem: Asturias, patria querida

Location of Asturias in Spain

Coordinates: 43°20′N 6°00′W / 43.333°N 6.000°W / 43.333; -6.000Coordinates: 43°20′N 6°00′W / 43.333°N 6.000°W / 43.333; -6.000

Country  Spain
Capital
Largest city
Oviedo
Gijón
Government
 • President Javier Fernández (PSOE)
Area(2.1% of Spain; Ranked 10th)
 • Total 10,604 km2 (4,094 sq mi)
Population (2006)
 • Total 1,076,896
 • Density 100/km2 (260/sq mi)
 • Pop. rank 13th
 • Percent 2.4% of Spain
Demonym Asturian
asturiano, -na (es)
asturianu, -na (as)
ISO 3166-2 O
Official languages Spanish (Asturian has special status)
Statute of Autonomy January 11, 1982
Parliament General Junta (45 deputies)
Congress seats 8 (of 350)
Senate seats 6 (of 264)
Website Gobierno del Principado de Asturias

Asturias (English /əˈstʊriəs/, /əˈstjʊəriəs/, /ɑːˈstʊərjəs/), officially the Principality of Asturias (Spanish: Principado de Asturias [pɾinθiˈpaðo ðe asˈtuɾjas]; Asturian: Principáu d'Asturies ), is an autonomous community in north-west Spain. It is coextensive with the province of Asturias, and contains nearly all of the territory that was part of the Kingdom of Asturias in the Middle Ages. The autonomous community of Asturias is bordered by Cantabria to the east, by Castile and León to the south, by Galicia to the west, and by the Bay of Biscay to the north.

The most important cities are the communal capital, Oviedo (Uviéu or Uvieo), the seaport and largest city Gijón (Xixón), and the industrial town of Avilés. Other popular municipalities include Cangas de Onís (Cangues d'Onís), Cangas del Narcea, Gozón, Grado (Grau or Grao), Langreo (Llangréu), Llanera, Laviana (Llaviana), Lena (Ḷḷena), Llanes, Mieres, Siero, Valdés, Vegadeo (A Veiga) and Villaviciosa (see also List of municipalities and comarcas in Asturias).

Asturias is also home to the Prince of Asturias Awards.

History

Asturias has been inhabited, first by Homo erectus, then by Neanderthals and finally by modern humans, since the Lower Paleolithic era, and during the Upper Paleolithic was characterized by cave paintings in the eastern part of the area. In the Mesolithic period, a native culture developed, that of the Asturiense, and later, with the introduction of the Bronze Age, megaliths and tumuli were constructed. In the Iron Age, the territory came under the cultural influence of the Celts; the local Celtic peoples, known as the Astures, were composed of tribes such as the Luggones, the Pesicos, and others, who populated the entire area with castros (fortified hill-towns). Today the Astur Celtic influence persists in place names, such as those of rivers and mountains.

With the conquest of Asturias by the Romans under Augustus (29-19 BC), the region entered into the annals of history. After several centuries without foreign presence, the Suebi and Visigoths occupied the land from the 6th century AD to the beginning of the 8th century, ending with the Moorish invasion of Spain. However, as it had been for the Romans and Visigoths, the Moors did not find mountainous territory easy to conquer, and the lands along Spain's northern coast never fully became part of Islamic Spain. Rather, with the beginning of the Moorish conquest in the 8th century, this region became a refuge for Christian nobles, and in 722, a de facto independent kingdom was established, the Regnum Asturorum, which was to become the cradle of the incipient Reconquista (Reconquest).

In the 10th century, the Kingdom of Asturias gave way to the Kingdom of León, and during the Middle Ages the geographic isolation of the territory made historical references scarce. Through the rebellion of Henry II of Castile in the 14th century, the Principality of Asturias was established. The most famous proponents of independence were Gonzalo Peláez and Queen Urraca, who while achieving significant victories were ultimately defeated by Castilian troops. After its integration into the Kingdom of Spain, Asturias provided the Spanish court with high-ranking aristocrats and played an important role in the colonization of America. Since 1388, the heir to the Castilian (later Spanish) throne has been styled Prince of Asturias. In the 16th century, the population reached 100,000 for the first time, and within another century that number would double due to the arrival of American corn.


During the 18th century, Asturias was one of the centres of the Spanish Enlightenment. The renowned thinker Benito de Feijóo settled in the Benedictine Monastery of San Vicente de Oviedo. Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, a polymath and prominent reformer and politician of the late 18th century, was born in the seaside town of Gijón.

The Industrial Revolution came to Asturias after 1830 with the discovery and systematic exploitation of coal and iron resources. At the same time, there was significant migration to America (especially Argentina, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico); those who succeeded overseas often returned to their native land much wealthier. These entrepreneurs were known collectively as 'Indianos', for having visited and made their fortunes in the West Indies and beyond. The heritage of these wealthy families can still be seen in Asturias today: many large 'modernista' villas are dotted across the region, as well as cultural institutions such as free schools and public libraries.


Asturias played an important part in the events that led up to the Spanish Civil War. In October 1934 the Asturian miners and other workers staged an armed uprising (see Revolution of Asturias) to oppose the coming to power of the right-wing CEDA party, which had obtained three ministerial posts in the centralist government of the Second Spanish Republic. For a month, a Popular Front Committee exercised control in southern Asturias, while local workers committees sprang up elsewhere in the region. A war committee dominated by anarcho-syndicalist supporters took power in Oviedo . Troops under the command of a then unknown general named Francisco Franco Bahamonde were brought from Spanish Morocco to suppress the revolt. Franco applied tactics normally reserved for overseas colonies, using troops of the Spanish Legion and Moroccan troops: ferocious oppression followed.

As a result, Asturias remained loyal to the democratic republican government during the Spanish Civil War, and was the scene of an extraordinary defence in extreme terrain, the Battle of El Mazuco. With Franco eventually gaining control of all Spain, Asturias — traditionally linked to the Spanish Crown — was known merely as the "Province of Oviedo" from 1939 until Franco's death in 1975. The province's name was restored fully after the return of democracy to Spain, in 1977.

On December 30, 1981,[1] Asturias became an autonomous community within the decentralized territorial structure established by the Constitution of 1978. Rafael Luis Fernández Álvarez, who had previously served as the President of the Regional Council since 1978, became the first President of the Principality of Asturias, upon the adoption of autonomy.[1] The Asturian regional government holds comprehensive competencies in important areas such as health, education and protection of the environment. In May 2011, the President of the Government of Asturias is Francisco Álvarez-Cascos, of the Foro Asturias (FAC), being superseded by Javier Fernández on 2012.

Politics

In the autonomous community, legislative authority has been vested in the General Junta of the Principality of Asturias since 1982. It has 45 deputies elected each four years by universal suffrage and distributed by the D'Hondt method. For the election, Asturias territory is divided into three circunscriptions.

Political party 1983 1987 1991 1995 1999 2003 2007 2011 2012
PSOE 26 20 21 17 24 22 21 15 17
FAC 16 12
PP 14 13 15 21 15 19 20 10 10
IU 5 4 6 6 3 4 4 4 5
CDS 8 2
PAS 1 1
URAS 3
UPyD 1

List of the Presidents of Asturias

Name Start End Political party Notes
1. Rafael Fernández Álvarez 1978 1983 FSA-PSOE Pre-autonomic President until 11 January 1982.
2. Pedro de Silva Cienfuegos-Jovellanos 1983 1991 FSA-PSOE
3. Juan Luis Rodríguez-Vigil 1991 1993 FSA-PSOE Resigned due to the Petromocho scandal.
4. Antonio Trevín Lombán 1993 1995 FSA-PSOE
5. Sergio Marqués Fernández 1995 1999 PP/URAS
6. Vicente Álvarez Areces 1999 2011 FSA-PSOE
7. Francisco Álvarez Cascos 2011 2012 FAC
8. Javier Fernández Fernández 2012 current FSA-PSOE

Administrative and territorial division

Asturias is organised territorially into municipalities, further subdivided into parishes.

Municipalities of Asturias

There are at present 78 municipalities in Asturias.

Ranking Municipality Population[2]
1 Gijón 277,554
2 Oviedo 224,005
3 Avilés 84,242
4 Siero 51,181
5 Langreo 45,565
6 Mieres 44,070
7 Castrillón 22,894
8 San Martín del Rey Aurelio 18,729
9 Corvera de Asturias 15,955
10 Villaviciosa de Asturias 14,775

Parishes

Main article: Parroquia (Spain)

The parroquia or parish is the subdivision of the Asturian municipalities. Actually, there are 857 parishes integrating the 87 municipalities in the region, and they usually coincide with the ecclesiastic divisions.

Geography and climate

The Cantabrian Mountains (Cordillera Cantábrica) form Asturias's natural border with the province of León to the south. In the eastern range, the Picos de Europa National Park contains the highest and arguably most spectacular mountains, rising to 2,648 metres (8,688 ft) at the Torrecerredo peak. Other notable features of this predominantly limestone range are the Parque Natural de Redes in the central east, the central Ubiñas south of Oviedo, and the Parque Natural de Somiedo in the west. The Cantabrian mountains offer opportunities for activities such as climbing, walking, skiing and caving, and extend some 200 kilometres (120 mi) in total, as far as Galicia province to the west of Asturias and Cantabria province to the east.

The Asturian coastline is extensive, with hundreds of beaches, coves and natural sea caves. Notable examples include the Playa del Silencio (Beach of Silence) near the fishing village of Cudillero (west of Gijón), as well as the many beaches surrounding the summer resort of Llanes, such as the Barro, Ballota and Torimbia (the latter a predominantly nudist beach). Most of Asturias's beaches are sandy, clean, and bordered by steep cliffs, on top of which it is not unusual to see grazing livestock.


The key features of Asturian geography are its rugged coastal cliffs and the mountainous interior. The climate of Asturias, as with the rest of northwest Spain, is more varied than that of southern parts of the country. Summers are generally humid and warm with considerable sunshine but also some rain. Winters are cold with some very cold snaps. The cold is especially felt in the mountains, where snow is present from October till May. Both rain and snow are regular weather features of Asturian winters.

Demographics

In 2008, Asturias had a total fertility rate of 1.07, the lowest in the European Union.[3] Asturias is also one of the least religious areas of Europe. Some 45% of the Asturian population does not believe in god or a life force.

Languages

The only official language in Asturias is Spanish. The Asturian language, also known as Bable, is also spoken, but not very much,[quantify] and is protected by law (Ley 1/1998, de 23 de marzo, de uso y promoción del bable/asturiano — "Law 1/1998, of March 23, of Use and Promotion of Bable/Asturian"). It is sometimes used by the Asturian civil service. In the western part of Asturias, Eonavian is also spoken, and its promotion also falls under the responsibility of Law 1/1998. Whether Eonavian is a dialect continuum or a variety of Galician language, however, is a subject of debate, and its use in the Asturian Administration is minor compared to the use of the Asturian language. Within Asturias, there is an ongoing process to establish place names in Asturian and Eonavian dialects.

Food and drink

Main article: Asturian cuisine

While Asturias is especially known for its seafood, the most famous regional dish is fabada asturiana, a rich stew typically made with large white beans (fabes), shoulder of pork (lacón), black sausage (morcilla), and spicy sausage (chorizo).

Apple groves foster the production of the traditional alcoholic drink, a natural cider (sidra). When Asturian cider is served, it is poured in a particular way, El Escanciado: since it is natural and bottled without gas, the bottle must be held above the head allowing for a long vertical pour (requiring considerable skill and accuracy), which causes the cider to be aerated when it splashes into the glass below. This gives it a pleasant "zingy" taste. The glass is passed around and everyone drinks from the same glass. After drinking most of the glass, it is customary to splash a little out onto the ground, as a way to clean the glass of any lees for the next pouring.

Asturian cheeses, especially Cabrales, are also famous throughout Spain and beyond; Asturias is often called "the land of cheeses" (el país de los quesos) due to the product's diversity and quality in this region.

Economy

For centuries, the backbone of the Asturian economy was Central Lechera Asturiana are being commercialised all over Spain.

The main regional industry in modern times, however, was coal mining and steel production: in the times of Francisco Franco's dictatorship, it was the centre of Spain's steel industry. The then state-owned ENSIDESA steel company is now part of the privatised Aceralia, now part of the ArcelorMittal Group. The industry created many jobs, which resulted in significant migration from other regions in Spain, mainly Extremadura, Andalusia and Castile and León.

The steel industry is now in decline when measured in terms of number of jobs provided, as is the mining. The reasons for the latter are mainly the high costs of production to extract the coal compared to other regions. Regional economic growth is below the broader Spanish rate, though in recent years growth in service industries has helped reduce Asturias's high rate of unemployment. Large out-of-town retail parks have opened near the region's largest cities (Gijón and Oviedo), whilst the ever-present Spanish construction industry appears to continue to thrive.

Asturias has benefited extensively since 1986 from European Union investment in roads and other essential infrastructure, though there has also been some controversy regarding how these funds are spent, for example, on miners' pensions.

As of 2008, the GDP (PPP) per capita of Asturias stood at €22.640, or 90.2% of the European average of €25.100. This makes the region the 12th richest in Spain, a big decrease from the 1970s/1980s - the heyday of the Spanish mining industry, when Asturias was commonly regarded as one of the most prosperous regions in Southern Europe. Indeed Asturias has been growing below the Spanish national average since the decline of the mining industry, and grew just 0.82% in 2008, the lowest of all regions in Spain. On the plus side, unemployment in Asturias is below the average of Spain; at 8.43% it is also below the European average.

The Center for the Development of Information and Communication Technologies is located in Asturias.[4] A non-profit organization, made up of information technologies firms and the Government of the Principality, it is best known for producing The Web Accessibility Test, a free tool for the analysis of web sites.[5]


Main sights


Major attractions

Oviedo, the capital city of Asturias: a clean, picturesque city with a diverse architectural heritage. Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo, a pre-Romanesque church and a palace respectively, which were built by the first Asturian kings on Mount Naranco, to the north of the city. In modern architecture, the Palacio de Congresos de Oviedo (or Modoo), designed by Santiago Calatrava.

Gijon, the biggest city of Asturias, is a coastal city famous for cultural and sports events and there is a beach tourism centre in northern Spain. It also is famous for the traditional Asturian gastronomy and for being an important Asturian's cider production spot. There are many museums and places to visit in the city. It is also important to mention the Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura, including a Modern Art Museum, Theatre, etc.

Avilés,the third largest city in Asturias, is now becoming an essential touristic spot in the Principality. "La villa del adelantado"(as locals usually call it) is a meeting point where present and past meet. This is most notably clear once we go through the streets in the old quarter of the city. "Saint Nicholas of Bari" or "Capilla de los Alas" in Romanesque and Romanesque-Gothic style, respectively; Palacio de Balsera, in Modernist style or St. Thomas of Canterbury church (dating from the 13th century)are just a few examples which clearly show the magnificent historical patrimony to be found in the city. On the other hand, the Centro Niemeyer, designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, is one of the examples of modern architecture in Asturias. A visit to this Centre can also involve a walk along the Avilés estuary, regenerated and with an interesting permanent exhibition of modern sculptures: La ruta del acero ("Steel route")

The Picos de Europa National park, and other parts of the Asturian mountain range: The most famous mountain in the park is the Picu Urriellu (2519 m or 8262 ft), also known as El Naranjo de Bulnes, a molar-shaped peak which, reputedly, glows orange in the evening sun, hence its name. Weather permitting, it can be viewed clearly from Camarmeña village, near Poncebos, south of Arenas de Cabrales.

The shrine to the Virgin Mary of Covadonga and the mountain lakes (Los Lagos), near Cangas de Onís: Legend has it that in the 8th century, the Virgin blessed Asturian Christian forces with a well-timed signal to attack Spain's Moorish conquerors, thereby taking the invaders by surprise. The Reconquista and eventual unification of all Spain is therefore said to have started in this very location.

The Asturian coast: especially the beaches in and around the summer resort of Llanes, and the Playa del Silencio near Cudillero fishing village.

Other places of interest

  • Ceceda village: east of Oviedo along the N634 road. Of particular interest in this exemplary settlement are the traditional horreo grain silos, raised on stilts so as to keep field mice from getting at the grain.
  • The Dobra River: south of Cangas de Onís, famous for its unusual colour and natural beauty.
  • The senda costera (coastal way) between Pendueles and Llanes: This partly paved nature route takes in some of Asturias' most spectacular coastal scenery, such as the noisy bufones (blowholes) and the Playa de Ballota.
  • The unusual rock formation on the beach at Buelna village: east of Llanes. Best viewed at low tide.

Transportation

Air

Asturias is served by Asturias International Airport (OVD), 40 kilometres from Oviedo, near the northwest coast and the industrial town of Avilés.

  • International carriers
    • Air France
    • A UK-based international carrier, EasyJet, began daily flights to Asturias airport in March 2005, it operates to Stansted Airport, which the airline uses as a major hub. During the winter period, EasyJet usually reduces flying frequency to four flights per week.
    • A German-based carrier, Air Berlin, began flights to Asturias airport in November 2006, it operates to Mallorca which the airline uses as a major hub.
  • Several national carriers also link Asturias to Madrid and Barcelona, Brussels, Paris, Seville and others.

Eastern Asturias is also easily accessible from Santander Airport. Recent improvements introduced in the road network permit flying into Santander and later driving into Asturias, which can be entered in less than an hour's drive. The Irish airline Ryanair operates flights to Santander Airport from Frankfurt Hahn, Liverpool, Dublin, London Stansted and Rome Ciampino.

Sea

El Musel (the Port of Gijón) is able to receive cruise ships of any size. Companies as P&O, Swan Hellenic or Hapag Lloyd choose the Port of Gijón every year for their calls in the Atlantic European Coast. The following areas are available for cruise vessels:

  • Moliner quay: 313 m berthing with 14 m draught.
  • 7ª Alignment: 326 m with 12 m draught.
  • Espigón II. South alignment. 360 m berth with 9 m draught.

These locations allow a high degree of access control, with security guaranteed for both vessels and passengers alike. The city centre is only 4 km away and the Port Authority provides dedicated coach connection allowing passengers to take advantage of the cultural, gastronomic and commercial opportunities that Gijón has to offer.

Since 2010, the city of Gijón is connected by ferry with the French city of Nantes.[6] This connection is also known as the "sea highway" and it has a frequency of two ferries per day in both directions.

Train

Spain's national RENFE rail network also serves Asturias well; trains regularly depart to and from the Spanish interior. Major stops are the regional capital, Oviedo, and the main coastal city, Gijón. Meanwhile, the FEVE rail company links the centre of the region with Eastern and Western Asturias. A new tunnel under the Cantabrian Mountains, the Variante de Pajares, is currently under construction, and will reduce the journey times from Madrid to Asturias from 5 hours to just 3 hours, paving the way for the arrival of AVE trains in the near future.

Bus

There is also a comprehensive bus service run by the ALSA company. It links Avilés, Gijón, Oviedo and Mieres with Madrid and other major towns, several times a day. These include services to Barcelona, Salamanca, León, Valladolid, La Coruña, Bilbao, Seville, San Sebastián, Paris, Brussels and Nice, to name just a few.

Music

The music of Asturias is varied. The most characteristic instrument in traditional music is the

Anthem

The Asturian anthem Asturias, patria querida (Asturias, beloved fatherland) was a popular song adopted as the region's anthem and formalised by Ley 1/1984, de 27 de Abríl.

According to a popular myth, this song is sung by drunk people all over Spain; in reality, however, this is extremely uncommon.

Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias

Rossen Milanov is the Music Director.

Other

Asturias is also the name of the fifth movement of the Suite Española, Op. 47 by Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz. Nevertheless, the music has little in common with the region's own folklore. More authentic is Rimsky Korsakov's Spanish Cappriccio, which quotes liberally from Asturian musical heritage.

Famous citizens

Famous events

Gallery

See also

References

  • Bowen-Jones, H. and W.B. Fisher. Spain: An Introductory Geography. New York: Praeger, 1966.
  • Dresner, Denise, ed. Guide to the World. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1998. S.v. "Asturias"
  • Encyclopedia Americana. Danbury: Grolier, 2002. S.v. "Asturias"
  • Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1997. S.v. "Asturias"

External links

  • Government of the Principality of Asturias - Official Website
  • Tourism information for Asturias
  • InfoAsturias - Official Tourist Information Website
  • Meteorology of the Principality of Asturias
  • University of Oviedo
  • El Musel, the Port of Gijón
  • Investment Agency of the Principality of Asturias - Website
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