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CUENCA, CASTILLA LA MANCHA

Other places in Castilla la Mancha:
Albacete Vacations Ciudad Real vacations Guadalajara vacations Toledo

Cuenca is a province of central Spain, in the eastern part of the autonomous community of Castile-La Mancha. It is bordered by the provinces of Valencia (including its exclave Rincón de Ademuz), Albacete, Ciudad Real, Toledo, Madrid, Guadalajara, and Teruel.

211,375 people (2007) live in the province. Its capital is Cuenca, where nearly a quarter of the population live, some 52,980 people. There are 238 municipalities in Cuenca.

Other populous towns and municipalities include Tarancón, San Clemente, Quintanar del Rey, Honrubia, Villanueva de la Jara, Motilla del Palancar, Mota del Cuervo and Las Pedroñeras.

Cuenca is also a city, the capital of the Cuenca province (2004 pop. 47,862) in the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain. It is the capital of the province of Cuenca (see map), one of the largest provinces in Spain (17,061 sq. km.), almost as large as countries like Slovenia or Montenegro.

When the Iberian peninsula was part of the Roman Empire there were several important settlements in the province, such as Segóbriga, Ercávica and Gran Valeria. However, the place where Cuenca is located today was uninhabited at that time.

After Muslim troops conquered the area in 714, they soon realized the value of this strategic location and they built Conca alcazaba (an Arabic fortress) between two gorges dug between the Júcar and Huécar rivers, surrounded by a one km long wall. Cuenca soon became an agricultural and textile manufacturing city, enjoying growing prosperity.

Around the twelfth century the Christians, living in northern Spain during the Muslim presence, started to slowly recover the Iberian peninsula. Castile took over western and central areas of Spain, while Aragon enlarged along the Mediterranean area. The Muslim Kingdom, Al-Andalus, started to break into small provinces (Reinos de taifas) under christian pressure, and in 1100 these areas were near Conca. Conca was conquered by Alfonso VIII , King of Castile, from the Taifa's Kingdom of Toledo in 1177. Previously it had been handed to Castile, under the marriage agreement between princess Zaida and Alfonso VI, but it was soon recovered by the Muslims in 1108, after the battle of Sagrajas.

Alfonso VIII granted a city title, and it was considered to be "Muy noble y muy leal" (Very noble and very faithful). It was given a name, the Fuero, written in Latin, that ruled Cuenca's citizenship, and it was considered one of the most perfect written at that period of time. During the next few centuries Cuenca enjoyed prosperity, thanks to textile manufacturing and livestock exploitation.The cathedral started to be built at that time, in an anglo-norman style, with many French workers, since Alfonso VIII's wife, Leonor de Plantagenet, was French.

During the eighteenth century the textile industry declined, especially when Carlos IV forbade this activity in Cuenca in order to prevent competition with the Real Fábrica de Tapices (Royal Tapestry Factory), and Cuenca's economy declined, thus losing population dramatically (5,000 inhabitants). During the independence war against Napoleon's troops the city suffered great destruction, and it made the crisis worse. The city lost population, with only around 6,000 inhabitants, and only the rail track arrival in the nineteenth century, together with the timber industry, were able to boost Cuenca moderately, and population increased as a result to reach 10,000 inhabitants. In 1874 Cuenca was taken over by "carlistas" troops, supporters of Carlos María Isidro as king instead of the ruling Isabel II, and the city suffered great damage once more.

The twentieth century began with the collapse of the Giraldo cathedral's tower in 1902, which affected also the facade. It had to be rebuilt by Vicente Lámperez, with two new twin towers at both ends of the facade which have remained unfinished without the upper part of them.

The first decades of the twentieth century were as turbulent as in other regions of Spain. There was poverty in rural areas, and the Catholic Church was attacked, with some monks, nuns, priests and even a bishop, Cruz Laplana, killed. During the Civil War Cuenca was part of the republican zone (Zona roja). It was conquered in 1938 by General Franco's troops. During the post-war period this area fell into extreme poverty, and a lot of people had to migrate to more prosperous regions, mainly the Basque Country and Catalunya, but also to other countries such as Germany. The city started to recover slowly from 1960 to 1970, and the town limits went far beyond the gorge to the flat surroundings.

During the last years, the city has experimented a moderate growth in population and economy, the second one effect thanks specially to the growing tourism sector, and both of them fuelled by dramatic improvements in road and train communications. Cuenca has strongly bet on culture and as a result of this it was declared a World Heritage site in 1996. In the recent years, new cultural infraestructures such as the municipal Concert Hall or the Science Museum place Cuenca in a good position to apply for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2016.

Map of Cuenca:

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