See Louis Aragon, Poet of the French Resistance (ed. by H. Josephson and M. Cowley, 1945); study by L. F. Becker (1971).
Aragon's northern province of Huesca borders France and is positioned in the middle of the Pyrenees. Within Spain, the region is flanked by Catalonia on the east, Valencia and Castile-La Mancha to the south, and Castile and Leon, La Rioja, and Navarre to the west.
Covering an area of , the region's terrain ranges diversely from eternal glaciers, to verdant valleys, rich pasture lands and orchards, through to the desert plains of the south. Aragon is home to many rivers — most notably, the river Ebro (or Iber as the Romans called it and after which the Iberians were named) — Spain's largest river in volume, which runs west-east across the entire region through the province of Zaragoza. It is also home to the Aneto the highest mountain in the Pyrenees.
As of 2006, the population was 1,277,471 with half of the region's people living in Zaragoza, its capital city.
In addition to its three provinces, Aragon is subdivided into 33 comarcas or counties; all with a rich geo-political and cultural history from its pre-Roman and Roman days; and the four centuries of Islamic period as Marca Superior of Alandalus or kingdom (or taifa) of Saraqustah; and as lands that once belonged to the Frankish Spanish March or Marca Hispanica; and counties that later formed the Kingdom of Aragon and eventually the empire or Crown of Aragon.
The majority of Aragonese people, 71.8%, live in the province of Zaragoza; 17.1% in Huesca and 11.1% in Teruel.. The population density of the region is the second lowest in Spain: only 26,8/km²; after Castilla La Mancha. The most densely populated areas are around the valley of the river Ebro, particularly around Zaragoza and the Pyrenean foothills, while the areas with the fewest inhabitants tend to be those that are higher up in the Pyrenean mountains, and in the southern drier province of Teruеl.
|Demographic evolution of Aragon and |
percentage of the total national population
In addition to Spanish, spoken by everyone in the region, the Aragonese language continues to be spoken in the mountainous northern counties of the Pyrenees, particularly in Ribagorza, Sobrarbe, Jacetania and Somontano and is enjoying a resurgence of popularity as a tool for regional identity.
Surrounded by strong regional identities outside of its borders, Aragon's border counties and villages have been influenced along the way by several languages: French and its regional Gascon dialect in the north, Basque to the west and Catalan in the east (in La Franja).
With such a low population density large areas of Aragon remain wild and relatively untouched. It is a land of extreme natural contrasts, both in climate and geologically, from the green valleys and snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees to the dry plains and lonely hilly areas of the south.
Aragon's Pyrenees include splendid and varied landscapes with soaring peaks, deep canyons, dense forests and spectacular waterfalls. Its rugged peaks include the Aneto (3,404 m), the highest in the range, the misty Monte Perdido (3,355 m), Perdiguero (3,221 m), Cotiella (2,912 m) and many others. The Maladeta Massif has the only glacier in the Pyrenees that can be observed.
Ordesa National Park, near the border with France, boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe with its canyons, frozen lake caverns, numerous waterfalls and varied wildlife many species of which are endemic to the Pyrenees. The park is also one of the last sanctuaries of birds of prey in the range. Many beautiful mountain butterflies and flowers can be seen in the summer, while during winter the region is a paradise for skiers.
The principal valleys in the mountains include those of Hecho, Canfranc, Tena, Benasque and others. The green valleys hide pretty villages with nice Romanesque churches and typical Pyrenean houses with flowers on the balconies. The oldest Romanesque cathedral in Spain is located in the medieval town of Jaca in the very northern part of Huesca Province.
Further south, the Ebro valley, irrigated by the river Ebro, is a rich and fertile agricultural area covered with vast fields of wheat, barley and other fruit and vegetable crops. Many beautiful and little-known settlements, castles and Roman ruins dot the landscape here. Some of the most notable towns here include Calatayud- Daroca, Sos del Rey Catolico, Caspe and others.
South of Zaragoza and the Ebro valley, the elevation rises again into the Sistema Iberico, a mountain range that separates the Ebro valley from the Meseta and plains of Castile-La Mancha. The highest mountain in this range is the Moncayo (2,313 m) and despite getting less snow than in the Pyrenees enjoys several respectable ski resorts.
Aragon's climate is determined by its elevation changes. Five Aragonese climate zones can be observed: very cold - in the Pyrenees mountains; a cold stop of the Pyrenean interior such as at Albarracín; temperate - in the Pyrenean and Iberian pre-mountainous areas; a subwarm area - in the central depression, and very warm in the depressions of the Martín-Ebro river, Sariñena and Matarraña.
In the middle of Aragon, which is only above sea level, the annual average temperature is around 14-15°C (57-59°F). To the north and south of the Ebro valley, where the elevation rises to above sea level, the temperature drops by two degrees. In the mountains, between and observed temperatures are between 11°C and 12°C (52-54°F).
Before Aragon came into being as a self-proclaimed kingdom in 1035, the northern counties of Jaca, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza were all independent marches and Frankish feudal fiefs. In a bid to stem Frankish and Moorish invasions, a northern alliance of the counties of Aragon, Sobrarbe, Ribagorza, and the duchy of Castile united with the Kingdom of Pamplona (later Navarre). After King Sancho's death, the kingdom was divided between his sons. Ramiro I was initially named king of Aragon; later, after his brother Gonzalo's death, he was also named king of Sobrarbe and Ribagorza. The new kingdom of Aragon grew quickly, and incorporated Navarra. This kingdom conquered the muslim kingdom and city of Zaragoza in 1118. Split from the kingdom of Navarre, the kingdom of Aragon was re-established in 1035 and lasted as a separate kingdom until 1469 when Ferdinand the Catholic married Isabella of Castile, creating the Kingdom of Spain.
The dynastic union between Petronila, Queen of Aragon, and Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona, produced a son, Alfonso II of Aragon who inherited all their respective territories creating the Crown of Aragon which included all lands, titles and states previously until then outside of the Kingdom of Aragon. This Crown was effectively ended after the dynastic union with Castile (see below) but the title continued being used until 1714. The dynasty of the Kings of Aragon (called by some present-day historians "Kings of Aragon and Counts of Barcelona") ruled the present administrative region of Aragon, Catalonia, and later the Balearic Islands, Valencia, Sicily, Naples and Sardinia (see Aragonese Empire).
In the Crown of Aragon, the king was the direct King of the Aragonese region but also held the title of King of Valencia, King of Majorca (for a time), Count of Barcelona, Lord of Montpellier, and (temporarily) Duke of Athens and Neopatria. Each of these titles gave him sovereignty over a certain region, and these titles changed as he lost and won territories.
During the War of the Spanish Succession the advancing army of German, British and Dutch troops defeated the Spanish Army in the battle of Saragossa in 1710. As a result of the battle Felipe V was forced to abandon Madrid and retreated to Valladolid.
During the Peninsular War the Aragonese capital was a site of two fierce sieges. During the siege in 1808 the Spanish under General Palafox defeated a superior French force. In 1809 during a particularly bloody siege the Spaniards were overwhelmed by superior enemy forces. In the course of the siege almost 30,000 of the garrison and citizens of Saragossa (from a total of 32,000) perished instead of surrendering the city. Two weeks after they breached the walls the French were forced to fight for separate houses, squares, churches, convents.
During the Spanish Civil War, Aragon saw the establishment of various anarchist communes.
Further to the south lies Teruel, famous for its Mudejar architecture, which can be easily spotted in its magnificent cathedral, churches and towers. Other notable towns to the south include Albarracin, Alcañiz, Valderrobres and many others.
Some medieval monuments of Teruel and Zaragoza are protected by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Sites Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon. The traditional dance is known as Jota (music) and is one of the faster and more beautiful dances of Spain.
Aragon is among the richest autonomous regions in Spain, with GDP per capita above the nation's average. The traditional agriculture-based economy from the mid 20th century has been greatly transformed in the past several decades and now service and industrial sectors are the backbone of the economy in the region.
The well-developed irrigation system around the Ebro has greatly supported the productive agriculture. The most important crops include wheat, barley, rye, fruit and grapes. Livestock-breeding is essential especially in the northern areas, where the lush meadows provide excellent conditions for sheep and cattle. The main livestock are cattle – 334,600; sheep – 2,862,100; pigs – 3,670,000; goats – 78,000 and poultry – 20,545,000.
The chief industrial centre is the capital Zaragoza, where the largest factories are located. The largest plant is the Opel automotive plant with 8,730 employees and production of 200,000 per year. It supports many related industries in the area. Other large plants in the city include factories for trains and household appliances. Mining of iron ore and coal is developed to the south, near Ojos Negros. Electricity production is concentrated to the north where numerous hydro power plants are located along the Pyrenean rivers and in the 1,150 MW Teruel Power Plant. There is an aluminium refinery in the town of Sabiñánigo. The main centres of electronics industry are Zaragoza, Huesca and Benabarre. Chemical industry is developed in Zaragoza, Sabiñánigo, Monzón, Teruel, Ojos Negros, Fraga, Benabarre and others.
The transport infrastructure has been greatly improved. There are more than of motorways which run from Zaragoza to Madrid, Teruel, Basque country, Huesca and Barcelona. The condition of the other roads is also good. As of 2005 there are 520,000 cars in Aragon. Through the territory of the province runs the new high-speed railway between Madrid and Barcelona with siding from Zaragoza to Huesca, which is going to be continued to the French border. There is an International Airport at Zaragoza, as well as several smaller airports at Huesca, Caude, Santa Cilia de Jaca and Villanueva de Gállego.
As an autonomous community of Spain, Aragon has an elected regional parliament or cortes, which sits at the Aljafería, a Moorish palace in the capital Zaragoza.
It is not known if the names are correct, however many of the dates cannot be correct, as Aragon merged with Castile in 1479 when Isabella married Ferdinand. After that date the two countries were one called Spain.
See list of Lieutenants of the Kingdom of Aragón
The dynastic union of Castile and Aragon in 1479, when Ferdinand II of Aragon wed Isabella I of Castile, led to the formal creation of Spain as a single entity in 1516. See List of Spanish monarchs and Kings of Spain family tree.
With its lush pyrenean pastures, lamb, beef and dairy by-products are, not surprisingly, predominant in Aragonese cuisine. Also of note is its ham from Teruel; olive oil from Empeltre and Arbequina; longaniza from Graus; rainbow trout and salmon, boar, truffles and wild mushrooms from the upper river valleys of the Jacetania, Gallego, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza regions; and wines from Cariñena, Somontano, Calatayud and Campo de Borja; and fruit, especially peaches, from its fertile lower valleys. The region also features a unique local haggis, known as chireta, and several interesting seafood dishes, including various crab pastes, which developed from an old superstition that crabs help prevent illness.