Puerto Real

Puerto Real (Port Royal) is a seaport in southern Spain, in the province of Cádiz and the autonomous region of Andalusia. It had a population of 37,886 in 2005.

The town is located on the northern shore of the inner lobe of the Bay of Cádiz, on the site of the ancient Roman settlement of Portus Gaditanus. An ancient trading post, it is probably the oldest settlement on the Bay of Cádiz. It owes its modern name to the fact that it was rebuilt in 1488 by Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. Puerto Real can boast of handsome public squares and broad well-constructed streets; it also has an attractive town-hall building, a bullring, and a remarkable 16th-century church, which was constructed in the Gothic style.


As a matter of convenience, the town of Puerto Real can be viewed as having two separate zones with two separate characters, a maritime zone and a hinterland zone. Central Puerto Real lies entirely within the maritime zone, facing, as it does, the Bay of Cadiz and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The inland zone, the so-called hinterland, is far larger in area but far less populated.

Puerto Real borders the towns and cities of San Fernando to the southwest, Chiclana de la Frontera to the south, Medina Sidonia to the southeast, Jerez de la Frontera to the north and northeast, and El Puerto de Santa Maria to the northwest.

A good portion of the periphery of Puerto Real lies within the Bay of Cádiz Natural Reserve, an area known for its salt marshes; the reeds of the marshes are the raw material for weaving mats that form the walls of cages in fish-farming enterprises (pisciculture). These wetlands, composed of lagoons as well as salt marshes, welcome, in the spring and autumn, huge flocks of migratory birds en route to their new seasonal homes. Also, on the outskirts of Puerto Real, there are several notable pine forests, among them, Las Canteras (the Forest of Quarries) and La Algaida (Mare's Meadow Forest). Because of its forests and estaurine marshes, Puerto Real is sometimes called the "green lung" of the Bay of Cádiz. The San Pedro river, an arm of the Guadalete river, flows along the northwestern edge of the town, separating Puerto Real from neighboring El Puerto de Santa Maria. Puerto Real is united to Cádiz by the José León de Carranza Bridge, named for a former mayor of Cádiz. As of 2007, a second bridge was planned.

Other remarkable aspects of Puerto Real's geography are the many kilometers of gorges, ravines, and artificially-created footpaths that traverse the municipality. Among them is a long green corridor, constituting one end of the Two Bays Trail that unites the two large bays of the province of Cádiz, the Bay of Cádiz and the Bay of Algeciras.

There are also two concentrations of population within the municipal limits of Puerto Real that are not contiguous with the central part of the city; they are called the District of Jarana and the District of the San Pedro (river).


Although the city, as we know it, was founded in 1483 by Ferdinand and Isabella, the actual history of Puerto Real begins in pre-Roman antiquity. There are vestiges of both prehistoric and Roman settlements in Puerto Real that bear witness to the fact that the land on which the modern city is sited has been inhabited for a very long time. Puerto Real is the site of the ancient Roman settlement of Portus Gaditanus, meaning "The Port of Gades", the maritime appendage of the Roman colonia, Gades (Cádiz), across the narrow end of the bay.

The Spanish monarchs decided to build a new "royal" port city on this site because they wished to become personally involved in the lucrative trade that had developed with North Africa. Powerful nobles already dominated all of the other ports of western Andalusia (Cádiz, Huelva, and, to a lesser extent, Seville). From the time of its founding, Puerto Real's prosperity was closely tied to the fortunes of these other Spanish ports, especially Cádiz, which soon grew rich from its commerce with America.

In 1820, there was a popular liberal revolt in Spain, led by the constitutionalist and patriot, Rafael del Riego y Nunez (1785-1823), that sought to reinstate the liberal constitution that had been proclaimed in 1812. This revolt led to the imprisonment of King Ferdinand VII in Cádiz and the convening of the liberal Cortes in that city. An international conference of monarchist powers, the Congress of Verona, in October 1822, deputized France to secure Ferdinand's release and restore absolutism in Spain. The invading French army, known as the Hundred Thousand Children of St. Louis (France's patron saint), took Madrid, and, on 7 April 1823, laid siege to Cádiz from positions in Puerto Real and nearby San Fernando. Initially, French artillery barrages failed to cause the fall of the city. Riego's forces held the strategic Fort San Luis on the island of Trocadero at the extreme south end of the Bay of Cádiz, between Cádiz and Puerto Real. When the fort's defenders succumbed to a French assault on 31 August 1823, Trocadero was lost, and so, in effect, was the liberal cause. The remaining defenders of Cádiz, smarting from their loss at the Battle of Trocadero and despairing of the possibility of reinforcement, sued for peace. They made an agreement that resulted in the release and reinstatement of Ferdinand VII. In exchange, the liberals secured promises of an amnesty for their fighters and for the members of the dissident Cortes; the agents of the king also agreed to the establishment of a form of constitutional monarchy where the principles of the 1812 constitution were supposed to be respected.

In the process of besieging Cádiz, the French succeeded in destroying a large part of Puerto Real, including its water delivery and sanitation systems. Perhaps it was because of these events that Puerto Real was regularly beset by epidemics throughout much of the nineteenth century.

Another reminder in Puerto Real of the time of the French invasion is the Cortadura canal that allows passage across the base of the peninsula of Cádiz. The canal is not a natural waterway; it was constructed by the Spanish in an attempt to prevent the French artillery from drawing closer to the walls of the city.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Puerto Real experienced an industrial boom, thanks to the creation of modern shipyards by Antonio López. New technological advances and the new industries drastically modified the appearance of Puerto Real. To make room for the new shipyards and warehouses, a working-class neighborhood, Matagorda, was leveled, but new neighborhoods, like the River San Pedro and Marquesado districts, sprang up.

The economy

Puerto Real is a city with an economy based almost exclusively on industry.

Shipbuilding and marine repairs

The shipbuilding industry, for centuries the backbone of the local economy, has recently undergone serious reverses because of ferocious competition from shipbuilders operating in Asian countries where labor is paid a low wage. Another factor affecting the shipbuilding business is the issue of double-hulled vessels. Subject to the strict regulations of the European Community, local shipbuilders must construct double hulls for any ship designed to carry hazardous cargo, like petroleum or chemicals. However, foreign competitors can make do with a single hull, thereby securing a competitive advantage.

Aeronautical fabrication

Unlike the shipbuilding industry, which is in decline, the airplane-building industry is doing well. Airbus operates a factory in Puerto Real responsible for the construction of the tail stabilizer assembly, the rudder, and the belly fairing of the Airbus A380 airplane. The Puerto Real facility is also involved in fabrication of the lateral drawer of the A320 airplane and rudder assemblies for the A330 and the A340.

Auto parts

Puerto Real is the home of a Delphi auto parts plant associated with General Motors. There is currently a huge crisis in this company with plans for its immediate closure.

Large-scale construction

Local companies are involved in off-shore dredging. Also, a Puerto Real concern has built one of the largest off-shore natural-gas drilling platforms in the world.

Other industries

Many small and medium-sized companies supply services and manual labor for the other industrial enterprises in the area. The crisis in the shipbuilding industry has had a deleterious effect on these second-tier enterprises.

Economic transformaton

Due to the decline in shipbuilding, Puerto Real has already lost an important part of its industrial base, and the economy of the entire Bay of Cádiz area has suffered. This has resulted in a dramatic shift in the regional economic model, away from a dependence on heavy industry, toward an emphasis on tourism. However, Puerto Real, an industrial community headed toward obsolescence, is not as well-positioned to trade on sunshine and beach sand as some of its neighbors. The transition to a tourism-based economy has proved to be slow and painful. Puerto Real persists in having a high birth-rate, and the age of its average citizen continues to decline. Young people lacking jobs are forced to seek work elsewhere in Spain or even leave the country altogether.

Lacking fine beaches, Puerto Real has turned its attention inland. For that reason, the city's efforts at tourism-promotion mainly emphasize "rural tourism" activities, like golf, horseback-riding, walking, hiking, bicycling, and nature sightseeing. The local countryside has become a prime asset, and now Puerto Real builds hiking paths and golf courses rather than ocean-going tankers. The situation is much the same in other communities of the Bay of Cádiz area, like San Fernando, El Puerto de Santa Maria, and Cádiz itself.


Source: INE (Spain)

Social life

The social life of the city is based on neighborhood associations, religious organizations, and other social clubs. The yearly pre-Lenten carnival is a year-round preoccupation.


Since the time of the transition from dictatorship under Francisco Franco to democracy and a constitutional monarchy form of government (1975-1980), Puerto Real has remained to the left of the political spectrum. Leftist parties, sometimes in coalition with centrists, have dominated the local and provincial organs of democracy.

Points of interest

  • Campus of Puerto Real, (University of Cádiz)
  • Parque natural of the Quarries: the only place in Europe where chameleons may be found
  • Lugares and the legends of Puerto Real
  • Forest of the Quarries
  • La Algaida
  • The harborside walking tour with its “finishing nail of the wharf”
  • The Trocadero
  • The river San Pedro's unique landscape surrounded by pine groves

Notable people from Puerto Real


This article is based loosely on a translation of the corresponding article from the Spanish Wikipedia.

See also

External links


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