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History

A little bit of history

The territory which is today known as the Region of Murcia has been inhabited by man for over 1,500,000 years, and this human presence has been a constant factor in the development of the Murcian landscape since the remotest periods of prehistory. The first evidence of the presence of man dates back to the Neanderthal and Cromagnon periods, whilst archaeological finds become abundant from Neolithic times onwards. Iron age remains begin to speak of a certain level of progress leading to the development of agriculture and the domestication of livestock during the Iberian period and, later, intense commercial activity with the presence of Phoenecian, Greek and Carthaginian settlers in permanent conflict with the autoctonous peoples. Scipio's conquest of the city of Carthago Nova in 209 BC led to the definitive expansion of what had already become an important economic and political centre in the Mediterranean.

The conquest of the region by Rome initiated a period of uninterrupted growth all along the Murcian coast which was to go on for more than 600 years. During this period communications in the area were developed, mining came to be of great importance and the foundations of its future agricultural prosperity were laid. Already at that time, market-garden produce from the valley irrigated by the Segura River (then known as the River Thader) was highly appreciated, as was fish caught on the rich off-shore fishing-grounds. After a prolonged spell of political instability, a consequence of the disintegration of the Roman Empire, a long period of Arab domination began in 713 AD when Abdelaziz defeated Theudemir's Hispano-Visigoth army in Cartagena. The year 825 AD constituted a further historical landmark, when the city of Murcia was officially founded by Abderraman II. These events marked the onset of Murcia's economic prosperity since the Arabs initiated the large-scale exploitation of the Segura river valley, creating a whole complex irrigation system, composed of canals, dams and water-wheels, the forerunner of today's irrigation network, which made it possible to reap the maximum benefit from the vast expanse of fertile land surrounding the city. However, the economic abundance brought to the South of Spain by the Arabs was placed in jeopardy by internal strife, military pressures from the Northern frontier and internal political disorders. The creation of the Taifa kingdoms at the beginning of the eleventh century was the swansong of a territory which would shortly fall - in 1243 - under the vassalage of Castile, and the remains of Andalusia were finally incorporated into this kingdom with the signing of the Granada Peace Treaty in 1492. From this time onwards peace came to the Murcian territories, and they went through a sustained period of economic and demographic growth.

Important projects were undertaken, new guilds were born and cities flourished during the course of the sixteenth century. The XVII century brought a new period of instability, with a succession of epidemics, plagues and prolonged droughts, after which a slow process of recuperation gradually set in thanks to the expansion of the surface area dedicated to agriculture and the liberalization of commerce.

The arrival of the XVIII century hailed a new period of growth where urban splendour - contemporary with the artistic development of the famed Murcian baroque - was accompanied by the completion of the Cathedral in Murcia and the construcción of the Arsenal in Cartagena, evident signs of the civil and military prosperity. With the coming of the XIX century, History's ups and downs brought a new period of crisis to the Region coinciding with a long succession of floods and droughts, and it was only when the second half of the century was well under way that a new relaunching of the economy in the area took place, thanks to a process of industrialization powered mainly by mining wealth derived from its rich ore deposits. However, the depletion of natural resources, the weakness of an economy based mainly on industry funded by foreign capital, together with instability provoked by revolutionary riots and the short-sightedness of commerce unwilling to direct its attention towards external markets, together wove a precarious panorama with which to initiate the XX century.

And in fact we must wait until the end of the decade of the 20's before the region definitively boards the train of progress - with the inevitable parenthesis of the Civil War - giving birth to an industry dedicated to the transformation of agricultural products in sectors such as food-processing, leading to the modernisation of all its agricultural structures. On these bases, the Region has set about its expansion, confidently undertaking the necessary social and economic changes required to enter a Twenty-first Century full of challenges for the future.

The Mar Menor (small sea leading from the Mediterrenean)is the largest salt water lake in Europe. The islands that rise out of the water remind us of their volcanic origins, although there is more evidence supporing Roman and Arabic settlements in the area. The region was very important for the Romans as it was here that they developed a salt industry. The close proximity to the seas was important for the Romans as they relied heavily on shipping raw materials to other parts of the Empire. In Roman times, the Mar Menor was virtually joined to the Mediterrenean, but over time the gap has narrowed and about 1000 years ago became as it is now.

San Pedro del Pinatar got it's name at the beginning of the 17th century. It was named after San Pedro - St. Peter, the apostle and fisherman. Before then it was called El Pinar, due to the extensive forestation in the area of mostly pine trees. In the winter, wild boar could be hunted. The salt flats are of particular importance in the area and are also home to flocks of flaminoges as they migrate to Africa.

San Javier's history dates back to the end of the attacks by the Berbers, at the beginning of the 17th century. The name San Javier comes from the name Saint Francisco Javier - whose name was given to the hermitage that formed the center of the town.

Santiago de la Ribera appeared around the end of the 19th century, and like San Javier it grew around a small hermitage. The town was named after the apostle Saint James and was founded by a friar.

Los Alcazares was originally named by the Arabs, whose regular use to visit Al Kazar (the original origin of the name Los Alcazares). They were attracted to the old Roman thermal baths with their theraputic properties. At the beginning of the 20th century the town became popular with those looking to luxuriate in the baths, an era typified by the Hotel Balneario built in 1904 which housed the baths.

La Union is rich in mining history, evidence of which is highly visible. In the 19th century gold fever gripped La Union and the promise of striking it rich brought thousands flocking to the area. Today all that is left are the old wheelhouses and a town whose relationship with mining is fading.

Cabo de Palos typifies a traditional Spanish fishing village in the area. A prominebt feature is the lighthouse which was designed as a school for lighthouse keepers in 1865. Next door to Cabo de Palos is La Mange, some 21km long. La Mange means 'the sleeve' - a wholly appropriate term for this strip of land sandwiched between two seas. The hotels in La Manga make up 50% of the total in the region, such is the popularity of the area as a tourist destination.

Cartagena is a south facing port with a rich and long history, dating back to the Phoenicians and beyond. It fell into Roman hands and became Carthago Nova. It was destructed during the Visigoths period and became part of the Kingdom of Castilla in the 13th century. In the 16th century under King Felipe II, defensive towers were built on the coast. In the 18th century during the reign of Carlos III, many military installations were created. The 19th century saw the growth in mining bringing economic wealth to the area and the emergence of new buildings in the modernist style.

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