The Principality of Asturias (Asturian: Asturies) is a province and an autonomous community of Spain on the north coast facing the Cantabric Sea (Spanish: Mar Cantábrico).
The capital is Oviedo; Other noteworthy cities are the major seaport Gijón, which is the biggest city of Asturias, and the industrial city of Avilés. Asturias was formerly called the province of Oviedo during a short period of time under Franco's dictatorship but it got its original name back in the democracy. Other towns include Cangas de Onís, Cangas del Narcea, Grado (also known as Grao), Langreo, Mieres, Villaviciosa, and Llanes. See also List of municipalities in Asturias, Comarcas of Asturias.
The autonomous community is bordered on the east by Cantabria, on the south by Castile-Leon (Castilla y León, province of León), on the west by Galicia (province of Lugo), and on the north by the Cantabric Sea .
At one point, Asturias was one of the last remnants of Christian Spain; for this reason, the heir to the Spanish throne automatically takes the title of Prince of Asturias, much as the heir to the British throne is the Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay.
Asturias shares the Parque Nacional Picos de Europa Biosphere Reserve (in the Picos de Europa mountain range) with Cantabria and with the province of León. Also have another Biosphere Reserves: Muniellos, Somiedo, Redes.
Economy of Asturias
Since the late 1960s Asturias has experienced an economic decline. During the last four decades the economic growth rate of the region has remained below the broader Spanish rate. This decline is due to the crisis experienced by the traditional economic branches in which the economy of the principality had been based in the twentieth century.
The traditional resource of Asturias was mountain farming . The mountain pastures feed milk cows. The mountains also held rich coal mines; however, lately Asturian coal can't compete with off-EU imports and is maintained by tariffs and subventions. The main mining company is the state-run Hunosa . There was also a steel industry, grouped around the state-run Ensidesa . The difficulties to compete with foreign imports led to a troubled reconvertion process, heavily protested with strikes. The steel industry was privatized in 1997.
Asturias is known for its fine beef, game and seafood, but its most famous dish is Fabada Asturiana, a stew made with large white beans (fabes ), shoulder of pork (lacón), black sausage (morcilla), spicy sausage (chorizo) and saffron (azafrán).
The apple trees sustain the production of alcoholic cider, traditionally poured standing, with the bottle a metre above the glass, to oxygenate the brew. Asturian cheeses, especially Cabrales cheese, are also famous, the latter not just for its pungent odour. Salmon swim up Asturian rivers; the first fish of the season is called campanu (from campana, a bell tolled to signal the catch) and reaches a high price.
After the fading of the Kingdom of Asturias, the region survived as a marginal territory within the boundaries of Spain, although it provided the court with high-rank aristocrats and played a remarkable role during the colonization of America.
During the 18th Century, Asturias became one of the main sites of the Spanish Enlightenment. The renowned thinker Benito de Feijoo settled his residence in the Benedictine Monastery of San Vicente (Oviedo). The late Spanish pioneer Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos is born in the sea-side town of Gijón.
The Industrial Revolution broke into Asturias with the discovery and exploitation of coal and iron sources. Neverthless, the economical prosperity bought by the industry did not avoid the mass migration to America. Some of those wanderers who crossed the ocean suceeded overseas and could return home with a brand-new richness. They were called 'indianos' and erected massive mansions.
In 1934, the worker movements fought the government of the Second Spanish Republic in the so-called Revolution of Asturias . Troops led by Francisco Franco were brought from the North African colonies to suffocate the rebellion.
In 1982 Asturias became an Autonomous Community. The Regional Government (Junta General) held a comprehensive competences in important areas such as health, education or protection of the environment.
Since 1999 the President of the Regional Government is Vicente Álvarez Areces, from the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE).
Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:03:39