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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Changes -1882 Catalonia




The ancient principality of Catalonia is now separated into four provinces. To the north of Lerida, and buried in the mountains, is the so-called republic of Andorra, which owes its practical independence to the singular fact of a double seigneurie. Both the Counts of Foix, in France, and the Prince-Bishops of Urgel, in Spain, were supreme Lords of Andorra. On paper its constitution is by no means so free as that of several other Pyrenean communities; but by skilfully playing off the jealousies and rivalries of its two lords, and preventing either from getting absolute power, this little state of twenty-eight miles by twenty has remained unsubdued, and unattached to either nationality. The chief trade of the republic may be said to be smuggling.Lerida, except in the valley of the Segre, is extremely mountainous, and like all the hill country of Catalonia is rich in minerals, especially in salt, near Solsona. The rest of its products are chiefly agricultural. The province is but thinly peopled; its chief town contains 20,000 inhabitants. Balaguer (5000), Solsona (2500), are the most populous of the remaining. With Gerona we enter the Mediterranean or Provençal region and climate, and come in contact not only with picturesque and glowing scenery, with a gorgeous variety of natural productions, but also with traditions and remains of the great works of all the races that have dominated this inland sea. From the Pyrenees to Carthagena the names of the chief towns recall classic reminiscences, and bring before us the struggles of ancient nations, contending on her soil for a far mightier empire than that of Spain. The province of Gerona contains Cape Creuz, the extreme north-easterly point of the peninsula, not far from the old Greek cities of Rosas and Emporium (Ampurias). Of its towns, Gerona, on the Ter, and Figueras have each 8000, but are surpassed by Olot, 10,000, around which town are grouped the most recently extinct volcanoes in Spain. Coal is found in San Juan de las Abadesas. Here the Spanish gravity is mingled with the fire and dash of the Provençals, and the inhabitants both of Gerona and Barcelona, are more Provençal than Spanish, in language, political character, and in commercial and industrial aptitudes. The natural productions, and the flora too, are almost identical with those of the more sheltered parts of Provence and of the Riviera. Palm trees are seen as common ornaments in gardens and public squares, oranges and olives flourish, the mulberry is cultivated and silkworms are reared, and all announces a warmer zone than any that we have hitherto traversed. Barcelona (250,000) the first industrial and commercial city of Spain, and the second in point of population, is also the capital of the most thickly inhabited province. The greater part of the trade and navigation of the whole Spanish sea-board from Catalonia to Cadiz, or even to Seville, is in the hands of its merchants. The cotton industry of Catalonia employed in 1870 a capital of 6,000,000l., and 104,000 workmen, distributed in 700 factories. The chief of the other manufacturing towns are Gracia (33,000), and St. Martin de Provensals (24,000). The annual commercial movement of Barcelona is estimated at about 11,000,000 l. sterling. The British imports, chiefly of coal and iron, amount to nearly 1,000,000l. sterling; but the exports are a mere trifle, 10,000l., most of the ships returning in ballast; while on the contrary, the exports of Tarragona, Palamos, Mataro, and Villamena, and the smaller ports amount to nearly 1,000,000l., chiefly in wine, and the imports are only half that amount. Irrigation is successfully carried on in the valley of the Llobregat. Tarragona (23,000) is rich in Roman remains, in the picturesque beauty of its site, in its Gothic architecture, in the mildness of its climate, and in the goodness of its wines; but it is surpassed both in wealth and population by the neighbouring manufacturing city of Reus (27,000), and also by Tortosa (24,000) on the Ebro, to which town all the river transport converges. The Ebro below Tortosa forms a sandy delta, and its channels are continually silting up. The canal of San Carlos, to connect Amposta with the sea by the port of Alfaques, has had but little success.

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