One of the autonomous regions sharing a border with France, Aragón is in the middle of the Pyrenees, bordered by Catalonia to its east, Valencia and Castilla-La Mancha to the south and Navarra and Castille y León to the south. The fourth largest of the regions comprises of three provinces – Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel. More than half of the region’s population live in Zaragoza itself, whilst Huesca is the only other town of more than 50,000 people.
Geography of Aragon
The region can be geographically separated into three distinct areas. The northern part of the regionis part of the Pyrenees, including its highest mountain, Aneto. The southernmost parts of Aragón form part of the Iberian mountain range whilst the central zone is part of the Ebro Depression; at times a bleak, desert-like and treeless region. Here, parts of the land are only 200m above sea level and there are many tributaries flowing from the mountains into the Ebro itself.
Map of Aragon
There is evidence of Paleolithic settlement in the Ebro Valley but it was during Roman times that the area began to really develop. Zaragoza itself was an important Roman site, originally named after the emperor Caesar Augusto. The Moors made the area the northern frontier of their Spanish lands, again ruled from Zaragoza, although they could never fully claim to be in control of the Pyrenees. After the Re-conquest during the eleventh century, King Ramiro I established Aragón as an independent kingdom. It was the marriage of Ramiro II’s daughter to the Count of Barcelona that really enhanced the region’s fortunes and the Crown of Aragón – as the newly-formed kingdom was known – included Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Sardinia, Sicily and Naples. Eventually, the marriage of the King of Aragón, Ferdinand, with the Queen of Castilla, Isabel, led to the formation of one of the country’s great dynasties and arguably the beginning of modern Spain.
Aragón was later to become the site of several important military battles. For example, during the Spanish War of Succession, in 1710, there was a decisive defeat for the Spanish troops of Felipe V at the hands of the combined British, Dutch and German armies at the Battle of Zaragoza. Then Zaragoza, during the Peninsular War, suffered two great sieges. The first of these, in 1808, saw the French defeated but the second, the following year, saw all but 2,000 of the city’s 32,000 people wiped out as Zaragoza was re-taken. There was later to be some of the most ferocious fighting of the Spanish Civil war in Aragón – notably in Belchite and Zaragoza itself in 1937 and1938.
There is a local Aragonese language, with close connections to Spanish and the Basque language of Euskara, but it is apparently only spoken by around 10,000 people. The signposts and street names are all in Spanish.
Aragón is one of the wealthiest of the autonomous communities although the service and industrial sectors have now taken precedence over the traditional agricultural economy of the past. Zaragoza is the industrial centre, with a large Opel car-producing factory as well as important chemical and electrical engineering plants. There is still mining of coal and iron ore in the south of the region, and in the north a large number of hydro-electric power stations. The most important agricultural crops are barley, rye, wheat and fruit – along with grapes as there is a thriving wine production industry here. In the meadows of the mountains, there are many farms breeding cattle, sheep and pigs.
Climate of Aragon
The great differences between the mountainous regions of the north and south and the lands of the Ebro Depression mean that you cannot really talk about the climate of Aragón as a whole. The climate is determined predominantly by the geographical conditions. It is possible, therefore, to say that the Pyrenees have a climate of long, hard winters with a great deal of precipitation – much of it falling as snow. The southern Iberian mountains have a traditional temperate climate whereas the central depression has a continental Mediterranean climate with extremely hot summers and very little rainfall.
The cierzo, fierce north easterly, winds are common during the winter months and, in the summer, there is a strong, very hot, dry wind known as the bochorno.
See also: Aragon Tourism