Encyclopædia Orbis Latini

In Catalan: València, officially Comunidad Valenciana.

General Informartion

Valencia is an autonomous community (comunidad autónoma) of eastern Spain, encompassing the Spanish levantine provinces of Castellón, Valencia, and Alicante and was established by the statute of autonomy of July 1, 1982.

Area: 23,305 square km (8,998 square miles). Population: 3,811,293 (1988 est.).


The Valencia autonomous community is long and narrow and occupies a rough north-to-south axis along the Mediterranean Sea, which lies to the east. It is bounded on the northeast by Catalonia, on the north and west by Aragon and New Castile, and on the southwest by Murcia. Castellón province occupies the northern part of the Valencia autonomous community, Valencia province is in the centre, and Alicante is the southernmost province.

The coastal plains on the Mediterranean side of the autonomous community rise into the Iberian and Baetic mountains on the west. The landscape of the western mountain region is deeply eroded, being subject to violent downpours followed by prolonged droughts; much of the zone has been stripped of a grass cover. Rolling hills predominate in the southernmost province of Alicante, softening the sharp contrast between coastal plain and mountainous hinterlands found elsewhere in Aragon. The most sizable stream in the autonomous community, the Segura River, flows eastward through Alicante province. A Mediterranean climate prevails over the autonomous community, with rainy and mild winters; winters are harsher in the hinterlands. Annual precipitation is low, ranging from 400 to 500 mm, and the agricultural wealth of the coastal plains is based on intensive irrigation. Annual precipitation ranges from 430 mm in the province of Castellón to 280 mm around Elche; the number of months without rain increases from north to south.

Demographic pattern

The seacoast has been densely populated since the Muslim occupation (714-1238), and the region's rich farmland is subdivided into small farms, or minifundios. The owners of the minifundios form a rural middle class with strong ties to the urban middle class through marriage and social mobility. The population is becoming increasingly concentrated in the coastal cities, making Valencia one of the largest cities in Spain. The development of the urban infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth of the cities, and urban sprawl is reducing the availability of the rich surrounding farmlands.


Intensive irrigation has made the autonomous community one of the richest farming regions in the Mediterranean basin, with individual farms producing from two to four cash crops a year. One-fourth of the land under cultivation is irrigated, with oranges and rice the main crops. The large-scale cultivation of oranges dates from the late 19th century, when rail transport opened up the European market to Valencian produce. Israel, Algeria, and South Africa have subsequently, however, cut into the Valencian share of the world orange market. Rice paddies are widespread, and their exceptionally high yields frequently result in overproduction. One-third of the arable land is dry-farmed, producing traditional Mediterranean crops of grapes and olives.

The structure of the industrial sector closely parallels that of the agricultural sector, with production generally in the hands of small proprietors whose establishments manufacture a wide range of consumer goods, including furniture, candy, shoes, and toys. Factories are widely dispersed, though there is some concentration around the centres of Valencia, Alcoy, Elche, Elda, and Sagunto.

The region's service sector is well-developed, accounting for a large share of the gross domestic product and employing a commensurate portion of the work force. Tourism has expanded considerably, though it is unevenly distributed, favouring Alicante over the other provinces.

There is an unusual degree of marketing cooperation in agriculture and industry, and many cooperatives are found in the region.


Valencia (Valentia) was a prosperous area during the Roman Empire and was taken by the Visigoths in the early 5th century AD. In the early 8th century it was captured by the Moors, and in 1021 it became the newly established independent Moorish kingdom of Valencia. The Christian reconquest of the kingdom of Valencia from Muslim rule by the crown of Aragon was completed by 1245. The kingdom continued to be administered separately under its own parliament and laws; the Furs de Valènica, which were promulgated in 1261, confirmed Valencia's autonomy under the crown of Aragon. The regional government was formalized as the Generalitat del Regne in 1418 and was nullified in 1707 by the decree of Nueva Planta, which brought the region under the laws and administration prevailing in the rest of Spain.

Various political parties advocating Valencian autonomy came to the fore after World War I. The comunidad autónoma government established in 1982 consists of an executive council, headed by a president, and a unicameral legislative assembly, or cortes.


Catalan has traditionally been the language of the middle class, and a Valencian variant has been discernible since the 15th century. Notable Valencian writers of the early 20th century include Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (d. 1928) and Gabriel Miró (d. 1930); both authors, however, wrote in Castilian.

The traditional middle-class farmstead is the alquería, which is built of stone and features a central passage allowing carts access to an enclosed courtyard behind the living quarters. In the upper story the harvest is stored. The farmstead of the poorer peasant is the barraca, which is built of reeds and adobe and roofed with thatch.

There are numerous religious festivals, many of them recalling the Muslim occupation. The gayates, or festivities, of Castellón commemorate the reconquest, while various towns in Valencia and Alicante stage festivals featuring Moors and Christians. The fallas, or festive bonfires, celebrate Valencia's feast day, culminating in the burning of elaborate floats.


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