1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Badajoz (province)

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BADAJOZ (formerly sometimes written Badajos), a frontier province of western Spain, formed in 1833 of districts taken from the province of Estremadura (q.v.), and bounded on the N. by Cáceres, E. by Cordova and Ciudad Real, S. by Seville and Huelva, and W. by Portugal. Pop. (1900) 520,246; area, 8451 sq. m. Badajoz is thus the largest province of the whole kingdom. Although in many districts there are low ranges of hills, the surface is more often a desolate and monotonous plain, flat or slightly undulating. Its one large river is the Guadiana, which traverses the north of the province from east to west, fed by many tributaries; but it is only at certain seasons that the river-beds fill with any considerable volume of water, and the Guadiana may frequently be forded without difficulty. The climate shows great extremes of heat in summer and of cold in winter, when fierce north and north-west winds blow across the plains. In the hot months intermittent fevers are prevalent in the Guadiana valley. The rainfall is scanty in average years, and only an insignificant proportion of the land is irrigated, while the rest is devoted to pasture, or covered with thin bush and forest. Agriculture, and the cultivation of fruit, including the vine and olive, are thus in a very backward condition; but Badajoz possesses more livestock than any other Spanish province. Its acorn-fed swine are celebrated throughout Spain for their hams and bacon, and large herds of sheep and goats thrive where the pasture is too meagre for cattle. The exploitation of the mineral resources of Badajoz is greatly hindered by lack of water and means of communication; in 1903, out of nearly 600 mines registered only 26 were at work. Their output consisted of lead, with very small quantities of copper. The local industries are not of much importance: they comprise manufactures of woollen and cotton stuffs of a coarse description, soaps, oils, cork and leather. The purely commercial interests are more important than the industrial, because of the transit trade to and from Portugal through no less than seven custom-houses. Many parts of the province are inaccessible except by road, and the roads are ill-made, ill-kept and wholly insufficient. The main line of the Madrid-Lisbon railway passes through Villanueva de la Serena, Mérida and Badajoz; at Mérida it is joined by the railways going north to Cáceres and south to Zafra, where the lines from Huelva and Seville unite. After Badajoz, the capital (pop. (1900) 30,899), the principal towns are Almendralejo (12,587), Azuaga (14,192), Don Benito (16,565), Jerez de los Caballeros (10,271), Mérida (11,168) and Villanueva de la Serena (13,489); these, and also the historically interesting village of Albuera, are described in separate articles. Other small towns, chiefly important as markets for agricultural produce, are Albuquerque (9030), Cabeza del Buey (7566), Campanario (7450), Fregenal de la Sierra (9615), Fuente de Cantos (8483), Fuente del Maestre (6934), Llerena (7049), Montijo (7644), Oliva de Jerez (8348), Olivenza (9066), San Vicente de Alcántara (7722), and Villafranca de los Barros (9954). Very few inhabitants emigrate from this province, where the birth-rate considerably exceeds the death-rate. Education, even primary, is in a very backward condition.