1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cuenca (province)

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CUENCA, a province of central Spain bounded on the N. by Guadalajara, N.E. by Teruel, E. by Valencia, S. by Albacete, S.W. by Ciudad Real, W. by Toledo and N.W. by Madrid. Pop. (1900) 249,696; area, 6636 sq. m. Cuenca occupies the eastern part of the ancient kingdom of New Castile, and slopes from the Serran.ia de Cuenca (highest point the Cerro de San Felipe, on the north-eastern. border o~ the province, 5905 ft.), down into the great southern Castilian plain watered by the upper streams of the Guadiana. The lowlands bordering on Ciudad Real belong to the wide plain of La Mancha (q.v.). The rocky and bare highland of Cuenca on the north and east includes the upper valley of the Jucar and its tributary streams, but in the north-west the province is watered by tributaries of the Tagus. The forests are proverbial for their pine timber, and rival those of Soria; considerable quantities of timber are floated down the Tagus to Aranjuez and thence taken to Madrid for building purposes. Excessive droughts prevail; the climate of the hills and of the high plateaus is harsh and cold, but the valleys are excessively hot in summer. The soil, where well watered, is fertile, but little attention is paid to agriculture, and three-fourths of the area is left under pasture. The rearing of cattle, asses, mules and sheep is the principal employment of the people; olive oil, nuts, wine, wheat, silk, wax and honey are the chief products. Iron, copper, alum, saltpetre, jasper and agates are found, but in 1903 all the workings had been abandoned except three salt mines; and there are few manufactures except the weaving of coarse cloth. The roads are in such a backward condition that they cripple not only the mining interests but also the exports of timber, and at the beginning of the 20th century there was no railway except a branch line which passed westwards from Aranjuez through Tarancon to Cuenca, the capital (pop. 1900, 10,756). No other town has as many as 6000 inhabitants, and no other Spanish province is so thinly populated as Cuenca. In 1900 there were only 37.6 inhabitants per sq. m. Education is backward, and extreme poverty almost universal among the peasantry. See also CASTILE.