1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Albacete (province)

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ALBACETE, an inland province of south-eastern Spain, formed in 1833 out of the northern half of Murcia, and bounded on the N. by Cuenca, E. by Valencia and Alicante, S. by Murcia, and W. by Granada and Jaén. Pop. (1900) 237,877; area 5737 sq. m. The northern part of Albacete belongs to the high plains of New Castile, the southern is generally mountainous, traversed by low ranges or isolated groups of hills, which culminate in the Sierra de Alcaraz on the borders of Granada, where several summits reach 5000 ft. Besides many smaller streams, two large rivers water the province, the Segura in the south-west, and the Jficar in the north-east; both rising beyond the borders of Albacete, and ultimately flowing into the Mediterranean. The fertile glens of the Alcaraz district are richly wooded, and often, from their multitude of fruit trees, resemble the huertas or gardens of Alicante; but broad tracts of land are destitute of trees, and suitable only for pasture. These barren regions are thinly peopled; and for the whole of Albacete the density of population (41.3 per sq. m. in 1900) is lower than in any other Spanish province, except Soria.

The climate is generally mild and healthy, although, among the higher mountains, the snow lies for several months. Wheat and other cereals are cultivated, with fruits of many kinds, olives, and vines which yield a wine of fair quality; while saffron is largely produced, and some attention is given to thekeeping of bees and silkworms. Stock-farming, for which the wide plains afford excellent opportunities, employs many of the peasantry; the bulls of Albacete are in demand for bullfighting, and the horses for mounting the Spanish cavalry. There is also a good breed of mules. Sulphurous and other mineral springs, both hot and cold, exist in several districts, and deposits of silver, iron, copper, sulphur, coal and other minerals have been discovered; but the exploitation of these is retarded by lack of communications, and, apart from building materials, sulphur and salt, the actual output is insignificant. Manufactures are almost confined to the spinning of hemp, and the making of coarse cloth, porcelain, earthenware and cutlery. Brandy distilleries are numerous, and there is some trade in wood; but no local industry can rival agriculture and stock-breeding, which furnish the bulk of the exports. Albacete (pop. 1900, 21,512), the capital, and the other important towns of Almansa (11,180) and Hellin (12,558), are described under separate headings. Alcaraz, which gives its name to the mountain range already mentioned, is a picturesque old town with the ruins of a Moorish castle, and a fine Roman aqueduct; pop. (1900) 4501. Caudete (5913), Chinchilla, or Chinchilla de Monte-Aragon (6680), La Roda (7066), Tobarra (7787), Villarrobledo (10,125) and Yeste (6591) are important markets for the sale of agricultural produce. The railway from Madrid to Albacete passes south-westward to Chinchilla, where it bifurcates, one line going to Murcia, and the other to Alicante. A large part of the province is only accessible by road, and even the main highways maintained by the state are ill kept. Education is very backward even in the towns; many of the inhabitants carry arms; and crimes of violence are not infrequent.