1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Guipúzcoa

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GUIPÚZCOA, a maritime province of northern Spain, included among the Basque provinces, and bounded on the N. by the Bay of Biscay; W. by the province of Biscay (Vizcaya); S. and S.E. by. Álava and Navarre: and N.E. by the river Bidassoa,[1] which separates it from France. Pop. (1900), 195,850; area, 728 sq. m. Situated on the northern slope of the great Cantabrian chain at its junction with the Pyrenees, the province has a great variety of surface in mountain, hill and valley; and its scenery is highly picturesque. The coast is much indented, and has numerous harbours, but none of very great importance; the chief are those of San Sebastian, Pasajes, Guetaria, Deva and Fuenterrabia. The rivers (Deva, Urola, Oria, Urumea, Bidassoa) are all short, rapid and unnavigable. The mountains are for the most part covered with forests of oak, chestnut or pine; holly and arbutus are also common, with furze and heath in the poorer parts. The soil in the lower valleys is generally of hard clay and unfertile; it is cultivated with great care, but the grain raised falls considerably short of what is required for home consumption. The climate, though moist, is mild, pleasant and healthy; fruit is produced in considerable quantities, especially apples for manufacture into zaragua or cider. The chief mineral products are iron, lignite, lead, copper, zinc and cement. Ferruginous and sulphurous springs are very common, and are much frequented every summer by visitors from all parts of the kingdom. There are excellent fisheries, which supply the neighbouring provinces with cod, tunny, sardines and oysters; and the average yearly value of the coasting trade exceeds £400,000. By Irun, Pasajes and the frontier roads £4,000,000 of imports and £3,000,000 of exports pass to and from France, partly in transit for the rest of Europe. Apart from the four Catalan provinces, no province has witnessed such a development of local industries as Guipúzcoa. The principal industrial centres are Irun, Renteria, Villabona, Vergara and Azpéitia for cotton and linen stuffs; Zumarraga for osiers; Eibar, Plasencia and Elgoibar for arms and cannon and gold incrustations; Irun for soap and carriages; San Sebastian, Irun and Onate for paper, glass, chemicals and saw-mills; Tolosa for paper, timber, cloths and furniture; and the banks of the bay of Pasajes for the manufacture of liqueurs of every kind, and the preparation of wines for export and for consumption in the interior of Spain. This last industry occupies several thousand French and Spanish workmen. An arsenal was established at Azpéitia during the Carlist rising of 1870–1874; but the manufacture of ordnance and gunpowder was subsequently discontinued. The main line of the northern railway from Madrid to France runs through the province, giving access, by a loop line, to the chief industrial centres. The custom-house through which it passes on the frontier is one of the most important in Spain. Despite the steep gradients, where traffic is hardly possible except by ox-carts, there are over 350 m. of admirably engineered roads, maintained solely by the local tax-payers. After San Sebastian, the capital (pop. 1900, 37,812), the chief towns are Fuenterrabia (4345) and Irun (9912). Other towns with more than 6000 inhabitants are Azpéitia (6066), Eibar (6583), Tolosa (8111) and Vergara (6196). Guipúzcoa is the smallest and one of the most densely peopled provinces of Spain; for its constant losses by emigration are counterbalanced by a high birth-rate and the influx of settlers from other districts who are attracted by its industrial prosperity.

For an account of its inhabitants and their customs, language and history, see Basques and Basque Provinces.

  1. A small island in the Bidassoa, called La Isla de los Faisanes, or l’Isle de la Conférence, is celebrated as the place where the marriage of the duke of Guienne was arranged between Louis XI. and Henry IV. in 1463, where Francis I., the prisoner of Charles V., was exchanged for his two sons in 1526, and where in 1659 “the Peace of the Pyrenees” was concluded between D. Luis de Haro and Cardinal Mazarin.