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Riópar (Municipality, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain)

Last modified: 2019-09-01 by ivan sache
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Flag of Riópar - Image by Ivan Sache, 6 May 2019

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Presentation of Riópar

The municipality of Riópar (1,357 inhabitants in 2018; 8,092 ha; municipal website) is located 120 km south-west of Albacete and 40 km south of Alcaraz.

Riópar was already settled in the Neolithic, as evidenced by the site of La Marija, dated to the early Age of Bronze. The original village of Riópar was established in the Age of Bronze; the place has been continuously inhabited since then.
The Roman occupation has yielded the Riópar Treasure, composed of 364 coins shown in the Albacete Archeological Museum. The Chorros Cave was allegedly use as a shelter by the partisans of Pompey in the aftermath of the battle of Munda (45 BC).
Little is known of the Muslim period; the source of river Mundo appears to be mentioned, as Almisawanis, by the chronicler Al-Zuri (11th century).

Riópar and its castle were reconquered in 1213 by Alfonso VIII; the village became the closest council to the border with the Kingdom of Murcia, incorporated in 1256 by Alfonso X to the alfoz (group of villages) of Alcaraz to facilitate its defense. Threatened until the end of the 15th century by Arab raids, Riópar was then fiercely disputed between the lords of Navas de Paredes and of Villena. In 1426, John II offerred to Rodrigo Manrique the domain of the Five Towns, which included the strategic castles of Riópar and Cotillas, Villapalacios, Bienservida, and Villaverde de Guadalimar.

Subsequently, the Marquess of Villena and the Counts of Navas de Paredes struggled for the control of the Order of Saint James; Riópar was coveted by Master Pedro Manrique. When the village revolted against Pedro Montoya, the Mayor appointed by the Marquess of Villena, Manrique ordered the Mayor of Segura de la Sierra to support the rebels, sending 15 riders and 150 infantrymen. More troops coming from Siles, Segura, Yeste, Villapalacios, Villaverde, Cazorla, and Úbeda besieged the castle for seven months; the mercenaries - 100 riders and 500 infantrymen - costed 12 million maravedí to Manrique. Montoya's surrender costed Manrique another 250,000 maravedí.
During the Castilian civil war, the Marquess of Villena took the party of Joanna la Beltraneja, seizing the towns of Riópar, Cotillas, and San Vicente (La Vegallera), all parts of Alcaraz. After Isabel's victory, Alcaraz had to pay a fee of 12 million maravedí to Manrique, as a compensation fo the cost of the reconquest. In 1536, after the death of the 3rd Count of Paredes, Alcaraz claimed Riópar to Charles I and obtained it, provided Alcaraz would pay the old fee to Riópar; the resulting lawsuit lasted until the suppression of the feudal system in the 19th century.
In 1746, the Count of Paredes sold the domain of the Five Towns to the Count of Las Navas de Amores; the abuses committed by the new lord led to the depopulation of Riópar down to only 60 inhabitants.

In 1758, the Austrian engineer Juan Jorge Graubner (1736-1801) settled in Madrid; thirteen years later, he visited the Calar del Mundo mine of calamine, a zinc ore, located near Riópar. This was the only zinc mine known in Spain at the time. Back to Madrid, he convinced Charles III to establish a brass factory near the mine, brass being an alloy of zinc and copper. The set up of the Riópar factories was allowed by Royal Letters signed in 19 February 1773; at the time, the only brass factory in the world was located in Goslar (Germany).
Graubner opened two factories: San Juan, located close to the Gollizo brook, where brass items were produced, and San Jorge, located close to river Mundo and just below the mine, where zinc was extracted. Graubner built a modern village from scratch in San Juan; the new settlement of Fábricas de San Juan de Alcaraz, soon renamed to Fábricas de Riópar, soon attracted most inhabitants of Riópar. Inaugurated in 1781 and made a Royal Site in 1785, the factories were acquired in 1846 by the Compañía metalúrgica de San Juan de Alcaraz. The use of modern foreign machinery allowed the careful design of items, which were awarded medals in the international fairs of Madrid (1850), London (1862), Philadelphia (1876), Paris (1878), Barcelona (1888), and Paris (1889). The production of gun cartridges was initiated in 1869. Queen Regent Maria Christina (1885-1903) was the company's most famous shareholder.

The company inaugurated in 1870 another factory in Santa Lucía (Cartagena), equipped with English steam engines. Bronze and brass items designed in French or German style were highly prized by the church and the upper classes. However, the remote location of the factories, the mining crisis, and the boom of zinc industry in Cantabria caused the decline of the factories in the late 19th century. The company was acquired by the Asturian industrial Olegario Riera, who established the Industrial Metalúrgica de San Juan de Alcaraz, S.A.
After the Civil War, Riópar, locally known as Eldorado, employed 400 workers, so that the population of the town peaked to 3,000. The company re-activated the industrial colony, supplying all required services according to the paternalistic model of the time: the Town Hall, the chapel and the presbytery, the clinic and the doctor's house, the barracks of the Civil Guard, the inn, the theater, and the room allocated to the music band were all propoerties of the company, which was proclaimed in 1954 a model company by the Francoist regime.
Bankrupted in 1984, the company was acquired by the workers, as a cooperative company, which was operated until 1996 under the name of Sociedad para la recuperación de la artesanía de Riópar.

The town of Fábricas de San Juan de Alcazar was renamed to Riópar, while the old village of Riópar, deserted since the death of its last inhabitant in 1995 and resettled by two in 1999, was renamed to Riópar Viejo (Old Riópar), by an Order issued on 28 February 1991 by the Government of Castilla-La Mancha and published on 21 May 1991 in the Spanish official gazette, No. 121, p. 16,226 (text). The name's change was proposed on 20 February 1990 by the Mubnicipal Council and eventually valdiated on 10 May 1990.
The historic site of Fábricas de Riópar (website) was proclaimed of Cultural Interest (Historic Site) by an Agreement issued on 6 July 2010 by the Government of Castilla-La Mancha and published on 14 July 2010 in the official gazette of Castilla-La Mancha, No. 134, pp. 33,132-33,136 (text).

Ivan Sache, 6 May 2019

Symbols of Riópar

The flag of Riópar is prescribed by an Order issued on 12 November 2001 by the Government of Castilla-La Mancha and published on 23 November 2001 in the official gazette of Castilla-La Mancha, No. 122, p. 13,348 (text).
The flag is described as follows:

Flag: Crimson red, charged in the center with the crowned coat of arms of the municipality.
The Royal Academy of History validated the proposed flag "without any objection".
[Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia 198:3,564. 2001]

The coat of arms of Riópar is prescribed by Decree No. 116, issued on 7 September 1988 by the Government of Castilla-La Mancha and published on 13 September 1988 in the official gazette of Castilla-La Mancha, No. 37, p. 2,224 (text).
The coat of arms is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Per fess, 1. The primary arms of the Manrique, Counts of Paredes de Nava, which are 1a. Gules two caldrons checky or and sable in pale six snake's heads vert four issuing from the edge and two from the center, 2b. Compony of nine quarters, the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th quarters argent a lion gules, the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th quarters gules a castle or port and windows azure masoned sable, 2. Gules on waves azure and argent a castle or masoned sable port and windows azure the castle and the waves superimposed by a cog wheel sable. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed.

The coat of arms is supported by a memoir redacted by Luis Guillermo García-Saúco Beléndez (Memoria-proyecto sobre el escudo de armas de la villa de Riópar. Zorita 11, 29-32. 2011).
From its incorporation to Alcaraz in the 13th century to its transfer to the counts of Paredes in the middle of the 14th century, Riópar used, when needed, the arms of Alcaraz. Afterwards, the council used the arms of its lord, that is the arms of the Manrique lineage, as did the other councils forming the domain of the Five Towns, until the suppression of the feudal system.
From the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century, Riópar used an oval seal bordered by the writing "AYUNTAMIENTO CONSTITUCIONAL DE RIOPAR". Made of brass, the seal features a bull-like monster emerging from water and mounted by a winged rider holding a sword. Completely arbitrary, the seal has not the least historical root. Around 1850, a man toured the Provinces of Albacete and Cuenca, offering different models of seals to the municipalities. The sea monster seal was adopted by Riópar, El Masegoso and Jorquera. Other municipalities, such as Yuste, when "rehabilitating" their arms, used these fanciful models rather than their genuine, historical emblems.

In 1982, Colonel Emilio Serrano y de Lasalle, Chief of the Department of Genealogy and Heraldry at the Army Museum, redacted a memoir full of fanciful, unsubstantiated data coming from an erroneous bibliography. The author claimed that Jorquera was granted the Cuenca Charter by Alfonso VIII, without any evidence. Ignoring the incorporation to Alcaraz, he subsequenty claimed that the Catholic Monarchs granted the status of villa in 1497 to the town and incorporated it to the Royal domain, while it belonged to the Count of Paredes. The titles "Muy Leal" (Very Loyal) and "Fiel" (Faithful), allegedly granted by Alfonso IX and Philip V, respectively, are not supported, either, by any evidence. The author proposed the following arms: "Gules a Royal castle or port and windows azure (to recall the reiterated defense of its legitimate liberty that the town ever maintained, being not submitted to a foreign power) surmounted by an eight-pointed star or (recalling that the town was granted the Cuenca Charter). A bordure argent inscribed "MUY LEAL Y FIEL" in letters sable."

After the rejection of the memoir, the Municipal Council hired the heraldist Buenaventura Leblic, who suggested on 18 January 1986 that the arms should reproduce the seal used in the 19th century, as a French shield charged with a rider mounting a kind of sea monster and surmounted by an odd coronet looking like a Marquess' coronet. These arms appear to have been adopted in May 1987 during the last session of the Municipal Council held before the municipal election.

The coat of arms eventually proposed by Luis Guillermo García-Saúco Beléndez includes the following elements:
1. The arms of the Manrique, Counts of Paredes, who were lords of the place from the 15th to the 19th century, and are included, as full arms, in the arms of Villapalacios, and should, the author proposed, be included in the arms of Bienservica, Villaverde de Guadalimar, and Cotillas, too.
2. A castle, as a reference to the fortress erected in the Muslim times, which was the site of different historical events. Moreover, a castle or on a red field was used for the first time as proper arms by Alfonso VIII, who reconquered Riópar in 1293. The same charge is featured on the arms of Alcaraz, surrounded by two keys.
3. A reference to the water of river Mundo, which has its source in the municipality and has been celebrated many times since the oldest ages; its heraldic representation shall be blue and silver waves.
4. A cogwheel, the traditional representation of industry, to recall the creation in the 18th century of factories, still active [at the time], which induced the relocation of the village.

Ivan Sache, 6 May 2019