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Algeciras (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-12-24 by ivan sache
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Flag of Algeciras - Image by Ivan Sache, 24 March 2014

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Presentation of Algeciras

The municipality of Algeciras (114,277 inhabitants in 2013, therefore the 3rd most populated municipality in the province; 8,590 ha; municipal website) is located 130 km south-west of Cádiz, on a narrow bay opening on the Strait of Gibraltar.

Algeciras was known as Portus Albus (White Port) in the Roman times; remains of pottery ovens fund in El Riconcillo have been dated from the 1st century. Subsequently destroyed, the place reappeared in the Moorish times under the name of Al-Yazirat Al-Jadra (Green Island). Tariq ibn Ziyad, the conqueror of Visigothic Spain, landed there in spring 711. Almanzor, who moved the border of the Moorish states far northern and completed 50 campaigns without experiencing any defeat, was born in Algeciras in 939. The old town, built around the mosque erected by Ben Jalid, was protected by strong fortifications. Yusuf ordred in the 13th century to build a new town adjacent to the old one. The town became progressively a main center of Islamic culture and poetry.
King Alfonso IX besieged the town in 1342, finally conquerring it on 28 March 1344, on Palm Sunday. The victory was celebrated by transforming the mosque into a church dedicated to St. Mary of the Palm. The church was subsequently erected a cathedral by Pope Clement VI and transferred to Cádiz. The Kings of Spain recognized the strategic significance of the place by adding to their official title "Reyes de Algeciras" (Kings of Algeciras).
In 1369, Mohamed V, King of Granada, seized Algeciras as a retaliation after the murder of his ally and friend Peter I. Understanding that they would not be able to defend the town against the Christians, the Moors decided to burn it down, leaving only ruins when withdrawing in 1379. Once "the most important fortified town of Andalusia", Algeciras became a fisher's village, whose past glory was recalled only by ruined towers and walls.

Alonso de Arcos, Mayor of Tarifa, conquered in 1462 Gibraltar from the Moors. King Henry IV shared the desert territory of Algeciras among the new colonists of Gibraltar, who set up gardens and farms on the site of the former town.
Gibraltar was seized on 4 August 1704 by the Anglo-Dutch fleet. The Spanish inhabitants who had fled the town established new colonies, such as San Roque and Los Barrios; other moved to Algeciras, where they settled near a chapel owned by the Gálvez family - today, the chapel of Our Lady of Europa, and prompted the re-emergence of the old town. Algeciras was first ruled by San Roque, municipal emancipation being granted only in 1755 after a long court case.

The Algeciras Conference (7 April - 18 June 1906) solved the First Moroccan Crisis between France and Germany. The inauguration of the port in 1913 boosted the development of the town. The port of Algeciras is currently the 1st in Spain and the 2nd in Europe when cumulating passengers and freight.
Algeciras is the birth town of "Los Lucía", three brothers among the most famous flamenco musicians: Ramón de Algeciras (Ramón Sánchez Gómez, 1938-2009), Pepe de Lucía (José Sánchez Gómez, b. 1945), and, the most famous of them, Paco de Lucía (Francisco Sánchez Gómez, 1947-2014).

Ivan Sache, 24 March 2014

Symbols of Algeciras

The flag of Algeciras (photo) is horizontally divided yellow-blue - like the flag of the Maritime Province of Algeciras -, with the town's coat of arms in the middle. The flag does not appear to have been officially registered,

The coat of arms of Algeciras is "Oval shield. Gules a castle or port and windows azure on waves azure and argent. The shield placed over a cartouche or, surrounded by a branch of laurel and a plam, and surmounted by a Royal crown open". Not officially registered either, the coat of arms has been used since the 19th century.

The oldest known representation of the coat of arms of Algeciras appeared in El Diario de Algeciras (1805). The shield is of baroque shape, surrounded by two palms and surmounted by a crown open; the shield shows a three-towered castle over waves.
Luis de Igartuburu shows in Manual de la provincia de Cádiz (1847) an oval shield. The castle is surrounded by a branch of laurel and a palm. The shield is surmounted by a crown closed.
Vicente Díaz de Comas shows in Disertación histórica y cronológica de los timbres y blasones que decoran los antiguos títulos de los soberanos de España, published in 1855 in Havana, a shield gules charged with a tower or, without waves. The shield is surrounded by war trophies and banners and surmounted by a Royal crown closed. A medal is apennded to the shield, above a white scroll inscribed with the name of the town in black capital letters.
Francisco de la Torre Castaño, Mayor of Algeciras, reported on 12 October 1876 that the town used "the arms of Castile surmounted by a Ducal coronet", the waves being omitted. The three towns of Los Barrios, Algeciras and San Roque, settled by Spanish colonists after the fall of Gibraltar, inherited the arms granted on 10 July 1520 to Gibraltar. For the sake of differentiation, the key and the chain were dropped from the arms of Algeciras. On this version of the arms, the oval shield is orled by a rosary. The shield is placed on a cartouche made of a "bull's skin" (piel de toro), favoured in the 19th century by the Carlist dynasty. The shield is surmounted by a crown open.

The heraldist José Antonio Delgado Orellana prepared a memoir supporting the "rehabilitation" of the arms of Algeciras, reproduced in Heráldica official de la provincia de Cádiz (1983). The arms are blazoned as: "Gules a castle on waves azure and argent surrounded by two palms or. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown open." The castle, the traditional symbol of the municipality, alludes to the old fortress seized by Alfonso XI on 28 March 1344, Palm Sunday. The palms recall the mass celebrated the very same day by the Christians in the reconquerred mosque. The waves represent the sea. The crown recalls that Algeciras was a Royal town.
The project of "rehabilitation" of the arms was reactivated by the Municipal Council in 2009. The proposed coat of arms is derived from the 1876 model, showing an oval shield charged with a castle or on waves azure and argent. The shield is placed on a cartouche or made of a "bull's skin" and surrounded by two palms. The shield is surmounted by a Royal crown open. The addition of a Latin motto to the coat of arm was rejected, lacking historical rationale.
[Asociación La Trocha]

Klaus-Michael Schneider & Ivan Sache, 7 May 2014