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Alcantarilla (Municipality, Region of Murcia, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-05-08 by ivan sache
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Flag of Alcantarilla - Image by Ivan Sache, 23 April 2015

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Presentation of Alcantarilla

The municipality of Alcantarilla (40,907 inhabitants in 2014; 1,624 ha; municipal website) is located 10 km west of Murcia. The municipal territory is totally enclosed within the municipality of Murcia. Once the Spanish municipality with the highest population density, Alcantarilla had its area increased by 1,024 ha, separated from Murcia on 21 May 1987.

Alcantarilla was first documented in the 11th-12th century by Muslim authors, as Qantarat Askaba. After the Christian reconquest, Alcantarilla was ruled by Queen of Castile Violante, until the Aragonese invasion of the Kingdom of Murcia in 1296; Alcantarilla was then transferred to Joan Garcés de Loasia, and retroceded in 1300 to Violante. After Violante's death, the town was granted to María de Molina, who would ruled it until her death in 1321. Alcantarilla was then swapped by King Ferdinand IV for Lubrín (Province of Almería, Andalusia), a castle conquered in 1309 by Martín Martínez, Bishop of Cartagena. The rule of the bishops would last until 1580.
Enclosed within Murcia, Alcantarilla was in the 14th century and the first third of the 15th century a bone of contention between the Bishops of Cartagena and the Council of Murcia. The Bishops, upset by the attempts of the Council to exert power and perceive tax in Alcantarilla, eventually threatened the authorities of Murcia of excommunication. In spite of the grant of several charters by the king, Murcia refused to recognize the independence of Alcantarilla until 1437, when the judge Alfonso Núñez de Toledo, appointed by King John II, recognized the jurisdiction of the bishops of Cartagena over the town.
Lázaro Usodemar purchased Alcantarilla in 1580 for 24,000 ducats. Following the death of his grand nephew, Jerónimo de Sandoval Usodemar y Fajardo, without male heirs in 1677, Alcantarilla was reincorporated to the Royal domain. Challenged by members of the Usodemar family, by the Bishop of Cartagena, and by the Office of the Mercy of Genoa (the Usodemar were of Genoese origin), the reincorporation was eventually confirmed on 6 March 1698 by the Royal Council.

Alcantarilla is the birth town of the humanist Sebastián Lorente Ibáñez (1813-1884), aka the Wise Lorente, who emigrated to Peru, and of the poet and journalist Pedro Jara Carrillo (1876-1927), author of the anthem of Murcia and editor-in-chief of the newspaper El Liberal.

Ivan Sache, 23 April 2015

Symbols of Alcantarilla

The flag of Alcantarilla (photo, photo) is red with the municipal coat of arms in the center.

The coat of arms of Alcantarilla, as used on the flag, is "Argent seven fleurs-de-lis gules".

The local historian Salvador Frutos Hidalgo (b. 1941; El escudo de Alcantarilla, Revista Murgetana, 1975, 40, 93-106) reported two representations of the municipal coat of arms found in the Meeting Room of the Town Hall, one on the room pavement and the other on the window of a closet. The first arms feature on a field azure seven charges argent, fleurs-de-lis in the upper part and ermine spots in the lower part, while the second arms feature on a field azure seven charges or, "which can be easily identified as ermine spots, although quite sophisticated". The two shields are surmounted with a Marquis- like coronet. The shields have a bordure with lobules, differing between the two representations.
The author argues that the style of the shields is not appropriate, lobules being unknown to the Spanish heraldry, and, moreover, not compliant with the norms of heraldry. The arrangement of the charges is whimsical, here again not compliant with the norms of heraldry. The choice of the colours used for the field and the charges has no justification, either: the ermines spots were expected to be sable and the fleurs-de-lis purpure. There is no record of any Marquis among the lords of Alcantarilla; accordingly, the arms should be surmounted by a Royal crown, and by nothing else.

Frutos believes that the odd arms of Alcantarilla result from a wrong interpretation of the arms of Usodemar, a family of Genoese origin established near Seville, lords of the town from 1581 to 1698. The act of foundation of the domain of Alcantarilla, signed on 2 December 1587 by Lázaro Usodemar, describes the family arms as "a red shield, neither bright not dark, charged with white waves, nearly silver and coloured, surrounded by orles of the same colours. The shield surmounted by a blue and silver white closed helmet, whose plume is replaced by a lion with a red tongue. [...]". There is no hint on the shape of the shield.
Cascales (Discursos históricos de la muy noble y leal ciudad de Murcia, 1621) subsequently described the charges of the shield as "red, vair-shaped sea waves on a field argent". This pattern is usually known to heraldists as "vair ancient", but always azure on argent. More recently, Julio de Atienza (Nobiliario español, 1959) gave the arms of Usodemar as "Argent three fesses wavy gules", omitting the vair-like pattern of the design.
Rodrigo Méndez Silva (Población general de España, 1645) stated that the arms of the town of Alcantarilla are "coloured and white vair", therefore similar to the arms of Usodemar, the wavy pattern excepted. This discrepancy might be credited to Méndez Silva's inability to distinguish the two similar patterns. This description was repeated by Juan Antonio de Estrada (Población general de España, 1747). Antonio de Moya (Rasgo Heroyci, 1756) claimed that Alcantarilla once belonged to the Order of Alcantara, which was proved to be erroneous in Frutos' Ph.D. thesis, El señorio de Alcantarilla [1972]). Accordingly, Moya explained that Pedro Yáñez, Master of the Order, granted his arms to Alcantarilla. Yáñez descended from the Mariños, a Galician family; he allegedly modified their arms, "Azure vair argent", to "Gules vair argent", to recall blood shed in war acts.
Bernardo Espinalt y García (Atlante español, I. Reyno de Murcia, 1778) described the arms of Alcantarilla as "coloured and white vair on a field gules", erroneously copying earlier sources; quite ignorant in heraldry, he mistook veros ("vair") in the original blazon for trees, which he represented on his totally fanciful drawing of the arms. Francisco Piferrer (Trofeo heroico. Armas, emblemas y blasones de las provincias y principales ciudades y villas de España, 1860) came back to the original pattern, representing the arms as "vair modern".

Ivan Sache, 23 April 2015