borracho y fino", local saying.
Alicante (Spanish language)
or Alacant (Valencian Catalan) is the capital of the
province of Alicante and of the commerce of the Alicante,
in the southern part of the Land of Valencia, Spain, and a
historic Mediterranean port. The population of the city of
Alicante proper was 322,431, estimated as of 2006, of the
entire urban area, 434,505, ranking as the second-largest
Valencia city. Population of the metropolitan area (including
Elche and satellite towns) was 725,395 as of 2006
estimates, ranking as the eighth-largest metropolitan area
Alicante is one of the fastest-growing cities in Spain.
Its economy is based upon tourism in the beaches from
Costa Blanca coast, wine production, services and
administration. It exports wine, olive oil, and fruit, and
has light industries, including food-processing, leather,
textiles, and pottery. Turrones (torrons in Catalan) —a
honey and almond nougat—is a food specialty of Alicante.
The city has regular ferry services to the Balearic
Islands, and an international airport is nearby. It is
strongly fortified, with a spacious harbour. Amongst the
most notable features of the city is its main castle, the
"Castillo de Santa Barbara", which sits high above the
city upon a cliff. The most important festival, the
Bonfires of Saint John, takes place at the time of the
summer solstice, and they are declared of international
touristy interest. Another well-known festival is Moros y
Cristianos in any quarter of the city, such as Altozano or
The city is the headquarters of the Office for
Harmonization in the Internal Market.
View over Alicante and the Mediterranean. At the foot of
the main staircase of the City Hall Building (Ayuntamiento)
is the "cota cero" or zero point, used as the point of
reference for measuring the height above or below sea
level of any point in Spain, due to the small tidal
variations of the sea in Alicante.
The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000
years, with the first tribes of hunter gatherers moving
down gradually from Central Europe between 5000 and 3000
BC. Some of the earliest settlements were made on the
slopes of Mount Benacantil, where the Castillo de Santa
Barbara stands today. By 1000 BC Greek and Phoenician
traders had begun to visit the eastern coast of Spain,
establishing small trading ports and introducing the
native Iberian tribes to the alphabet, iron and the
By the sixth century BC, the rival armies of Carthage and
Rome began to invade and fight for control of the Iberian
Peninsula. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca
established the fortified settlement of Akra Leuka (Greek:
meaning "White Mountain" or "White Point"), where Alicante
Monjas-Santa Faz Square in Alicante Although the
Carthaginians conquered much of the land around Alicante,
they were in the end no match for the Romans, who ended up
ruling Iberia for over 700 years. By the fifth century
Rome was in decline, and Roman version of Alicante, known
as Lucentum (Latin), was more or less under the control of
the Visigoth warlord Teodmiro.
Neither the Romans nor the Goths, however, put up much
resistance to the Arab occupation of the area, which
brought oranges, rice, palms and the gifts of Moorish art
and architecture. The Moors ruled southern and eastern
Spain until the 11th century reconquista (recon quest).
Alicante was finally taken in 1246 by the Castellan king
After centuries of war, Alicante enjoyed a siglo de oro
(golden age) during the 15th century, rising to become a
major Mediterranean trading station exporting rice, wine,
olive oil, oranges and wool. But between 1609 and 1614
King Felipe III expelled thousands of Moriscos who had
remained in Valencia after the reconquista, due to their
allegiance with Berbers pirates who continually attack
coastal cities and caused much harm to trade.
This act cost the region dearly; with so many skilled
artisans and agricultural labourers gone, the feudal
nobility found itself sliding into bankruptcy. Things got
worse when in the early 18th century Alicante, along with
the rest of Valencia, backed Carlos in the War of Spanish
Succession. Felipe won, and he punished the whole region
by withdrawing the semi-autonomous status it had enjoyed
since the time of the Reconquista.
Alicante went into a long, slow decline, surviving through
the 18th and 19th centuries by making shoes and
agricultural products such as oranges and almonds, and its
fisheries. The end of the 19th century witnessed a sharp
recovery of the local economy with increasing
international trade, which meant the growth of the city
harbour and multiplied exports of several products (particularly
during World War I, Spain being a neutral country).
By the end of the first quarter of the 20th century the
whole of Spain was almost at the point of revolution. Amid
growing civil unrest, after years of sponsoring a failed
military dictatorship, the king Alfonso XIII abdicated the
throne, and in 1931 a Spanish Republic was declared.
A left-wing coalition of communists and socialists
narrowly won the subsequent elections, and lost the
following one in 1933 to the conservatives and liberals,
not accepting their defeat and initiating a revolution
which was controlled by the Republican army after bloody
In 1936, General Sanjurjo and General Mola led an
uprising, supported by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany; to
check what they claimed was the advance of communism in
Spain. After three years of bloody civil war, Franco's
armies (after the accidental death of both Mola and
Sanjurjo) were victorious; Alicante was one of the last
cities loyal to the legitimate government to be overcome.
The next 20 years under Franco's police state were
wretched ones for Alicante, with severe frosts in 1941 and
1946 adding to the problems of local orange farmers.
Franco died at last in 1975, with his successor King Juan
Carlos I guiding Spain towards democracy. Regional
governments were given more power, and the cities of
Valencia were permitted an autonomy they had not been
allowed for four centuries.
At the start of the 21st century, in this New Spain,
Alicante is the Valencia region's second-largest town.
What used to be a rather shabby port after the industrial
decay the city suffered in the 1980s (with most mercantile
traffic lost in favour of Valencia's harbour) has spruced
itself up and become a rather attractive town. As a result,
it's starting to attract waves of day-trippers looking for
the 'real' Spain.