Documenting the history of Huelva

Daily-life remnants of Huelva citizens

By Andalusian Archives

Archivo Histórico Provincial de Huelva

Map of the Province of Huelva (Aproximate data 1870) by Francisco Boronat y Satorre.Andalusian Archives

The value of this document series isn't about great relevance or worth, but what they portray as a whole: Through concrete data and imagery, they represent more than 400 years of Huelva's history and the evolution of people's daily life. These documents are organized thematically: territory, economy and society, art and culture, religious life, and catastrophes.

Geographical Mining Map of the Province of Huelva (1870) by Joaquín Gonzalo Tarín.Andalusian Archives

The Territory

The territory of Huelva is diverse and full of contrasts. It is split into six expansive regions: el Andévalo, Condado-Campiña, la Costa, Cuenca Minera, la Sierra, and the Metropolitan Region of Huelva.

Under the old regime, it was part of the Crown of Castile and was divided into fiefs and seigneuries (of the House of Medina Sidonia). In 1833, the lands were combined to form the province of Huelva, with the such-named city as its capital.

By the end of the 19th century, the 80 borders within Huelva had been combined to form the region as it is known today.

Map of the City of Huelva (Approximate data 1920) by José Albelda Albert.Andalusian Archives

City map of Huelva

This map shows what the city looked like at the beginning of the 20th century. The port of Huelva is particularly noticeable, as are the architectural landmarks that have been erased with time. The grid map was framed using the meridian of Madrid as a reference for its coordinates.

Map of the Guadiana River Mouth (1840) by Saturnino Montojo y Antonio Martínez.Andalusian Archives

Map of the Guadiana River mouth, with the docks of Ayamonte, Villa Real, and Isla Cristina

This map illustrates the Guadiana River mouth, which runs along the border between Portugal and Spain. The fortifications, channels, and anchorages of Ayamonte and Isla Cristina that existed in the mid-19th century are also visible.

Map of the Province of Huelva (1869) by Francisco Coello de Portugal y Quesada.Andalusian Archives

Map of the province of Huelva

Color version of the map, geographical area, and administrative region, including the town centers of Aracena, Ayamonte, and Huelva and the surrounding towns of Moguer, Valverde, and La Palma del Condado.

Drawn by Colonel of Engineers Francisco Coello de Portugal y Quesada at the end of the 19th century.

Nautical Chart of the Gulf of Huelva (1873) by Luis María Moliní.Andalusian Archives

Nautical chart of the Gulf of Huelva

This chart is a geographical outline of Huelva's coast, with particular attention paid to the mouths of the Guadiana and Guadalquivir Rivers.

The map is marked with parallels and meridians, and the cardinal points are marked with a compass card.

Aerial View of Huelva (Aproximate data 1920)Andalusian Archives

Aerial view of Huelva

Seen from above, Huelva is a peninsula located between the mouths of the Tinto and Odiel Rivers. As a result, the city has been considered a strategic point for many civilizations over the centuries.

The city grew exponentially over the last quarter of the 19th century. Foreign powers, primarily England, intensively exploited the mines in the north of the province, aided by workers from nearby towns, Andalusia, Extremadura, Galicia, Asturias, and even Portugal.

Train of oxen used to pull marble (Approximate data 1920) by Amador del PinoAndalusian Archives

Economy and Society

Throughout its history, Huelva has endured agricultural and marine exploitation that has conditioned differing ways of life in the province. From the mid-19th century, mining drove development and the economy. By the 1960s, this activity was replaced by the state-driven "Polo de Promoción Industrial" (Industrial Promotion Hub).

Society in Huelva was founded on a numerous farmers, seamen, slaves, craftspeople, and small-scale mercantile bourgeoisie. Society changed later on with the new-coming foreign, mining-sector industrialists.

Letter from Juana Hernández Requesting Authorization at the Casa de la Contratación (House of Commerce) in Seville to Claim the Assets Left by Her Dead Husband (1586-12-12/1586-12-12) by Notary´s offices of Huelva.Andalusian Archives

A letter from Juana Hernández

In this letter, a resident of Huelva requests permission to collect the goods left by her husband, Hernán Gómez, from the Recruitment House in Seville. He was a sailor in a ship owned by Toribio de Escalante, called "La Trinidad," which was part of a fleet destined for Honduras. He died in the Honduran city of Puerto Caballos.

Graphic of Fishing Resources (1946-08-01)Andalusian Archives

Graphic of fishing stocks

This graphic of fishing stocks shows the volume of fish caught in the province of Huelva between 1944 and 1945.

Deed of Sale for a Slave Deed of Sale for a Slave (1604-04-23) by Notary´s offices of Huelva.Andalusian Archives

Purchase deed of a slave

The purchase deed of a 20-year-old "mulata blanca" (white mulatto girl) slave named Agustina. Slavery was legal until the 19th century.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, sailors from Palos, Moguer, and Huelva frequently sailed to African coasts thanks to their seafaring skills and their proximity to the continent. They mostly took black African slaves to be sold throughout Andalusia. Some remained in Palos, Moguer, and Huelva, even after they had been freed.

Group of Young Women from the Women’s Section on a Damas Company Bus (Approximate data 1950)Andalusian Archives

Group of girls from the "Sección Femenina"

Excursion, on public transport, of the "Damas" company at a time when the "Sección Feminina" (Women's Section—the women's branch of the Falange political movement in Franco's Spain) was entrusted with the Social Service for Women.

Certificate for Driving Cars (1908-01-28)Andalusian Archives

Driving license certificate

Although cars first appeared in the late 19th century, regulated in Spain since 1897, the first vehicle registered in Huelva was only in 1905. License number H-2, and was classed as a "steam truck."

This license number was reissued in 1907, for a Fiat. The date of the first registration of license number H-1 is unknown. It "expired due to ineligibility" and was later reused for another vehicle.

Encinasola Dance Group (1948-12-14)Andalusian Archives

Culture, art, and the stage

The cultural and artistic wealth of a province as diverse Huelva is reflected in each of its localities and trickles down to everyday life. Art (rooted in religious life from the Middle Ages), like traditional performances, such as theater, bullfighting, and cinema. And also sports, such as soccer, tennis, and golf, which were closely linked to the British inhabitants. Huelva was a pioneer in these activities. The first soccer, tennis, and golf clubs in Spain were founded here.

Santa María de Gracia, Main Altarpiece (1618) by Notary´s offices of Huelva.Andalusian Archives

Main altarpiece in the church of Santa María de Gracia

The Convent of the "Reverendas Madres Agustinas" (Reverend Augustinian Mothers) was founded in 1510, and located on the Plaza de las Monjas, which is still there today.

From 1618, the main altar was designed with an altarpiece made of various sculptures by Luis Figueroa and paintings by Blas Martín. It was replaced by another altarpiece in the middle of the 17th century, which lasted until 1936.

The Sculptor Antonio León Ortega (1965)Andalusian Archives

Sculptor Antonio León Ortega

Antonio León Ortega (1907–91) was a sculptor from Ayamonte. Here, he is pictured in his workshop.

With a great interest in Castilian and Andalusian imagery, especially in the works of Martínez Montañez, he moved to Huelva in 1938. His workshop on Calle San Cristóbal drew other artists and later became known as the San Cristóbal Academy.

Real Club Recreativo de Huelva Team (1904)Andalusian Archives

Recreativo de Huelva football (soccer) team

The Recreativo de Huelva soccer club was founded in Hotel Colón on December 23, 1889. It was the first soccer club in all of Spain.

Poster for the 1st Ibero-American Cinema Week in Huelva (1975)Andalusian Archives

Poster of the first Ibero-American Film Week in Huelva

On June 3, 1975, José Luis Ruiz Díaz, president of the Huelva Cinema Club, asked the Ministry of Information and Tourism permission to host an Ibero-American Film Week to raise the profile of Ibero-American cinematography and Huelva's reputation in the tourism industry. He also sought to bring about new ways of distributing productions unknown in Europe.

Folio of printed cards certifying the absence of any plague infection in the town of Huelva (Aproximate data 1800)Andalusian Archives

Religious life and charity

Huelva was well known for its high number of charities and religious bodies, such as convents and monasteries. The community's religious life revolved around parishes. They were closely affiliated to brotherhoods and fraternities, and hosted a wide range of public ceremonies. The community was in constant need of private charity work because of frequent famines and epidemics. Hospitals also played an important role, though they were nothing like present-day health facilities.

Founding of the Festival of Nuestra Señora de la Cinta Founding of the Festival of Nuestra Señora de la Cinta (1759-08-30) by Notary´s offices of Huelva.Andalusian Archives

Establishment of the feast of "Nuestra Señora de la Cinta"

The Brotherhood of "Nuestra Señora de la Cinta" (Our Lady of the Ribbon) was founded at the end of the 19th century and was in charge of caring for worshippers, work that was previously carried out by the Mareantes Guild.

Our Lady of the Ribbon has been the Patron Saint of Huelva since 1946, although some documents record her being a patron saint since 1586. She was canonized on September 26, 1992.

Procession of the Virgin of El Rocío in Her Village (Approximate data 1970)Andalusian Archives

The Procession of the our Lady of El Rocío through her village

Our Lady of El Rocío, "Blanca Paloma" (White Dove), or "La Reina de las Marismas" (The Queen of the Marshes) is a Marian devotion that is venerated at the Hermitage of El Rocío in Almonte (Huelva).

Traditionally, the whole pilgrimage was known as "El Rocío." Nowadays, it has become an event where religion and folklore meet. It is a social event that draws over a million people throughout May and June, depending on when Pentecost falls.

Drummer and Dancers Leading the Procession of the Virgin of La Rábida (1975-04-05/1975-04-05)Andalusian Archives

Drummer and dancers preceding the procession of the Virgin of La Rábida

The Virgin of La Rábida (Virgin of Miracles) is the patron saint of Sanlúcar de Guadiana. During the procession, an image of the Virgin is brought through the town, carried on the locals' shoulders, and joined by dancers who dance to the beat of the tamboril drum.

This dance has an odd number of male dancers (9 or 11) who dress in traditional costumes and carry ornamental arches of brightly colored flowers as they make their way along the procession with bells, drumsticks, and castanets. This dance was declared a "Bien de Interés Cultural" (good of cultural interest) in 2011.

Hernán Pérez Cubillas (1964-12-01)Andalusian Archives

Hernán Pérez Cubillas

The Civil Governor of Huelva, participating in a Christmas food and clothing charity drive.

View of the La Rábida Monastery (Approximate data 1900)Andalusian Archives

View of the Monastery of La Rábida

The Friary of Santa María de la Rábida, in Palos de la Frontera, Huelva, is a Franciscan friary built in the 14th and 15th centuries. It has an irregular layout after being badly damaged over the years, particularly by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.

Christopher Columbus stayed here before he left for the New World, and so the friary is seen as a central point for expeditions to the Americas.

It was declared a "Historical and Artistic Monument of the Nation" by Royal Order of 1856, the third of its kind. It was also recognized as a meeting place for Ibero-American summits.

The effects of the Great Lisbon Earthquake in Huelva and Ayamonte The effects of the Great Lisbon Earthquake in Huelva and Ayamonte (1755-11-02/1755-11-09)Andalusian Archives

Natural disasters

The community of Huelva did not escape the numerous natural disasters that occurred, and re-occurred, during the old regime. In addition to the famines and epidemics (plagues of 1649 and 1800), a series of natural disasters struck the province. The Lisbon Earthquake occurred in 1755, and coastal towns and villages often fell victim to flooding. Human-made disasters also caused immeasurable damage to the province, including the Civil War from 1936 to 1939, its fallout in post-war Spain, and the repression of the subsequent Regime.

Folio of printed cards certifying the absence of any plague infection in the town of Huelva (Aproximate data 1800)Andalusian Archives

Portfolio of printed certificates certifying the absence of plague in Huelva

Portfolio of printed, incomplete certificates from the Clerk of the Town Hall and the Public for the town of Huelva, certifying the absence of plague in the town.

It contains woodcuts with the images of San Sebastián and San Roque.

The effects of the Great Lisbon Earthquake in Huelva and Ayamonte The effects of the Great Lisbon Earthquake in Huelva and Ayamonte (1755-11-02/1755-11-09)Andalusian Archives

Effect of the Lisbon Earthquake on Huelva and Ayamonte

On November 1, 1755, a violent and long-lasting earthquake off the coast of Portugal was followed by a strong tsunami.

It was the first earthquake to be scientifically studied, owing to the large area affected. Its effects were felt along the coast of Huelva, particularly in Ayamonte and Lepe, causing deaths and extensive damage.

Brief Record of the Damage Caused by “The Reds” in the City of Huelva Brief Record of the Damage Caused by “The Reds” in the City of Huelva (1937-11-21) by Julio Guzmán López.Andalusian Archives

A brief recollection of the damage done by "los rojos" (the reds) in the city of Huelva

This document was written by the parish priest of the Church of San Pedro de Huelva. He gives a brief account of the damage to buildings and religious artifacts in Huelva during the first days of the Civil War that took place between 1936 and 1939.

Policeman Riding through the Flooded Avenida de Italia (Approximate data 1970) by Rodri Photo.Andalusian Archives

Police in the flooded Avenida de Italia

This image shows one of the city's main avenues completely flooded. Until the late 1990s, the city was recurrently plagued by flooding caused by intense rainfall and rising sea levels.

Credits: Story

Documenting the History of Huelva

Organized by:
Ministry of Culture of the Regional Government of Andalusia

Curator: Luis Carlos Gómez Romero. Historical Archive of the Province of Huelva
Texts: Luis Carlos Gómez Romero, Ana María Mesa Gallego, and Juan Manuel Serrano Gutiérrez. Historical Archive of the Province of Huelva
Photographs: Historical Archive of the Province of Huelva
Digital Exhibition: Charo Andreu Abrio.
Directorate General of Cultural Innovation and Museums.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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