Andalusia: A Crossroads of Civilization

Discover the region's rich and diverse history

By Google Arts & Culture

“Andaluzía continens Sevillam et Cordubam” (1635) by Willem Janszoo BlaeuAndalusian Archives

Andalusia is one of 17 autonomous communities in Spain, and is located in the extreme southwest of the European Union. It is the largest community in both area and population.

A cultural intersection nestled between two seas and two continents, and separated from Africa by only nine miles, its unique geography has characterized its history, and defined its open and multicultural identity.

From ancient history, the region has accepted and assimilated contributions from numerous civilizations who have passed through it (Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Berbers, Castilians, Central Europeans, etc.). In turn, its citizens have presented this cultural idiosyncrasy abroad, influencing and leaving a lasting cultural impression on Europe and, particularly, the American continent. 

Recent view of the Basilica (2007) by Luis CastillaConjunto Arqueológico de Baelo Claudia

Andalusia has been at the heart of civilization for thousands of years of cultural coexistence, playing a key role in the development of Spain and Europe. Populated since the Stone Age, it was an important crossroads throughout history: the Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans all appreciated Andalusia for its rich, natural resources. 

This idea of Andalusia as a meeting point or intersection is crucial to understanding its history and the evolution of the entire Iberian Peninsula, Spain, and Europe. 

El Corán del alfaquí Muhammad al Yayyar (Siglo XIII)Andalusian Archives

The role of Andalusia as a hub for civilization continued into the long and productive historical period of Al-Andalus. Bringing their advanced culture to counter the widespread regression of the Middle Ages, Muslim peoples turned Cordoba into the first city of the Western world. 

In the 13th century, the Muslims retreated into the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, resisting the advances of the Catholic Monarchs until 1492. The conquest of Granada represented the definitive incorporation of Andalusia into the kingdom of Castile. Today, the Andalusian legacy survives through its language, traditional industries, music, and, above all, artistic heritage.

Christopher Columbus (1519) by Sebastiano del Piombo (Sebastiano Luciani), ItalianItalian American Museum of Los Angeles

1492 also marked the beginning of another great enterprise, through which Andalusia would have the opportunity to broaden its horizons. A Spanish-based transatlantic maritime expedition led by Christopher Columbus encountered the Americas, continents which were virtually unknown in Europe, Asia and Africa and were outside the Old World political and economic system. 

Some of the profits from American trade were designated for the construction of works of art. This impressive collection of palaces, churches, cathedrals, and convents, in the Gothic, renaissance, and, particularly, baroque styles, furthered the Roman and Andalusian legacies.

Ships Loading Ore in Puerto de La Laja, on the Banks of the Guadiana River (Approximate data 1920)Andalusian Archives

A few attempts at industrialization in the provinces of Malaga and Seville failed due to the lack of state funding. However, in mining regions such as Riotinto (Huelva), colonial methods of production were supported by large British companies.

Poster for the spring festival in Seville, 1928 (detail) (1928)Andalusian Archives

These were the decisive decades when European Romantic travelers began to construct an exotic and Orientalizing image which would lead to numerous stereotypes. That was how the Andalusia of plentiful bandits and brave bullfighters was born—of Carmen and Don Juan, flamenco and bulls, Holy Week and pilgrimages, fiestas and siestas. 

These ideas spread as the quintessence of Spanishness, and are still going strong today.

Institutional propaganda poster for the referendum on the 1981 Statute of Autonomy of Andalusia (1981-10-20) by Consejería de GobernaciónAndalusian Archives

At the turn of the 20th century, Andalusia was still embroiled in crisis, crippled by its persisting, unjust agricultural structures. This inequality led to the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Andalusians to Catalonia, the Basque Country, Madrid, and other European and American countries. From the 1960s, the development of tourism became the main escape valve to alleviate its economic troubles.

Franco's death in November 1975, and the return of democracy, paved the way for autonomous government. The Statute of Autonomy, approved in 1981, granted Andalusia the maximum powers within the configuration of the Spanish State, in accordance with the will expressed by the Andalusian people in the referendum of February 28, 1980.

Credits: Story
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.
Google apps