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Madrid, Spain

July 20th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. Its economic, political, and cultural importance mark it as one of the major cities of the world. Residents are called Madrileños.

The city is located on the river Manzanares in the center of the country, between the autonomous communities of Castile and León and Castile-La Mancha. Due to its economic output, standard of living, and market size, Madrid is considered the major financial center of the Iberian Peninsula; it hosts the head offices of the vast majority of the major Spanish companies, as well as the headquarters of three of the world's 100 largest companies. As the capital city of Spain, seat of government, and residence of the Spanish monarch, Madrid is also the political center of Spain. The current mayor is Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, of the conservative Partido Popular.

As the capital of Spain, Madrid is a city of great cultural and political importance. While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets. Its landmarks include the huge Royal Palace of Madrid; the Teatro Real (Royal theatre) with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro park, founded in 1631; the imposing 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain's historical archives; an archaeological museum of international reputation; and three superb art museums: Prado Museum, which hosts one of the finest art collections in the world, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, housed in the renovated Villahermosa Palace.

The population of the city was 3.5 million (December 2005), while the estimated urban area population was 5.5 million. The entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area (urban area and suburbs) is calculated to be 5.84 million. The city spans a total of 607km² (234 sq mi).

Following the restoration of democracy in 1975 and Spain's integration into the European Union, Madrid has played an increasing role in European finances, marking the city as one of the most important European metropolises.

Middle Ages

Although the site of modern-day Madrid has been occupied since pre-historic times, in the Roman age this territory belonged to the diocese of Complutum (present-day Alcalá de Henares). But the first historical data on the city comes from the 9th century, when Muhammad I ordered the construction of a small palace in the same place that is today occupied by the Palacio Real. Around this palace a small citadel, al-Mudaina, was built. Near that palace was the Manzanares, which the Muslims called al-Majrīṭ (Arabic: المجريط, "source of water"). From this came the naming of the site as Majerit, which was later rendered to the modern-day spelling of Madrid. The citadel was conquered in 1085 by Alfonso VI of Castile in his advance towards Toledo. He reconsecrated the mosque as the church of the Virgin of Almudena (almudin, the garrison's granary). In 1329, the Cortes Generales first assembled in the city to advise Ferdinand IV of Castile. Sephardi Jews and Moors continued to live in the city until they were expelled at the end of the 15th century. After troubles and a large fire, Henry III of Castile (1379–1406) rebuilt the city and established himself safely fortified outside its walls in El Pardo. The grand entry of Ferdinand and Isabella to Madrid heralded the end of strife between Castile and Aragon.

[edit] Renaissance

The Kingdom of Castile, with its capital at Toledo, and the Crown of Aragon, with its capital at Zaragoza, were welded into modern Spain by the Catholic Monarchs (Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon). Though their grandson Charles I of Spain (also known as Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) favored Madrid, it was Charles' son, Philip II (1527–1598) who moved the court to Madrid in 1561. Although he made no official declaration, the seat of the court was the de facto capital. Seville continued to control commerce with Spain's colonies, but Madrid controlled Seville. Aside from a brief period, 1601-1606, when Felipe III installed his court in Valladolid, Madrid's fortunes have closely mirrored those of Spain. During the Siglo de Oro (Golden Century), in the 16th/17th century, Madrid bore no resemblance to other European capitals: the population of the city was economically dependent on the business of the court itself.

[edit] End of Renaissance and early modern Madrid

Felipe V, Spain's first Bourbon King and, therefore, French, decided that a European capital could not stay in such a state, and new palaces (including the Palacio Real de Madrid) were built during his reign. However, it would not be until Carlos III (1716–1788) that Madrid would become a modern city. Carlos III was one of the most popular and benevolent Kings in the history of Madrid. He was popularly known at the time (and henceforth) as Madrid's best mayor. When Carlos IV (1748–1819) became King of Spain, the people of Madrid revolted. After the Mutiny of Aranjuez, which was led by his own son Fernando VII against him, Carlos IV resigned, but Fernando VII's reign would be short: in May 1808 Napoleon's troops entered the city. On May 2, 1808 (Spanish: Dos de Mayo) the Madrileños revolted against the invading French army, whose harsh reaction would have a lasting impact on French rule in Spain and France's image in Europe in general.

After the war of independence (1814) Fernando VII came back to the throne, but soon after, a liberal military revolution, Colonel Riego made the King swear allegiance to Spain's new (and first) Constitution. This would start a period where liberal and conservative governments alternated in power, that would end with the enthronement of Isabel II (1830–1904).

[edit] The 20th century in Madrid

Isabel II could not suppress the political tension that would lead to yet another revolt, the First Spanish Republic, and the return of the monarchy, which eventually led to the Second Spanish Republic and the Spanish Civil War. During this war (1936–1939) Madrid was one of the most affected cities of Spain and its streets became battlegrounds. Madrid was a stronghold of the Republicans from July 1936. Its western suburbs were the scene of an all-out battle in November 1936. It was during the Civil War that Madrid became the first city to be bombed by airplanes specifically targeting civilians in the history of warfare. (See Siege of Madrid (1936-39)).

During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, especially during the 1960s, the south of Madrid became very industrialized and there were massive migrations from rural environments into the city. Madrid's south-eastern periphery became an extensive working class settlement, which was the base for an active cultural and political reform.

After the death of Franco, emerging democratic parties (including those of left-wing and republican ideology) accepted Franco's wishes of being succeeded by Juan Carlos I - in order to secure stability and democracy - which led Spain to its current position as constitutional monarchy.

Befitting from the prosperity it gained in the 1980s, the capital city of Spain has consolidated its position as the leading economic, cultural, industrial, educational, and technological center on the Iberian peninsula.

[edit] 21st century

On 11 March 2004, Madrid was hit by a terrorist attack when Islamic terrorists placed a series of bombs on multiple trains during the rush hour, three days before the 14 March 2004 elections. This was the worst massacre in Spain since the end of the civil war in 1939. Madrid suffered another terrorist attack, on the part of ETA, 30 December 2006. An explosion took place in the building attached to Terminal 4 of Madrid Barajas International Airport.

See 2006 Madrid Barajas International Airport bombing

Europride 2007 (July 1) was hosted by Madrid, Spain.

Madrid also expressed its desire to become an Olympic city, and became a candidate for the 2012 games, which were awarded to London after Madrid was eliminated in the third round of the ballot. However, the mayor of the city has already stated that Madrid's Olympic dream did not end at Singapore, as the city will again present itself as a candidate to host the 2016 Olympic games.

[edit] Geography

Despite the existence of a great city of 5 million people, the Community of Madrid still retains some remarkably unspoiled and diverse habitats and landscapes. Madrid is home to mountain peaks rising above 2,000m, holm oak dehesas and low lying plains. The slopes of Guadarrama are cloaked in dense forests of Scots Pine and Pyrenean oak. The Lozoya Valley supports a large black (monk) vulture colony, and one of the last bastions of the Spanish Imperial Eagle in the world is found in the Park Regional del Suroeste in dehesa hills between the Gredos and Guadarrama ranges. The recent possible detection of the existence of Iberian lynx in the area between the Cofio and Alberche rivers is testament to the biodiversity of the area. However, much of this is currently under threat as the Spanish capital continues to sprawl ever outwards and upwards into the Sierra, fueled by speculation, yuppie dreams of Anglo-American lifestyles in detached homes and the policies of the regional government.

When looking at a map of the Province of Madrid, it can be seen that it is almost an equilateral triangle, in whose center would be the city. It seems that Madrid's geographic limits turn out to be those of nature: on the western side the "Sistema Central" (the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains), the south represents the desire to include (the Royal Site of) Aranjuez and finally the eastern edge of the triangle comes from the rupture of the fluvial river basins.

Province of Madrid occupies a surface area of approximately 8,028 km² (1.6% of all Spanish territory). Being more specific the exact position of Madrid is 3º 40´ of longitude west of Greenwich, England and 40º 23´ north of the equator.

Practically all of the Province is located between 600 and 1,000 m above sea level, with the highest point being Peñalara at 2,430 m and the lowest Alberche river in Villa del Prado at 430m. Other considerable heights, as well as being famous, are the Ball of the World mountain (la Bola del Mundo), in Navacerrada, at a height of 2,258m and the seven peaks, in Cercedilla, at 2,138m.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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