Oviedo, Spain (Province) - Encyclopedia

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OVIEDO, a maritime province of northern Spain, bounded on the N. by the Bay of Biscay, E. by Santander, S. by Leon and W. by Lugo. Pop. (1900) 627,069; area, 4205 sq. m. In popular speech Oviedo is often called by its ancient name of Asturias, which only ceased to be the official title of the province in 1833, when the Spanish system of local government was reorganized. An account of the physical features, history and inhabitants of this region is given under Asturias. Oviedo is rich in forests, coal, streams and waterfalls, which have largely contributed to its modern industrial development. The climate is generally mild, but overcharged with humidity, and in the higher regions the winters are protracted and severe. The broken character of the surface prevents anything like extensive agricultural industry, but abundant pasturage is found in the valleys. The wheat crop frequently fails. Rye succeeds better, and is often mixed with the maize which forms the principal food of all but the higher classes. Chestnuts - here, as elsewhere in Spain, an important article of diet - are very abundant on the hills, and the trees supply valuable timber. Apples are abundant, and cider forms the common drink of the people; but little attention is paid to vines. The horses of Oviedo rank among the best in Spain. Wild deer, boars and bears were formerly common among the mountains; and the sea-coasts, as well as the streams, abound with fish, including salmon and lampreys, which are sent to the markets of Madrid. Large quantities of sardines and tunny are also cured and exported. Although no trace exists of the gold for which Asturias was celebrated under its Roman rulers, Oviedo possesses valuable coal measures, which are worked at Langreo, Mieres, Santo Firme, Siero and elsewhere. More than 1,400,000 tons of coal were produced in 1903, besides a considerable amount of iron, mercury and cinnabar. The copper mines near Aviles and Cangas de Onis, and the copper works which long supplied the fairs of Leon and Castile with kettles, pots and similar utensils, have lost their importance; but lead, magnesia, arsenic, cobalt, lapis lazuli, alum, antimony, jet, marble and rock-crystal are found in various parts of the province, while amber and coral are gathered along the coast. There are manufactures of fine textiles, coarse cloth and ribbons in Salas, Pilona, Casas and Aviles; of paper in Pianton; of porcelain and glass in Gijon, Aviles and Pola de Surro; of arms in Oviedo and Trubia; while foundries and works for the manufacture of agricultural implements, rails and pig-iron are , numerous. An important highway is the 16th-century Camino real, or royal road, leading from Gijon to Leon and Madrid, which cost so much that the emperor Charles V. inquired if it were paved with silver. A railway from Madrid to Oviedo, Gijon and Aviles runs through some of the most difficult parts of the Cantabrian chain. There are also several branch railways, including numerous narrow-gauge lines.

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