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Medellín (Municipality, Extremadura, Spain)

Last modified: 2020-10-24 by ivan sache
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Flag of Medellín - Image by Ivan Sache, 15 March 2020

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Presentation of Medellín

The municipality of Medellín (2,263 inhabitants in 2019; 6,500 ha) is located 110 km east of Badajoz and 10 km west of Don Benito. The municipality is made of the town of Medellín and of the village of Yelbes (352 inh.).

Medellín, located on a strategic site at the confluence of rivers Ortigas and Guadiana, was already settled by Paleolithic hunters-fishers, who lived on the slope of Castle's Hill. In the Neolithic and Copper Age, agriculture thrived in the fertile valleys. In the Bronze Age, the valleys of Ortigas and Guadiana became important trading routes.
The Tartessians established in the 7the century the town of Conisturgis, whose necropolis was excavated in 1969 by Martín Almagro Gorbea. The artifacts found there, including Tartessian jewels but also Greek and Phenician vases, are kept in the Badajoz Archeological Museum and in the National Archeological Museum. The masterpiece from that period is the Attic bowl decorated in 560 BC by Eucheiros, aka as Medellín's Painter. Herodot (IV, 49, 3) and Strabo (III, 2, 2) considered Consiturgis as the last urban nucleus in the west; it was named for the Conii, the last tribe that lived there before the Celtic invasion. Conisturgis was probably established by colonists from Carmo (Carmona, Seville) to control the valley of Guadiana and its fertile plains. The town, covering 15 ha, might have catered up to 1,500 inhabitants.
Conisturgis was involved in several wars. Hannibal's army commanded by Magon stayed there during the second Punic War, as reported by Polybus (X, 7, 4) and Livy (XXVI, 20, 6). The Romans transformed the town in the first defense of the valley of Guadiana against the Vettones, the Celts and the Lusitanians. Sulpicius Galba (151 BC) and Servilianus (141 BC) used it as a base agianst the Lusitanians.
The town was eventually re-founded as a mi:itary camp in 79-78 BC, during the Sartorian War, by Consul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, who named it Metellinum, and soon elevated to a colony by the Senate. Metellinium developed on the terraced southern slope of Castle's Hill following the Italic model. Remains of the theater, a probable temple, a portico with columns, taverns, walls and bridges indicate the significance of the town. The rise of Augusta Emerita (Mérida), established 54 years later, caused the slow decadency of Metellinum during the imperial period. The town was surrounded by more than 100 rural estates; the Galapaguras villa yielded a noted polychromatic mosaic.

During the Visigothic period, Metellinium was nearly depopulated and fell into ruins. The El Turuñuelo necropolis, excavated in 1960, yielded rich funerary artefacts, kept in the National Archeology Museum. The masterpiece is a gold medallion featuring the Adoration of the Magi and a Greek writing invoking st. Mary's protection.
After the Christian reconquest of the Moorish citadel, Medellín was sparsely populated. The area closest to the castle was abandoned and used as a quarry. Population increased to 400 in the first third of the 16the century. The main source of income was cattle-breeding; up to 25,000 cows grazed the pastures (dehesas) that surrounded the town. Transhumance, which developed in the late 15th- early 16th century, contributed to a slow re-settlement of the area. This system favored the rise of a local oligarchy and the transfer of the town in the late 13th century to feudal lords belonging to the highest Castilian lineages. In 1449, Rodrigo Portocarrero, subsequently elevated Count of Medellín, established a personal power that stirred a fierce reaction from the local oligarchy led by the Mejías.

At the end of his bellicose life, Rodrigo Portocarrero took the party of Joanna la Beltraneja against Isabel the Catholic, with negative consequences for the town. After his death, the County was disputed between his son, Juan Portocarrero, and his widow, Beatriz Pacheco Pacheco, the bastard daughter of the Marquess of Villena. To establish her "rights", Beatriz jailed her son in the castle's northern tower. This was the origin of the legend of the 2nd Count of Medellín, considered by several scholars as the main inspiration of Pedro Calderón de la Barca's Life Is a Dream.
The County of Medellín signbificantly contributed to the conquest of America. The town of Medellín supplied 916 registered emigrants, the actual number being probably close to 1,200. The most famous of them were Hernán Cortès, his lieutenant Gonzalo de Sandoval and his Franciscan confessor Diego Altamirano.

The battle of Medellín, fought on 28 March 1809 during the War of Independence, was won by Marshal Victor over General Cuesta. The French lost 2,000 to 4,000 men, the Spaniards 10,000 out of 40,000 and 20 cannons. According to the parish priest, Medellín counted only some 600 inhabitants in 1816, living in 154 houses, all ruined but 14. Compared to 1808, the number of cows was reduced from 14,000 to 6,545 and the number of horses was decreased by a six to tenfold.
[Asociación Histórica Metellinense]

Ivan Sache, 15 March 2020

Flag of Medellín

The flag (photo, photo, photo,) and arms of Medellín, adopted on 30 April and 11 September 1992 by the Municipal Council and validated on 15 September 1992 by the Assessing Council of Honors and Distinctions of the Government of Extremadura, are prescribed by an Order issued on 16 September 1992 by the Government of Extremadura and published on 29 September 1992 in the official gazette of Extremadura, No. 76, p. 2,176 (text).
The symbols are described as follows:

Flag: Rectangular, in proportions 2:3. Three horizontal stripes, the central, white and twice wider than the other, which are red. Charged in the center with the municipal coat of arms in full colors.
Coat of arms: Quarterly, 1. Argent a three-arched bridge gules over waves azure and argent ensigned by a tower gules, 2. Gules a castle or port and windows azure, 3. Chequy of 15 pieces azure and or, 4. Argent a double-headed eagle sable. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed.

King Charles II granted a coat of arms to the town of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Medellín (Colombia) by Royal Letters signed on 31 March 1678, fulfilling a request made by the government of the town on 24 June 1676. Based on the advice of the Council of Indies, the king granted to the town the arms already used by "the town of Medellín in Extremadura, which are: A shield with a blue field charged with a tower or, very big, rounded, fully crenelated, superimposed with an escutcheon featuring 15 squares, seven blue and eight or, and surmounted by a coronet, the keep surmounted on each side by a smaller tower also crenelated and, in the center, by an image of Our Lady of the Annunciation on a cloud with her son in the arms."
Vicente de Cadenas y Vicent (1915-2005), Chronicler of Arms of the Spanish State, certified in 1956 the existence of the document dated 1678. He described the granted arms as: "Azure over waves azure and argent a bridge argent defended by two towers of the same masoned sable in the center of the bridge an image of Our Lady of La Candelaria".

The Encyclopedia Methodica, translated from French into Castilian by Juan Arribas y Soria and Julian de Velasco (Vol. 3, 1792) says about the Extremaduran town: "Bears for arms the bridge of its river over blue waves, with two towers at the ends, in the center an effigy or image of St. Mary".
The seal used in 1875 by the municipal administration features a bridge with two towers, seemingly over a river, but no representation of the Virgin.
The Hernán Cortès monument erected in 1890 bears a bronze shield of the same design, featuring the Virgin and her child.
The town's standard designed for the celebration in Huelva of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America (1892) bears a shield featuring the fortified bridge, here again without the Virgin.
A prying Virgin, without child but emerging from a cloud, appears on a black and white drawing of the coat of arms, shown in Cortès' biography published in 1931 by Carlos Pereyra. A similar design, but more elaborated, was used as the unofficial arms of the town until 1992.

The escutcheon featuring 15 squares comes form the coat of arms of Portocarrero. Pedro Portocarrero Foch de Córdoba y Aragón (1601-1679), 8the Count of Medellín, was President of the Supreme Council of Indies from 1671 to his death.
[Asociación Histórica Metellinense]

Ivan Sache, 15 March 2020