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Isla Mayor (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2020-04-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of Isla Mayor - Image from the Símbolos de Sevilla website, 6 June 2014

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Presentation of Isla Mayor

The municipality of Isla Mayor (5,948 inhabitants in 2013; 11,438 ha; municipal website) is located 50 km south of Seville. The municipality is made of the town of Isla Mayor and of the village of Poblado de Alfonso XIII (430 inh.).

Isla Mayor (lit., the Main Island) is located in the geographical center of the marsh, formed by canals and old arms of river Gualdalquivir. Some 5,000 years ago, the area was covered by the sea; a coastal dune progressively isolated a big lake, known to the Romans as Ligustinus or Ligur. The emergence of agriculture in the valley of Guadalquivir and climate change brought even more alluvion to the lake, decreasing its depth. At low tide and during summertime, water evaporation caused the emergence of muddy plots. These areas were dangerous and improper to transit, since they could not resist the weight of people or animals. The marsh became a no man's land, providing the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages with fish, waterfowl and pastures. The violent floods of Guadalquivir, with a brutal increase in water flow from 10 to 10,000 cubic meters per second, prevented the establishment of cattle-breeding in the area. The firm islands that formed, however, were used by the Arabs to park horses used in their military campaigns and to initiate rice crops, soon flooded by high tides.

After the Christian reconquest, Isla Mayor was granted in 1272 to the Council of Seville by Alfonso X the Wise, and, in 1272, to the inhabitants of La Guardia (Puebla del Río). The island became famous for the "herbs of the island", "soda ash" (used for the maturation of ham), and "fisheries". In the 15th century, the Catholic Monarchs rented the area to the Council of Seville to found the Granada War; the pastures were managed as a common by the the local inhabitants. The pastures were used not only for local cattle, but also for herds coming from remote areas, such as Extremadura; the royal road ended in the place still known as Puento de la Isla (the Island's Bridge), where cattle was transported on the St. Anthony's boat, named for the patron saint of shepherds and jam producers, then the only means to reach the island. Small huts were established on the upper parts of the island, soon surrounded by cultivated plots. In the 15th-16th century, melons cropped on the island were deemed "the best on the Earth". Until the 19th century, the inhabitants of Seville and several other towns (La Rinconada, Salteras, Santiponce, Castilleja de Guzmán, Tomares, Camas, Bormujos, Gelves) could use the pastures of Isla Mayor for free.
In the middle of the 19th century, influent landlords acquired plots. Fernando Sierra, from Cadíz, purchased some 1,500 ha in the areas of Abundancia and La Vuelta del Cojo. Felipe Riera, Marquis of Casa Riera, purchased most of the remaining part of the island, from Casa Alta until the southern end; he planned to drain the marshes and cultivate the island. However, the Marquis, who lived in Paris and Madrid, found it much more profitable to maintain the domain as it was and to perceive tax from the cattle-breeders.

The Islas del Guadalquivir S.A. a company based in London but also with Swiss and Spanish shareholders, purchased in 1927 25,000 ha from the Marquis of Riera to perform "the draining and sanitation of the marshes and muddy land on the islands and marshes of the Guadalquivir". Well organized and funded, the company established a series of small settlements (Dora / Colinas, Rincón de los Lirios, Alfonso XIII, El Puntal, Veta de la Palma and Reina Victoria), as well as several dwellings scattered all over the island. Roads (68 km), railways (54 km), telephone lines (60 km) and high-voltage lines (27 km) were built on the island. Communication with the island was favoured by increasing the Sevilla-Sanlúcar line, served by steamboats, to small landing stages established in El Mármol, Mínima, Punta de la Lisa, San Carlos and Reina Victoria.
The agricultural transformation of the island was initiated in 1929 with the planting of the first rice plots. Harsh weather events (rain and floods) destroyed the houses and the crops. In spite of the support of Alfonso XIII, the company withdrew and the colonization of the island stopped.
The Second Republic changed the name of Poblado de Alfonso XIII to Villa de Guadiamar. During the Civil War, the island was the seat of the single rice barn in the area controlled by the Nationalists as long as the Republicans controlled Valencia. In 1937, Rafael Beca Mateos was commissioned by General Queipo de Llano to resume the colonization of the island and to re-establish rice cultivation. A new central settlement was erected, named Alfonso XIII in 1944. A new village was built 5 km of Poblado de Alfonso XIII.

The submunicipal entity of Villafranco del Guadalquivir was established by a Decree adopted on 8 June 1956 by the Spanish Government and published on 19 June 1956 in the Spanish official gazette, No. 171, p. 3,946 (text). Part of the the municipality of Puebla del Río, the new entity grouped the villages of Alfonso XIII and El Puntal (capital).
The municipality of Villafranco del Guadalquivir was established on 24 June 1994. It was renamed Isla Mayor by Decree No. 402, adopted on 5 October 2000 by the Government of Andalusia and published on 31 October 2000 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 125, pp. 16,591-16,592 (text, and on 16 December 2000 in the Spanish official gazette, No. 301, p. 44,293 (text). The change was proposed on 17 April 1998 by the Mayor and approved on 27 September 1999 by the Municipal Council.

Ivan Sache, 6 June 2014

Symbols of Isla Mayor

The flag and arms of Isla Mayor (then known as Villafranco del Guadalquivir), adopted on 11 November 1994 by the Municipal Council and corrected on 29 January 1995 as requested by the Royal Academy of Córdoba, are prescribed by Decree No. 115, adopted on 19 March 1996 by the Government of Andalusia and published on 14 May 1996 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 56, p. 4,809 (text). This was confirmed by a Decree adopted on 30 November 2004 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 20 December 2004 in the official gazette of Andalusia, No. 246, pp. 28,986-29,002 (text).
The symbols are prescribed as follows:

Flag: Rectangular, in proportions 11 x 18, made of three parallel stripes perpendicular to the hoist, of equal width, the first, yellow, the second, white, and the third, blue. Charged in the center with the municipal coat of arms.
Coat of arms: Argent seven fesses wavy azure a rice plant eradicated or. The shield surmounted by a Royal Spanish crown closed.

The arms were proposed on 2 September 1994 by Juan José Antequera Luengo. The Royal Academy of Córdoba validated the proposed arms in spite of "a mostly terminological objection" - which was, eventually, accepted by the designer. The seven waves represent the seven canals that water the municipality. Or is the colour of the mature trice plant. The crown alludes both to Alfonso X the Wise and Alfonso XII.
[Juan José Antequera Luengo. Heráldica oficial de la provincia de Sevilla]

Ivan Sache & Klaus-Michael Schneider, 6 June 2014