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History

The Matarraña/Matarranya geographical area has always been the link between the inland regions and the Mediterranean coast. Its proximity to the sea (only 20 km away as the crow flies) and also to Catalonia and Valencia mean that it has maintained a Mediterranean character while serving as a frontier-land throughout its long history.

The Levantine cave paintings are the earliest evidence of activity in the region, declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Juan Cabré, an archaeologist from Calaceite, discovered the first collection of these naturalist paintings in 1903 at “la Roca dels Moros”, located in the Barranco del Calapatá, Cretas. The more recent Fenellassa pictures were found in Beceite and show the progress from naturalism to schematic forms.

The Iberian Age, in the 7th-6th centuries B. C., represents one of the Matarraña’s most glorious periods. Numerous settlements were established as of the 5th century B. C., such as Els Castellans, between Cretas and Calaceite, El Piuró del Barranc Fondo in Mazaleón, Tossal Redó in Calaceite, and others. The San Antonio settlement in Calaceite played a prominent role in the region, until it was abandoned when the Romans arrived in 218 B. C.

The current organisation of the Matarraña territory dates from the late 12th century, in the times of the Christian Reconquista, but was not decisive until the reign of Alfonso II, who donated a substantial part of the area to the Calatrava Military Order, whereas the Peña de Aznar Lagaya (Fuentespalda, Valderrobres, Mazaleón, Torre del Compte and Beceite) remained in the hands of the Archbishop of Zaragoza, who promoted the Church and the Castle of Valderrobres.

In the Modern Age, the rise in municipal power led to council houses being built with Renaissance elements. The specialization in oil production that was engendered in this period is reflected by a considerable number of presses where milling was carried out over periods of 8 or 9 months. This area suffered devastating effects due to its involvement in the Catalan revolt (1640) and The War of Succession (1705). By the 19th century, and throughout the Carlist Wars, Los Puertos de Beceite served as the point of resistance during the Liberal Triennial.

The Spanish Civil War began in 1936 and the arrival of militiamen induced the implementation of numerous anarchist communities, which ultimately failed and in 1938, Franco’s forces occupied the region and a long post-war period commenced.

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