Once the namesake of the Crown of Aragon (with Andorra, Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands) the autonomy is nestled in the Pyrenees Foothills in northeastern Spain.
Aragon’s history and traditions date back to pre-Roman times. During the Reconquest, it of course rose to be one of the major Christian kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula. Even after its King Ferdinand married Queen Isabelle of Castile, Aragon continued as a separate kingdom until 1707 during the middle of the Spanish War of Succession (1701–1714):
The main cities of the region are:
- Zaragoza, the capital, is said to be where Christianity took root in Spain. On the site, where the Virgin Mary supposedly stood on a pillar and revealed herself to St. James, stands the famous for La Basilica–Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar, claimed to be the first church dedicated to the Jesus’s mother. The famed Ebro River runs through its historic center, dominated by La Seo Cathedral, near a Dark Age Mosque.
- Huesca. The city’s Gothic cathedral was built on the ruins of another mosque . Orwell reported in “Homage to Catalonia” that a running joke of militia men during the Spanish Civil War was: “Tomorrow we’ll have coffee in Huesca”. It references a delusionally optimistic statement by a Republican General. “There had been bloody attacks, but the town did not fall,” according to the English writer, who also promised, “If I ever go back to Spain I shall make a point of having a cup of coffee in Huesca”. He never did, will you?
- Teruel. Remote, located high in the mountains, a local group started a campaign “Teruel existe” (Teruel exists) in 1999. Not only is that true. But it’s also worth seeing, with many of its buildings erected in the Mudéjar style, typical of the Muslims who stayed in town, but didn’t convert, after the Reconquest.
These historic cities aside, much of the region is unspoiled valleys and mountains, such as El Aneto, the tallest peak in the Pyrenees. Then there are also permanent glaciers, fertile pastures and orchards, making Aragon a nature lover’s paradise.
The people are known as the “Aragonés(es)”. A language by the same name is spoken in the mountainous strip called “La Franja”. Spanish, or “Castellano”, is the official language of the region. The rugged terrain has not only created a diverse linguistic culture, but also a varied and rich diet of lamb, dairy products, pastries and sweet onions. The local olives and grapes provide the base of the famed Aragonés oil and wine, sold throughout Spain. After a meal the locals like might dance to “la jota”, a music that has inspired the works of non-Spanish composers, such as Georges Bizet, in his opera “Carmen”, and Franz Liszt, who performed the music on a piano.
Here’s a rendition of that interpretation:
As well as an example of the traditional “la jota” during a local festival: