The autonomy sits inland: Portugal on its western border, Andalusia on the south. Much of the north is dominated by the Monfragüe nature reserve on whose cliffs and crags raptors and eagles perch.
The name “Extremadura” derives from Latin and means “outermost hard”, referring to the time when the region was on the militarized border of the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba and the Kingdom of Asturias. In 1031, the Caliphate fragmented into smaller Muslim kingdoms, before fragmenting again, until the reconquest arrived around 1230. During the time of Spain’s golden age, Extremadura became the source of many conquistadors who arrived in South America, as well as influential Spanish painters: Francisco de Zurbarán, Luis de Morales and Eduardo Naranjo, to name a few.
The three main cities and their provinces are:
- Mérida, the capital. Home to numerous Roman ruins, from a bridge, to an amphitheater, to one of the best preserved Circus Maximi (Roman Circuses), in the former empire. These buildings provide the backdrop for the International Classical Theatre Festival of Mérida in July.
- Cáceres, with its wall and tower built by the Moors, had a thriving Jewish community until their expulsion with the arrival of Queen Isabella. Outside of ancient city walls, you can hear the snorts of wild Iberian pigs, who roam the countryside’s oak groves, feeding on the acorns that give “jamón iberico” its highly valued flavor.
- Badajoz has the uniquely Spanish mix of medieval Islamic and European architecture throughout the city. As with many places, it has “La Feria de San Juan” at the end of June to kik off summer with a blaze, drawing people from neighboring Portugal.
Locals are known as Extremeño(s). They speak a dialect of Spanish, “Castúo”, similar to Andalusian. Unlike other “Andaluces”, Extremeños often use the diminutive “-ino“; ina instead of “-ito“; “-ita“. This comes from the endangered Extremaduran language, derived from Leonese. The regional cuisine is famous for its pork and mutton dishes, its people for their generosity. The local and simple ingredients, often including chickpeas, are often cooked in a pot, large enough to ensure that there is enough for the neighbors and any random visitors to eat.
Then there is the local bread, and of course, jamón, which this video explains a little bit more about.
For the other autonomies