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Castile and León
Castilla y León (Spanish)
Autonomous Community
Coat of arms

Map of Castile and León

Coordinates: 41°23′N 4°27′W / 41.383°N 4.450°W / 41.383; -4.450Coordinates: 41°23′N 4°27′W / 41.383°N 4.450°W / 41.383; -4.450

Country Spain Spain
Capital Valladolid (de facto[1])
 • President Juan Vicente Herrera (PP)
Area(18.6% of Spain; Ranked 1st)
 • Total 94,222 km2 (36,379 sq mi)
Population (2011)
 • Total 2,558,463
 • Density 27/km2 (70/sq mi)
 • Pop. rank 6th
 • Percent 5.42% of Spain
ISO 3166-2 CL
Official languages Spanish (Leonese and Galician have special status)
Statute of Autonomy March 2, 1983
Parliament Cortes Generales
Congress seats 33 (of 350)
Senate seats 30 (of 264)
Website Junta de Castilla y León

Castile and León (English /kæˈstl ən lˈn/; Spanish: Castilla y León [kasˈtiʎa i leˈon]Template:IPA audio link; Leonese: Castiella y Llión Template:IPA-ast; Galician: Castela e León [kasˈtɛla e leˈoŋ]) is an autonomous community in north-western Spain. It was constituted in 1983, although it was projected for the first time during the First Spanish Republic in the 19th century, as well as in the Second Spanish Republic in the first half of the 20th century. It is the largest autonomous community in Spain and the third biggest region of the European Union, covering an area of 94,223 square kilometres (36,380 sq mi) with an official population of around 2.5 million (2011).

The organic law of Castile and León, under the Spanish Constitution of 1978, is the region's Statute of Autonomy. The statute lays out the basic laws of the region and defines a series of essential values and symbols of the inhabitants of Castile and León, such as their linguistic patrimony (the Castilian language, which English speakers commonly refer to simply as Spanish, as well as Leonese and Galician), as well as their historic, artistic, and natural patrimony. Other symbols alluded to are the coat of arms, flag, and banner; there is also allusion to a regional anthem, though as of 2013 none has been adopted. It is the region of the world with most World Heritage Sites, eight in total.

April 23 is designated Castile and León Day, commemorating the defeat of the comuneros at the Battle of Villalar during the Revolt of the Comuneros, in 1521.


Castile and León is bordered by Portugal to the west and by Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria to the north. Aragon, the Basque Country and La Rioja is to the east and the border to the south is with Madrid, and with Castile-La Mancha and Extremadura to the southwest.

Castile and León is in the Meseta Central, a plateau in the middle of the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula; the Spanish part of the Douro River basin is nearly coterminous. There is also El Bierzo (León) and Laciana (León), Valle de Mena (Burgos), and the Valle del Tietar (Ávila), very secluded mountain valleys including some from neighbouring valleys and stretches


Most of the terrain of Castile and León consists of a large portion of Spain's Meseta Central, surrounded by mountainous regions. The Meseta is a dry, arid high plain, with an average altitude of about 800 metres (2,600 ft), covered by deposits of clay soil.

In the north are the mountains of the provinces of Palencia and León, with high, spindly peaks and the mountains of the province of Burgos, divided in two by the Pancorbo, leading from Castile to the Basque Country. Of those two parts, the more northerly belongs to the Cantabrian Mountains and continues to the city of Burgos; the mountains of the east and southeast are part of the Sistema Ibérico. In the northeast are the mountains of Zamora, whose peaks have been eroded into mesas. In the east, the mountains of Soria are also part of the Sistema Ibérico, including its highest peak San Miguel 2,314 metres (7,592 ft) in the Moncayo Massif. Separating the northern Meseta from the southern and from Castile–La Mancha and Madrid, the Sistema Central includes the Sierra de Gata and the Sierra de Gredos in the western half and the Sierra de Guadarrama and Sierra de Ayllón in the eastern half.

Geological evolution

The northern Meseta is constituted of Paleozoic plinths. After the Variscan orogeny raised Central Europe and the Galician area of Spain at the beginning of the Mesozoic, deposits were eroded away by rivers. During the Alpine orogeny, the materials that formed the plateau were broken at multiple points. This fracturing raised the relatively low mountains of León, constituting a dorsal spine of the Meseta, the Cantabrian Mountains and the Sistema Central, formed of materials such as granite or metamorphic slates.

One result of this geology was to create medicinal mineral water springs and/or hot springs in Almeida de Sayago, Boñar, Calabor, Caldas de Luna, Castromonte, Cucho, Gejuelo del Barro, Morales de Campos, Valdelateja, and Villarijo.


The most prominent hydrographic feature of Castile and León is the River Douro (Spanish: Duero) and its tributaries. The Douro runs 897 kilometres (557 mi) from its headwaters in the Picos de Urbión in Soria to its mouth at the Portuguese city of Porto. Flowing into the Douro from the north, on its right bank, are the Pisuerga, the Valderaduey and the Esla, its most capacious tributaries, and from the east, on its left bank, the lesser flows of the Adaja and Duratón. After passing the city of Zamora, the Douro flows through a canyon in the Arribes del Duero Natural Park where it constitutes the border with Portugal, flowing north. From its left bank, it receives the waters of such important tributaries as the Tormes, Huebra, Águeda, the Côa and the Paiva, all originating in the Sistema Central. From the right bank, it receives the waters of the Sabor, the Tua and the Támega, originating in the Galician Massif. Beyond the Arribes, the Douro turns west, flowing through Portugal to the Atlantic.

Nonetheless, the Douro and its tributaries are not the region's only important rivers; the Jalón in Palencia, Burgos, and Soria flows via the Ebro to the Mediterranean. The River Minho (Miño) flows from León into Portugal, both the Alagón in Salamanca and the Tiétar in Ávila flow to the Tagus and several provinces containing portions of the Cantabrian Mountains have waters flowing north into the Cantabrian Sea.

Rivers played an important part in the development of the region. Each of the provincial capitals of Castile and León is on the banks of a river.

Rivers and capitals of provinces through which they run
Capital where river flows River Mouth Other places where river flows
Ávila Adaja Douro in Villamarciel Tordesillas and Arévalo
Burgos Arlanzón Arlanza Arlanzón, Pampliega
León Bernesga Esla La Robla
Palencia Carrión Pisuerga in Dueñas Guardo, Carrión de los Condes, Palencia and Dueñas.
Salamanca Tormes Douro in Fermoselle Guijuelo and El Barco de Ávila
Segovia Eresma Adaja in Matapozuelos Coca
Soria and Zamora Douro Atlantic Ocean in Porto Almazán, Aranda de Duero, Toro, Tordesillas, Aldeadávila de la Ribera, and Vilvestre
Valladolid Pisuerga Douro in Geria Aguilar de Campoo, Cervera de Pisuerga, Venta de Baños, Dueñas, Tariego de Cerrato, and Simancas

Lakes and reservoirs

Besides these rivers, the Douro basin also has a great number of lakes and lagoons, such as the Laguna Negra, in the Picos de Urbión, the Laguna Grande in Gredos, the Sanabria Lake in Zamora or the Laguna de la Nava in Palencia. There are also a great number of reservoirs, fed by the snows and rains in the mountains and by glacial melt water. Despite having relatively little rainfall, Castile and León has one of Spain's largest quantities of water held in reserve.


Castile and León has a continentalized Mediterranean climate: a Mediterranean climate with a marked character of a continental climate. The continentalized Mediterranean climate is similar to a typical Mediterranean climate, but with more extreme temperatures typical of a continental climate. Winters are long and cold, with average temperatures between 4 °C (39 °F) and 7 °C (45 °F) in January. Summers are short and hot (averages between 19 °C (66 °F) and 22 °C (72 °F)), with the three or four dry summer months typical of a Mediterranean climate. Rain averages only 450 millimetres (18 in) to 500 millimetres (20 in) annually, mostly in the lower altitudes.

Climatic factors

The mountains surrounding Castile and León block the winds from the seas, reducing precipitation in the region. Consequently, the rains fall very unequally through the Castilian-Leonese region. While the centre of the Douro basin receives an annual rainfall of 450 millimetres (18 in), in the western comarcas (roughly shires) of the mountains of León and the Cantabrian Mountains precipitation can be as much as 1,500 millimetres (59 in) per year.

The high altitude of the Castilian-Leonese Meseta and mountain ranges contributes not only to the contrast of summer and winter temperatures, but also to a marked contrast of day and night temperatures.

Climatic regions

Although the climate throughout Castile and León is predominantly a continentalized Mediterranean climate throughout, there are distinctive climatic regions.

In the north, Castile and León includes the southern face of the Cantabrian Mountains; the northern slope, facing the Atlantic, falls within other provinces. The highest portion of the Cantabrian Mountains in Castile and León experiences the oceanic climate from the Atlantic, with milder winters (at least relative to the altitude) and more temperate summers. The lower slopes of the same range share these temperate summers, but have the colder winters more typical of the Meseta.

Nearly all of the central portion of the Meseta has the continentalized Mediterranean climate discussed above, although the eastern part of Zamora has a much drier climate.

The mountainous regions of the northeast, east, and south have a typical Mediterranean mountain climate, with little rain, hot summers, and cold winters.

Regional administration and government

Castile and León is divided into nine provinces:

Each of these provinces is named after its respective provincial capital.

Although the "Statute of Autonomy" for Castile and León does not specify any city to be the capital of the autonomous community, the city of Valladolid serves that purpose in certain contexts. Initially, the Courts (Cortes, the legislature) met provisionally in Burgos; Tordesillas was discussed as a possible capital, and at one point, the Courts met, also on a provisional basis, at the Castle of Fuensaldaña. Finally, a law adopted in 1987 established the Junta of Castile and León—the Regional Executive government of the Community—and the Courts—the legislature—in Valladolid. Thus, Valladolid is now effectively the capital.

However, other institutions of government and administration are distributed through the region. The Economic and Social Council is in Valladolid, but the Superior Tribunal of Justice—the highest regional judiciary body—is in Burgos, the Consultative Council (Consejo Consultivo) is in Zamora, the Board of Auditors (Consejo de Cuentas) in Palencia, and the Ombudsman (Procurador del Común, literally "Common Attorney") in León.

Autonomous Executive

The executive of Castile and León is known as the Junta de Castilla y León in Spanish.

It has one head of the Regional Executive, the President of the Junta of Castile and León, and twelve departments: Two Vicepresidencias and ten ministries (Spanish: Consejerías).

  • Seat of the Regional Executive: neighbourhood of Covaresa, Valladolid
  • Seat of the Accounting Committee: Palencia

Regional Legislature

The Cortes of Castile and León (Spanish: Cortes de Castilla y León) is the elected legislature of the Autonomous Community. The tradition of the Regional Courts is traced back to the Royal Council (Latin: Curia Regis) of León (1188). The Curia Regis was a king's summons of the estates of the realm. Although the practical outcome of the Curia Regis of 1188 is still disputed, its charter seems to be an early movement towards the rule of constitutional law, much like the Magna Carta. The Regional Courts meet in Valladolid.

Three parties have parliamentary representation in Castile and León:

Partido Popular de Castilla y León
Associated with the national centre-right People's Party (PP): 53 seats in the Regional Courts, 18 seats in the Cortes Generales (the national legislature of Spain).
Partido Socialista de Castilla y León
Associated with the national centre-left Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE): 29 seats in the Regional Courts, 14 seats in the Cortes Generales.
Unión del Pueblo Leonés ("Leonese People's Union")
A Leonese nationalist party: 1 seat in the Regional Courts.
United Left (Izquierda Unida, IU)
Spanish left-wing coalition: 1 seat in the Regional Courts

Another party, the left-of-centre Castilian Nationalist Tierra Comunera - ACAL, has contested previous elections and has held seats in the Regional Courts in the past, but as of 2011 it is not represented in that body.

Political party Autonomic elections, 2011[2] Autonomic elections, 2007[3] Autonomic elections, 2003
Percentage Seats Percentage Seats Percentage Seats
Partido Popular de Castilla y León 51.59% 53 49.41% 48 48.56% 48
Partido Socialista de Castilla y León 29.61% 29 37.49% 33 36.74% 32
Unión del Pueblo Leonés 1.85% 1 2.74% 2 3.88% 3
Izquierda Unida LVCyL 4.89% 1 3.09% 0 3.43% 0
Tierra Comunera - ACAL - - 1.16% 0 1.19% 0

Regional judiciary


The Ombudsman of Castile and León (Spanish: Procurador del Común) is appointed by the Regional Courts.

  • Seat of the Ombudsman of Castile and León: León

Consultative Committee

The Consultative Committee of Castile and León (Spanish: Consejo Consultivo) is a group of five legal analysts. They are appointed by the Regional Courts and the Junta. The Committee delivers reports on legal issues both to the Regional Government and to incumbent municipal governments.

  • Seat of the Consultive Committee: Zamora

Flag and coat of arms

The flag of Castile and León and coat of arms of Castile and León each show the quartered coats of arms of Castile, represented by a castle, and León, represented by a lion. The seal is topped with a royal crown.

Castile and León Day

The regional holiday Castile and León Day commemorates the events of April 23, 1521, when the Revolt of the Comuneros was defeated. While the politics and meaning of the revolt remains a matter of contention, it has been embraced by liberals and, later, the left as a symbol of opposition to absolutism and privilege since at least 1821 during the Trienio Liberal—the three years of liberal ascendancy—when Juan Martín Díez, "El Empecinado" ("The Undaunted"), made a speech at Villalar (now Villalar de los Comuneros) honoring the Comuneros. This tradition was embraced strongly during the Second Spanish Republic and again in the post-Franco transition to democracy, when tens of thousands began to gather at Villalar on the anniversary.

Every year on the occasion of Castile and León Day, the Community awards the Castile and León Prizes (Premios Castilla y León) to Castilian-Leonese people distinguished in seven areas: Arts, Human Values, Scientific Investigation, Social Science, Restoration and Conservation, the Environment, and Sports.


Besides the dominant Castilian Spanish, three other regional languages figure in the linguistic patrimony of Castile and León. Two of these are recognized explicitly in the Statute of Autonomy. The Leonese language, according to the Statute, "will be the object of specific protection [...] for its particular value in the linguistic heritage of the Community".[4] The Galician language, according to the statute, "merits respect and protection in the places where it is habitually used,[5] which is effectively to say the portions of the comarcas of El Bierzo and Sanabria bordering Galicia. In addition, although unmentioned in the Statute, in the comarca of El Rebollar in the province of Salamanca, people speak a variety of Extremaduran[6] known as Habla del Rebollar ("the speech of Rebollar").




Historic union of the Kingdoms of Castile and León

Castile and León traces its history to the medieval kingdoms of Castile and León, which were permanently united under the Crown of Castile in 1301. Together with other Christian-ruled Iberian kingdoms, the separate monarchies of Castile and León participated in the Reconquista, the "re-"conquest of Iberia from the Moors, its medieval Muslim rulers. Other kingdoms participating in the Reconquista were, first, Galicia, and later other kingdoms carved out of lands gained by Christians over the centuries: the Kingdoms of Toledo, Badajoz, Seville and others.

The first dynastic union of León and Castile came about in 1037, when Ferdinand, the 20-year-old Count of Castile, defeated his brother-in-law Bermudo III of León in battle and claimed the Crown of León through the rights of his own wife, Sancha, Bermudo's sister. Although he declared himself Emperor of All Spain in 1056, the union ended with Ferdinand's death in 1065, when Castile, León, and Galicia each passed to a different one of Ferdinand's sons and certain cities to his daughters, with a further division of spheres of influence in the Muslim taifas. The arrangement did not hold. The sons soon fought; eventually one son, Alfonso VI of León again created an effective union and in 1077 again claimed the title of Emperor of All Spain. However, his death in 1109 left the kingdoms again disunited.

Alfonso VII managed another personal dynastic union from 1126 until his death in 1157. Finally, Ferdinand III of Castile, later canonized, achieved the definitive union of the two Crowns. After Ferdinand's father Alfonso IX of León died in 1230, Ferdinand, already ruler of Castile, conquered León from his own half-sisters Sancha and Dulce, much against the desires of the Leonese clergy and nobility. His son and successor Alfonso X, unusually highly educated for a monarch of that era, established Castilian as a language of learning and culture, beginning the process by which the Castilian language would become the dominant language of much of Spain, with other languages—including Leonese—increasingly seen as local dialects.

Parliamentary traditions

Although the theory and spirit of absolutism remained strong in Spain into living memory, the medieval Cortes of León is one of the earliest ancestors of Europe's parliaments. The remote origins of the Cortes dates back to the early 12th century. The Cortes of León of 1188 called by Alfonso IX is one of the earliest documented gatherings of the estates in which commoners of the cities and towns are represented beside the clergy and nobility as counselors to the monarch. Alfonso gathered similar assemblies in 1202 in Benavente and 1208 in León.

In the kingdom of Castile, the first curia—a large assembly to address the affairs of the kingdom—appears to have been convoked by Alfonso VIII in 1187 at San Esteban de Gormaz, with the leading men of fifty cities in attendance. In his capacity as king of Castile, Ferdinand III received the homage of large delegations at Valladolid in 1217 and convoked a curia in 1219 at Burgos.

The comparatively early date of these assemblies results directly from the relative autonomy granted to towns and cities in the north Iberian regions as the Reconquista moved forward and these places were repopulated. Another factor was the application of Roman law, which contributed a theory for the convening of municipalities and for their participation in governance.

These 12th and 13th century assemblies continued through the following centuries, forming the most remote ancestry of today's Cortes of Castile and León and constituting part of the European tradition of parliamentarianism.

As is clearly evident, these medieval Cortes had little resemblance to present-day parliamentary assemblies. They were not democratic in any modern sense of the term, because there was no direct representation of the populace. There was little in them of the slow rise of constitutionalism in the Parliament of England, the vast, independent power gained by the nobles of the Polish sejm, nor, even more clearly, the broad suffrage first seen on a large scale at the time of the French Revolution.

Antecedents to the autonomous community

Spain has alternated between regionalism and centralization several times in the last century and a half. In 1869, the republicans of the present Castile and León plus the provinces of Santander (now Cantabria) and Logroño (now La Rioja) had drafted the Castilian Federal Pact (Pacto Federal Castellano), which projected the creation of a federated state under the name Castilla la Vieja (Old Castile) in these eleven provinces. During the First Republic (1873–1874), the Republican Democratic Federal Party (Partido Republicano Democrático Federal) intended to make this a reality.[7] However, the fall of the Republic at the beginning of 1874 put an end to this initiative.[8]

In 1921, on the fourth centenary of the Battle of Villalar, the municipal government of Santander, Cantabria advocated for the establishment of a Castilian commonwealth of these same eleven provinces. In late 1931 and early 1932, the priest Eugenio Merino, in León, wrote a piece for the Diario de León stating a basis for Castilian-Leonese regionalism.[9]

During the Second Republic, especially in 1936, there was a great deal of regionalist activity favorable to a region of eleven provinces, including the elaboration of the basis of a statute of autonomy. The Diario de León advocated for the formalization of this initiative and the constitution of an autonomous region as follows: "to unite in one personality León and Old Castile around the great basin of the Douro, without falling now into simple village rivalries."[10] The establishment of a centralising regime after the Spanish Civil War brought an end to these aspirations for regional autonomy.

After the death of the dictator Francisco Franco unleashed the Spanish transition to democracy, there was an upwelling of Castilian-Leonese regionalist, autonomist and nationalist organizations, such as Alianza Regional de Castilla y León (1975), Instituto Regional de Castilla y León (1976) and the Autonomic Nationalist Party of Castile and León (Partido Autonómico Nacionalista de Castilla y León, PANCAL, 1977). None of these survive today, but similar sentiments are now represented by Unidad Regionalista de Castilla y León (1993).[11]

In parallel there was a rise of groups advocating Leonesismo, Leonese particularism. Among these were the Grupo Autonómico Leonés (1978) and the Partido Regionalista del País Leonés (PREPAL, 1980), which proposed the creation of a Leonese autonomous community composed of the provinces of León, Salamanca and Zamora. Support for this option was particularly strong in the city of León.

Forming the autonomous community

Castile and León obtained a "pre-autonomic" regime by the Royal Decree Ley 20/1978, June 13, 1978. This set the region on the course toward establishing an autonomous community, a path that had been offered first to Catalonia toward the end of 1977 and would eventually be granted to every part of Spain. Five years later, in 1983, the autonomous community of Castile and León was made concrete by the Statute of Autonomy accepted by both the community and the Spanish state.

The Provincial Deputation of León agreed on April 16, 1980 to endorse the Castilian-Leonese process, but then revoked that support January 13, 1983, just as the proposed Organic Law was before the Spanish parliament. The Constitutional Court of Spain upheld the first of these two contradictory Leonese resolutions.[12] The court's decision was met by demonstrations in León and elsewhere in the Leonese territories in favor of a policy of León solo ("León alone"). The roughly 90,000 people who gathered in León at that time[13] constituted the largest demonstration in that city between the revival of democracy and the demonstrations after the 2004 Madrid train bombings.[14]

On July 31, 1981, the Provincial Deputation of Segovia initiated a process by which that province would have become, like the provinces of Santander (now Cantabria) and Logroño (now La Rioja) a "uniprovincial" autonomous community in its own right. The municipalities of the province were almost exactly equally divided between this uniprovincial solution and membership in an autonomous Castile and León. The municipal government of Cuéllar adopted a resolution favoring the uniprovincial solution on October 5, 1981; then, less than two months later on December 3 they reversed themselves, tipping the balance among the municipalities in favor of integration with Castile and León. Segovia ultimately became part of Castile and León under the Ley Orgánica 5/1983, which asserted that "for reasons of national interest", as foreseen by Article 144 c) of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, Segovia had abrogated its right to uniprovincial autonomy by failing to develop a concrete proposal in a timely manner.


The most recent official census by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística, as January 1, 2011, gave a population of 2,558,463 (1,267,671 males and 1,290,792 females) representing 5.42 percent of the population of Spain. As of January 2011 the population of Castile and León, by province, stood as follows: Ávila, 172,704 inhabitants; Burgos, 375,657; León, 497,799; Palencia,171,668; Salamanca, 352,986; Segovia, 164,169; Soria, 95,223; Valladolid, 534,874; and Zamora, 193,383.[15]

The region is relatively sparsely populated, covering nearly a fifth of Spain's surface area and having (by these various numbers) only 5.42 percent of the national population. The population density, based on 2011 statistic, is 27.15 per square kilometre (70.3 /sq mi), less than a third of the national average of 93.51 per square kilometre (242.2 /sq mi).

The rate of natural increase is negative, and one of the lowest in Spain. 25,080 deaths per year versus 17,857 births gives a death rate of 10.12 per thousand and a birth rate of 7.20 per thousand, for a rate of natural increase of -2.92 per thousand or -0.292 percent. Infant mortality stands at 0.33 percent, with 59 annual deaths of infants below the age of one year in 2000.

Despite the negative rate of natural increase, in the last decade or more the population has been increasing due to immigration, reversing a decades-long downward trend. There were 22,910 immigrants in 1999 and 24,340 in 2000.

Life expectancy is above the Spanish national average: 83.24 years for women and 78.30 for men.

In 1999 the distribution by age showed 317,783 people 14 years or younger; 913,618 between 15 and 39 years; 576,183 between 40 and 59 years; and 677,020 60 years or older.

Depopulation in the mid-20th century

Even before the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), the rural areas (and smaller cities) of present-day Castile and León were losing population due to emigration to Spain's large cities (Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, etc.) and abroad (to Germany, France, Switzerland, among others). This trend accelerated in the decade immediately after the Civil War. The growth of a strong industrial centre in Valladolid, including Spain's first automobile factory—the Renault plant led by the soldier and engineer Manuel Jiménez Alfaro—mitigated, but did not stop, the emigration. In both the 1960s and 1980s, the urban nuclei and provincial capitals gained population, but the region as a whole still suffered a net loss. To this day, the region has an aging population and a low birth rate contrasted against a merely average death rate by national standards.

The provinces of Valladolid and Segovia have reliably gone against this trend. The province of Valladolid has the region's most dynamic economy and, since 1987, its capital city has increasingly taken on the role of a regional capital. The province of Segovia is near enough to Madrid to participate in that city's dynamic growth.

Present-day population distribution

In 1960 only 20.6 percent of the population of present-day Castile and León was urban; by 1991 that percentage had risen to 42.3 percent. The decline in rural population has apparently been somewhat stemmed, with a 1998 statistic showing 43 percent.

Many rural areas became very sparsely populated in the mid-to-late 20th century. In 1986 there were seven times as many municipalities with less than 100 inhabitants as in 1960.

Notable cities include the nine provincial capitals plus Miranda de Ebro and Aranda de Duero in the province of Burgos, Ponferrada and San Andrés del Rabanedo in León, Béjar in Salamanca, and Medina del Campo and Laguna de Duero in Valladolid.

Of the 2,247 municipalities in the autonomous community, the 2000 census shows 1,970 with 1,000 or fewer inhabitants; 234 between 1,001 and 5,000; 20 between 5,001 and 10,000; 10 between 10,001 and 20,000; 6 between 20,001 and 50,000; 3 between 50,001 and 100,000; and 4 with over 100,000 inhabitants. Those last are Valladolid (319,943 in 2007), Burgos (174,075), Salamanca (159,754) and León (135,059). At the other extreme Blasconuño de Matacabras (Ávila) has a population of 18, Reinoso (Burgos) has 24, Villarmentero de Campos (Palencia), has 14, and Gormaz (Soria), 17.

Population of cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants (Source: INE, January 1, 2011):
City Population City Population City Population
Valladolid 313,437 Ponferrada 68,508 Miranda de Ebro 38,930
Burgos 179,251 Zamora 65,525 Aranda de Duero 33,229
Salamanca 153,472 Ávila 59,008 San Andrés del Rabanedo 31,562
León 132,744 Segovia 55,220 Laguna de Duero 22,334
Palencia 81,552 Soria 39,987 Medina del Campo 21,607


The regional per capita GDP of Castile and León is 21,244, slightly lower than the Spanish average of €22,152. The two most prosperous and industrialized provinces, Valladolid and Burgos, exceed the national per capita GDP.

Work force

In 2001 the work force was 1,005,200 with 884,200 employed, meaning 12.1 percent of the work force were out of work. 10.9 percent of the employed population work in agriculture, 20.6 percent in industry, 12.7 percent in construction, and 63.1 percent in the service sector.

In 2007, the unemployment rate was down to 6.99 percent,[16] but the late-2000s recession drove that number up to 14.14 percent by July 2009.[17]

Primary sector (agriculture and livestock)

Castile and León has roughly 5,783,831 hectares (14,292,160 acres) of arable land, more than half of the region's area. The land is generally dry, but fertile; dryland farming, predominates. Nonetheless, there is increasing irrigation in the basins of the Douro, Pisuerga, and Tormes. About 10 percent of the region's farmland is irrigated, allowing intensive farming in those regions. Flat topography and improved communications have facilitated the entry of technical innovations throughout the agricultural production process, above all in areas such as the provinces of Valladolid and Burgos where production per hectare is among Spain's highest. Castile and León's most fertile lands are in the Esla valley of León, in the countryside of Valladolid and in the Tierra de Campos, which intersects the provinces of Zamora, Valladolid, Palencia, and León.

Despite the declining rural population, and despite lower-than-average rural population density today, Castilian-Leonese agricultural production represents some 15 percent of Spain's primary sector.

Castile and León is known as "the granary of Spain" and is among Spain's leaders in production of cereals. Wheat is the most traditional crop, with the importance of barley increasing since the 1960s. The next most important cereals after these two, in terms of acreage devoted to their production are rye and oats. In addition to such legumes as locust beans and chickpeas, sunflower cultivation has spread in the southern plains.

The land devoted to vineyards decreased greatly in the last three decades of the 20th century. Thanks to adoption of more modern techniques, the 56,337 hectares (139,210 acres) currently devoted to vineyards are turning out vastly better wines than those the region traditionally produced. Now rivaling in quality the wines of La Rioja, they are increasingly known even beyond the borders of Spain. The region's principal zones of viticulture—each with a mandated Designation of Origin (Denominación de Origen)—are D.O. Ribera del Duero, D.O. Rueda, D.O. Toro, D.O. Bierzo, D.O. Arribes, and D.O. Tierra de León.

In the irrigated zones, Castile and León grows sugar beets—a product subsidized by the authorities of the autonomic region—potatoes, alfalfa, and vegetables. The province of León also grows maize, hops, and legumes.

Agricultural work force

Some 92,600 people work in the primary sector in Castile and León, about 10 percent of employment in the region. 2001 data showed 5 percent unemployment in this sector.

Broken down by provinces, approximately 9,400 are employed in this sector in Ávila, 8,100 each in Burgos and Palencia, 18,300 in León, 9,200 in Salamanca, 6,400 in Segovia, 5,600 in Soria, 8,300 in Valladolid, and 14,600 in Zamora. The region's agricultural and farming sector represent 7.6% of the total in Spain.


Historically, Castile and León was a land of small livestock operations that proliferated in the major agricultural regions and in the mountainous areas. While the sector is by no means extinct, there is no question that it is undergoing a decline that is part and parcel of the depopulation of rural Castile and León. Nomadic pastoralism remains in some areas: large flocks, mainly of sheep, are driven hundreds of miles each year from the flat land to pasture land of mountains as in El Bierzo, the Cantabrian valleys of León, the Sierra de Gredos or the Picos de Urbión. This migratory husbandry, so historically connected to the region, suffers from a continually greater shortage of manpower.

Nonetheless, livestock accounts for a significant part of Castile and León's agricultural production. Large, modern farms raise cattle, pigs, and sheep for meat and milk. Milk is generally sold through farmer-owned cooperatives that control its subsequent marketing. Castile and León produces over 1,500,000 litres (400,000 US gal) of milk annually, second in Spain after Galicia.

Castile and León has approximately 5,425,000 sheep, 2,800,000 pigs, and 1,200,000 cattle. Far behind these numbers, there 166,200 goats, and 71,700 horses, mules, and donkeys. The greatest production of meat is of pork (241,700 tonnes (266,400 short tons)), beef (89,400 tonnes (98,500 short tons)), and poultry (66,000 tonnes (73,000 short tons)); wool production is Spain's largest, at (7,500 tonnes (8,300 short tons)).

Forests and deforestation

1,900,000 hectares (4,700,000 acres) of Castile and León have been deforested, representing 40 percent of historic forest lands. This deforestation is principally due to human activities over the centuries. However, the decline in rural population is resulting in an increase in forested land in recent decades.

Secondary sector (industry, mining, energy)


As of 2000, industry 18 percent of the work force of Castile and León were engaged in industry, generating 25 percent of regional GDP. The principal industrial centres are the cities of Valladolid (21,054 workers in industry), Burgos (20,217), Aranda de Duero (4,872), León (4,521) and Ponferrada (4,270).[18]

The most important sub-sectors are automobiles, paper, chemicals, all centred in Valladolid and Burgos, as well as the food industry including the production of flour, sunflower oil, and wine, found in all the provincial capitals. The Spanish dairy brand Leche Pascual is based in Aranda de Duero. Other industries are textiles in Béjar; tile and bricks in Palencia; sugar processing in León, Valladolid, Toro, Miranda de Ebro, and Benavente; pharmaceuticals in León, Valladolid and principally at the GlaxoSmithKline factory in Aranda de Duero; metallurgy and steel in Ponferrada; chemicals in Miranda de Ebro and Valladolid; aeronautics in Valladolid.


Mining has been important in Castile y León since the time of the Roman Empire, when the Roman Via de la Plata (English: "Silver Way", Spanish: Vía de la Plata) from Asturica Augusta (Astorga) to Emerita Augusta (Mérida) and Hispalis (Seville) was built to transport silver and gold mined from the deposits of las Médulas in El Bierzo.

Centuries later, after the Spanish Civil War, mining was again a factor in the economic development of the region. However, production of iron, tin, and tungsten declined notably from the 1970s onward. Coal mining (including anthracite coal) continued due to local demand for thermal power generation. Numerous Leonese mines closed in the 1980s and 1990s, causing unemployment and poverty, and providing another cause for emigration. Despite investments under the Mining Action Plan of the Junta of Castile and León, coal mining continues to be a troubled industry regionally.


The Douro and Ebro Rivers have numerous hydroelectric plants that make Castile and León one of Spain's leading regions in terms of power generation. Among these are hydroelectric plants Burguillo, Rioscuro, Las Ondinas, Cornatel, Bárcena, Aldeadávila I y II, Saucelle I y II, Castro I y II, Villalcampo I y II, Valparaíso, and Ricobayo I y II.

Installed hydroelectric power total 3,992 megawatts, with an annual product of 5,417 gigawatt hours. Nuclear power generates another 3,483 gigawatts per year. Thermal power from carboniferous fuels remains the region's leading source of energy, contributing 16,956 gigawatt hours for a regional total of 25,856 gigawatt hours from these major facilities. All of the nuclear power comes from the Santa María de Garoña Nuclear Power Plant in the province of Burgos, which is currently (as of 2009) expected to shut down in July 2013. The following are the region's other thermal power stations:

Castile and León thermal power stations
Name Location Province Proprietor
Anllares Thermal Power Station Páramo del Sil León Unión Fenosa, Endesa
Compostilla II Thermal Power Station Cubillos del Sil León Endesa
La Robla Thermal Power Station La Robla León Unión Fenosa
Velilla Thermal Power Station Velilla del Río Carrión Palencia Iberdrola[19]

Castile and León also produces wind energy, with more than 100 operating wind energy farms. There are 46 wind energy farms in Burgos with a potential of 1,275 megawatts, with a regional total potential of 3,128 megawatts. Other (non-renewable) energy sources are natural gas (194 megawatts installed) and diesel fuel (69 megawatts).

Tertiary sector (services)

63.1 percent of the work force of Castile and León is deployed in the service sector.


Tourism in Castile and León increased throughout the 1990s, capitalizing on the cultural and historic significance of the Castilian-Leonese cities and the attractive natural areas and countryside of the various comarcas. In 2001, Castile and León received roughly 315,000 visitors, of whom 42,000 were from abroad. The region contains six UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

The town of Lerma in the province of Burgos, formerly the seat of a duke, is also a prominent tourist destination.

Castile and León has numerous castles, all of which are to some degree tourist destinations:


The leading sectors of internal commerce in Castile and León are food, automobiles, textiles, and footwear. Exports vary by region. The provinces of Ávila, Palencia, and Valladolid are all export vehicles and automobile chassis. Burgos and Vallodolid export tires. León exports steel and objects manufactured from slate. Salamanca exports beef; Segovia exports pork; Zamora exports lamb, mutton, and goat meat. Soria exports rubber products.

Castile and León also exports a great deal of wine. The wines of the Province of Valladolid have the widest distribution abroad, but Zamora is also an important wine region.

Leading imports are vehicles and vehicle parts, such as motors or tires.

The leading sources of foreign imports are France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal and the United States. Exports travel throughout the European Union as well as to Turkey, Israel, and the United States.


Most major surface routes from northern Spain to the capital, Madrid, and to southern Spain and Portugal, and thence to the rest of Europe and Africa, pass through Castile and León. Portugal's most important route to the east also traverses the region. As a result Castile and León is an important nexus in the transportation network of the Iberian peninsula and Europe. In addition, proximity to Madrid means that a lot of transportation to that capital passes through Castile and León.

The major land routes for merchandise and transport are Autovía A-1 (the Autovía del Norte) which runs from Madrid to the Basque port of Irun on the French border and Autovía A-6, the Autovía del Noroeste, which runs from Madrid to Arteixo, A Coruña). Also important is Autovía A-62 (the Autovía de Castilla), which comes out of Portugal through the cities of Salamanca, Valladolid, Palencia, and Burgos and continues east as part of European route E-80. Along those three routes are such important cities as Medina del Campo, Aranda de Duero, and Miranda de Ebro.

Air travel

The last years have seen a big improvement in accessibility from the rest of Europe, mainly through the operations of low-cost airlines at the Valladolid airport of Villanubla, which handles both domestic and international traffic. The León Airport, also known as Virgen del Camino, currently handles only domestic traffic, but hopes to handle international traffic in the future. Salamanca Airport, also known as Matacán, handles domestic flights and international charter flights. The Burgos Airport, also known as Villafría, opened in July 2008. Madrid's main airport Barajas is nearby as well, although as of 2009 there is no direct connection through public transportation. Matacán and Virgen del Camino are among Europe's leaders in terms of recent growth of air traffic; Villanubla is experiencing lesser growth of about 3 percent annually.


Castile and León has an extensive rail network, including the principal lines from Madrid to Cantabria and Galicia. The line from Paris to Lisbon crosses the region, reaching the Portuguese frontier at Fuentes de Oñoro in Salamanca. Astorga, Burgos, León, Miranda de Ebro, Palencia, Ponferrada,Medina del Campo and Valladolid are all important railway junctions.

Railways operate in several different gauges: Iberian gauge (1,668 mm), UIC gauge (1,435 mm) and Narrow gauge (1,000 mm). Except for some narrow-gauge lines, trains are operated by RENFE on lines maintained by the Administrador de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias (ADIF); both of these are national, state-owned companies.

Iberian gauge lines (ADIF/RENFE)

  • Madrid - Irun
  • Madrid - Burgos
  • Castejón de Ebro - Bilbao
  • Venta de Baños - A Coruña
  • Palencia - Santander
  • León - Gijón
  • Medina del Campo - Santiago de Compostela
  • Medina del Campo - Fuentes de Oñoro
  • Torralba - Soria
  • Villalba - Segovia

Lines with no current passenger service:

  • Plasencia - Astorga
  • Santander - Mediterranean (between Calatayud and Ciudad Dosante)
  • Valladolid - Ariza
  • Soria - Castejón
  • La Fregeneda - Boadilla
  • Segovia - Medina del Campo

UIC gauge lines (ADIF/RENFE)

  • Madrid - Valladolid

Narrow gauge

  • León - Bilbao: Ferrocarril de La Robla, Europe's longest narrow-gauge line, operated by FEVE
  • Cercedilla - Cotos: operated by RENFE
  • Ponferrada - Villablino: operated by the Ferrocarril MSP under the Junta of Castile and León


As stated above, Castile and León is the land transport hub of northern Spain. It is crossed by International E-roads E80 and E05. These are the main road connections from Portugal and the south of Spain to the rest of Europe.

The region is also crossed by two major ancient routes:

  • The Way of St. James, mentioned above as a World Heritage Site, now a hiking trail and a motorway, from east to west.
  • The Roman Via de la Plata ("Silver Way"), mentioned above in the context of mining, now a main road through the west of the region.

The road network is regulated by the Ley de carreteras 10/2008 de Castilla y León (Highway Law 10/2008 of Castile and León).[20] This law allows for the possibility of roads financed by the private sector through concessions, as well as the public construction of roads that has long prevailed.

List of Autovías and Autopistas in Castile and León

Name Route Important cities of Castile and León through which the road passes
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Autovía and Autopista del Norte
MadridBurgosIrun Sepúlveda, Aranda de Duero, Lerma, Burgos, Briviesca, Miranda de Ebro
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Autovía del Nordeste
MadridBarcelona Medinaceli
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Autovía and Autopista del Noroeste
MadridA Coruña San Rafael, Villacastín, Arévalo, Medina del Campo, Tordesillas, Villalpando, Benavente, La Bañeza, Astorga, Bembibre, Ponferrada
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Autovía del Duero
ZamoraTudela de Duero (to be extended) Zamora, Toro, Tordesillas, Valladolid, Tudela de Duero, (Peñafiel and Aranda de Duero, by N-122).
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Autovía de la Cultura
SalamancaÁvila Salamanca, Ávila
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Conexión Ávila
VillacastínÁvila Villacastín, Ávila
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Autovía de las Rías Bajas
BenaventeVigo Benavente, Puebla de Sanabria
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Conexión Segovia
San RafaelSegovia San Rafael, Segovia
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Autovía de Castilla
BurgosFuentes de Oñoro Burgos, Palencia, Valladolid, Tordesillas, Salamanca, Ciudad Rodrigo
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Autovía and autopista de la Plata
GijónSevilla (incomplete) Salamanca, Zamora, Benavente, León
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Autovía Cantabria-Meseta
PalenciaSantander Palencia, Frómista, Osorno la Mayor, Aguilar de Campoo
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Autopista León-Astorga
LeónAstorga León, Astorga
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Autovía del Camino de Santiago
LeónBurgos León, Sahagún, Carrión de los Condes, Burgos
A-601 Autovía Valladolid-Segovia Valladolid - Segovia Valladolid, Cuéllar, Segovia

Rail and bus pass

Since May 1, 2007, certain regions of the provinces of Segovia and Ávila have been included in the Abono Transportes de Madrid, a zone-based system of regional transport in and around Spain's capital. The cities of Segovia and Ávila are included in the outermost zone, C2, as are some other municipalities of their respective provinces. The monthly or yearly pass allows use of all public buses and trains.


Flora and vegetation

The solitary oaks and junipers now found on the Castilian-Leonese plains are remnants of forests that once covered these lands. Agricultural exploitation—cultivation of cereals and creation of pastures for the vast flocks of the Castilian Meseta—meant the deforestation of these lands during the Middle Ages. The last juniper forests of Castile and León can be found in the provinces of Soria and Burgos. In some of these forest, junipers are mixed with pine—or even with oak or gall oak—but the conifers predominate.

The Castilian-Leonese slope of the Cantabrian Mountains and the northern foothills of the Sistema Ibérico both boast rich vegetation. The cool, moist slopes are populated by large beech forests, which can extend as high as altitudes of 1,500 metres (4,900 ft). The beeches may form mixed forests with yew, rowan (mountain ash), common hawthorne, holly, and birch. The sunny slopes bring forth sessile oak, English oak, ash, common hawthorne, chestnut, birch, and pinar de Lillo (Pinus silvestris), a native pine species of northern León.

Wide extensions of oak survive on the lower slopes of the Sistema Central. Higher up, between 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) and 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) altitude, chestnuts are abundant. Yet higher up, Quercus pyrenaica—an oak species now rarely found in the eponymous Pyrenees—predominates. With its strong resistance to cold, it can reach heights of 1,700 metres (5,600 ft). Nonetheless, many oak forests have disappeared, cut down and replaced by pines. The principal native pine forests are in the Sierra de Guadarrama. The subalpine zones between 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) and 2,200 metres (7,200 ft) are home to shrubs and juniper.

Much of the province of Salamanca, above all in the comarcas of Salices and Ciudad Rodrigo, is occupied by dehesas, a type of sparsely wooded land resembling the African savannas, with oak, cork oak, gall oak and Turkish oak. The provinces of Salamanca and Valladolid in the area of Rueda also have olive trees, which do not grow elsewhere in Castile and León.


Castile and León has a great diversity of fauna. Some of these are notable either for being endemic to the region or for their rarity. 418 species of vertebrates have been identified, constituting 63 percent of the vertebrates that can be found in Spain. Animals adapted to the high mountains, inhabitant of rocky landscapes, river dwellers, lowland species, and forest animals all can be found in Castile and León.

The isolation of the high peaks preserves many endemic animals such as the Western Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica victoriae) of which there are only two wild populations in the world, both along the border between Castile and León and Extremadura. The European Snow Vole (Chionomys nivalis or Microtus nivalis) is a species of rodent in the family Cricetidae, a small grayish brown mammal with a long tail that lives in open spaces above timberline.

Squirrels, dormice, Spanish Moles, sables, martens, foxes, wildcats, and Iberian Wolves are all abundant in some areas. Wild boars, Roe Deer and other deer species can be found in the deciduous forests and to a lesser extent in the coniferous forests. A small population of Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) can be found in forests of the Cantabrian Mountains. The wildcat Felis silvestris is also found. The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), once found in the region, now can only be found in certain regions of southern Spain.

Castile and León is also home to such reptiles as the Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris), the Southern Smooth Snake (Coronella girondica), and the Aesculapian Snake (Elaphe longissima or Zamenis longissimus). The European Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca) can be found from sea level up to an altitude of 1,800 metres (5,900 ft); in Castile and León it tends to be found at the higher end of its range. Higher still, in the rocky subalpine zones around 2,400 metres (7,900 ft), is the Iberian Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta monticola or Lacerta monticola cyreni), one of the few reptiles adapted to these heights.

The mountain rivers provide a habitat for nutrias and Pyrenean Desmans, not to mention trout, freshwater eels, bighead carp and some increasingly rare native freshwater crabs. Mammals include the otter (Lutra lutra) and desman (Galemys pyrenaicus). In the lower depths of the river are the barbels (Barbus barbus) and carp. Local amphibians include newts, the Almanzor Salamander (Salamandra salamandra almanzoris, a subspecies of Fire Salamander) and the Gredos Toad (Bufo bufo gredosicola, a supspecies of Common Toad); the latter two are endemic to the Sistema Central.

Where the rivers narrow to form gorges and canyons, they form a habitat for birds of prey such as the Griffon Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and the small Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus). Further downstream, the lush vegetation of the riverbanks makes a home for the Black-crowned Night Heron and Grey Heron, as well as the smaller Goldcrest, European Penduline Tit, Hoopoe, and Common Kingfisher.

Among the birds that populate the open Mediterranean forests are two endangered species: the Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) and the Spanish Imperial Eagle (also known as Iberian Imperial Eagle or Adalbert's Eagle, Aquila adalberti). The Black Stork, much rarer than the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) is a solitary bird that stays far away from humans.

In the coniferous forests live, among other treecreepers (of the family Certhiidae), the Coal Tit (Periparus ater), and the Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea). The Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) can also be found. Among the raptors in the forests are the Northern Goshawk, the Eurasian Sparrowhawk and members of the true owl family, which frequently prey upon such smaller birds as Eurasian Jays, woodpeckers (notably the Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major), finches of the genus Fringilla, and warblers of the genus Sylvia.

The Great Bustard (Otis tarda) frequents the plains cleared for dryland farming. In the winter, the Castilian-Leonese wetlands teem with Greylag Geese (Anser anser), that have flown south from their breeding grounds in Northern Europe.

See also


External links

  • Cortes de Castilla y León (Regional Parliament) (Spanish)
  • Junta de Castilla y León (Regional Government) (Mostly in Spanish)
  • Consejo Consultivo de Castilla y León (Spanish)
  • The Cortes of Castile-León, Joseph F. O'Callaghan (historical)
  • Tourist Information
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