1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gerona (province)

GERONA, a maritime frontier province in the extreme north-east of Spain, formed in 1833 of districts taken from Catalonia, and bounded on the N. by France, E. and S.E. by the Mediterranean Sea, S.W. and W. by Barcelona, and N.W. by Lérida. Pop. (1900) 299,287; area, 2264 sq. m. In the north-west a small section of the province, with the town of Llivía, is entirely isolated and surrounded by French territory; otherwise Gerona is separated from France by the great range of the Pyrenees. Its general aspect is mountainous, especially in the western districts. Most of the lower chains are covered with splendid forests of oak, pine and chestnut. There are comparatively level tracts of arable land along the lower course of the three main rivers—the Ter, Muga and Fluvia, which rise in the Pyrenees and flow in a south-easterly direction to the sea. The coast-line is not deeply indented, but includes one large bay, the Gulf of Rosas. Its two most conspicuous promontories, Capes Creus and Bagur, are the easternmost points of the Iberian Peninsula. The climate is generally temperate and rainy during several months in the valleys and near the coast, but cold in the Cerdaña district and other mountainous regions during eight months, while Gerona, La Bisbal and Santa Coloma are quite Mediterranean in their hot summers and mild winters. Agriculture is backward, but there are profitable fisheries and fish-curing establishments along the whole seaboard, notably at the ports of Llansá, Rosas, Palamós, San Felíu de Guixols and Blanes. Next in importance is the cork industry at San Felíu de Guixols, Palafrugell and Cassa. More than one hundred mineral springs are scattered over the province, and in 1903 twenty mines were at work, although their total output, which included antimony, coal, copper, lead, iron and other ores, was valued at less than £7000. There are also important hydraulic cement and ochre works, and no fewer than twenty-two of the towns are centres of manufactures of linen, cotton, woollen stuffs, paper, cloth, leather, steel and furniture. The commerce of the province is important, Port Bou (or Portbou) being, after Irun, the most active outlet for the trade by railway not only with France but with the rest of the continent. The main railway from Barcelona to France runs through the province, and several branch railways, besides steam and electric tramways, connect the principal towns. Gerona, the capital (pop. 1900, 15,787), and Figueras (10,714), long a most important frontier fortress, are described in separate articles; the only other towns with more than 7000 inhabitants are San Felíu de Guixols (11,333), Olot (7938) and Palafrugell (7087). The inhabitants of the province are, like most Catalans, distinguished for their enterprise, hardiness and keen local patriotism; but emigration, chiefly to Barcelona, kept their numbers almost stationary during the years 1875–1905. The percentage of illegitimate births (1·5) is lower than in any other part of Spain. (See also Catalonia.)