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Spanish in Santander

Learn Spanish in Santander

In the Cave of Altamira, close to the town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, polychrome rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands have been found that date back to from around 15,000 years ago up to as much as 18,500 years ago. Excavations carried out found remains from the Upper Solutrean and Lower Magdalenean periods, proof that the region of Cantabria, where Santander is to be found, has been inhabited since ancient times.

Roman Resistence

Cantabria as a whole put up a strong resistence when the Romans arrived in Iberia around 219BC. The Cantabrian Wars, as they are often referred to as, began around 29BC and for around 10 years the Romans were engaged in a tough war resulting in the loss of many men. More soldiers had to be drafted in and there were mutinies and refusals to fight amongst the Roman soldiers who were not used to neither such fierce resistence nor the changeable and extreme weather prevalent in Cantabria. However, the persistence of the Romans paid off and eventually Cantabria fell into their hands. When they arrived in what we now know as Santander in 21BC, they named it Portus Victoriae (Victory Harbour), and for good reason. All the tribes in Cantabria that had previously given them such strife were gone within two years. The Romans established the port of Santander as one of the most important in the region and the city as we see it today has grown up around it. The modern day name of Santander is thought to come either from Saint Emeterio (Santemter), Saint Andrew (Sanct Ander) or from the monastery of "Sancti Emeterii".

Roman Removal

Cantabria eventually became completely independent from the Romans in the year 409 A.D. and remained so until the arrival of the Visigoths in 574 A.D. and then the Muslims in 714 A.D. In these times Cantabria itself was quite often not recognised as a region as it is today, instead being considered either part of Asturias or of Castille. Nevertheless, throughout this period, the port of Santander did not cease to develop and to be of great importance.

In 1248 A.D. Santander received its coat of arms in return for participating in the Battle for Seville, a part of the larger struggle against the Almohad rulers that had then taken over Southern Spain. Santander went from strength to strength and in 1755 it officially became a city under King Ferdinand XI. Again Cantabria stubbornly refused to give up their land for lost. Many Cantabrian Christians fled to the mountains to escape the Muslim influence and year after year, the region and their King (Alfonso I and Alfonso II in this period) battled relentlessly against the Arabs, with the result that by the time Alfonso III came into power the Muslim border had already been pushed back as far as the Ribera del Duero. Gradually the Arabs lost their influence both in the North and the South and the Christians flooded back in. The area became controlled by the Christians and many important monasteries began to appear throughout the region. Cities like Santander and San Vicente built up their industry and Santander became one of the most important shipyards in the world at this time and was key in the defence of Cantabria and Spain as a whole from potential invading nations who wanted to enter through the North of Spain.

Santander's shipyard and its hive of economic activity transformed the region of Cantabria into one of the most important regions in Spain as it gained from continuous industrial development and an abundance of ships leaving to the American colonies and beyond. However, the loss of the colonies in the 19th and 20th centuries meant that Santander had to re-think what had been its key industry for so many years and it moved towards the Chemical industry, meaning a gradual loss of importance of the port of Santander. However, in a rather different and somewhat fortuitous turn of events, in the early 1900s King Alfonso XIII choose Santander as the destination for his summer holidays, therefore increasing in vogue and popularity the practice of going to Santander during the summer months for vacations by the sea, and it is still popular as a holiday destination today both with Spaniards and Europeans alike. The Palacio de la Magdalena, a grand and multi-style building right on the Magdalena Peninsula, was constructed by the local Government of Santander in order for the King to have a residence that was fit for him during his vacations there. The Palace is now used for conferences and summer courses run by the local University and the stables have since been converted into dormitories for the summer camp attendees.

Modern Day Santander

One notably sad event that occurred in Santander was a large fire that burned for two days in 1941, during which many buildings were destroyed, including the Romanesque Cathedral and pretty much the whole of the Medieval Centre. Many families were left without homes.

However, Santander has bounced back and the modern city that you will see today when you visit for your Spanish language course, is a lively and intriguing spot with plenty to see and plenty to be done in your spare time. Like many of its coastal cousins, Santander serves up gastronomic delights a plenty, whilst the city's large University keeps the atmosphere lively and sociable. Go on and give it a try for yourself!