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Pontevedra History

Several different theories exist regarding Pontevedra’s original location but almost all historians agree that this was not on the present site. Similar doubts surround the legend that a Greek, Teucro, one of the heroes of the Trojan wars, founded the city, and named it Helenes.

Documentary evidence tells us that a Roman villa was definitely located in the neighbourhood of the southern end of the Burgo bridge and, according to several contemporary historians, it was known as Turoqua and lay on the 19th Roman road that ran from Bracara Augusta (Braga) to Lucus Augusta (Lugo).

At the beginning of the 12th century, written references to the city appear, calling it "Ponte Veteri", and in 1163, the actual name Pontevedra "Old Bridge" appears written in a donation to the monastery of Poio.

In 1169, king Ferdinand II granted a charter to Pontevedra and the privileges and immunities which were later granted to the city acted as a powerful spur to economic activity. The most important of these were the monopoly for the production of fish fat and fish curing (1229), San Bartolomé's fair (1467) and the right to be Galicia’s port of import and export (1452).

During the late middle ages, Pontevedra’s economic activity was centered on fishing, handicrafts and trade. It reached its height in the 16th century, which was the greatest period of economic and social development in Pontevedra's history, thanks to social stability, the economic boom of the period and the strategic position of the town on the Atlantic routes.

At the end of the 16th century, began the symptoms of the deepening crisis which was to overtake Pontevedra in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The causes were varied. Climatic setbacks and the movement of enormous quantities of sand and earth from the rivers to the sea, caused the progressive silting up of the port. Biological exhaustion of the sardine fishing grounds led to a fishing crisis that in a few years ruined most of the shipowners. The dependence on the religious authorities of Santiago de Compostella, which controlled the municipal, judicial and fiscal administration, stifled the bourgeois spirit of the more dynamic classes of the city. And the tensions caused by the wars of the Spanish crown against the English and the prosecution of Christian converts by the Inquisition, fomented a climate of insecurity and crisis that reduced investment and increased taxes.

During the 16th and 17th centuries the decline was made worse by the constant wars (with Portugal, the War of Spanish Succession, the English occupation). The population of Spain decreased by half. In some centuries the decrease was double in Galicia and treble in the Pontevedra region. In the Peninsular War, against the French, the troops of General Ney were repulsed in Ponte Sampaio, being one of the most glorious moments from the pages of Pontevedra's history.

During the first half of 19th century there were continuous confrontations between Pontevedra and Vigo over which would be the porvincial capital. In 1822 the Cortes redrew the Spanish administrative map, establishing four provinces in Galicia (Coruna, Lugo, Orense and Pontevedra), with Vigo becoming the capital of Pontevedra. Later, in 1833, the General Cortes revised this decision, approving the change of capital in favour of Pontevedra. In 1836 Vigo requested a reversal of this decision but the capital was not changed. The dissatisfaction in Vigo was enormous, sadly ending up with the bombardment and occupation of Pontevedra by a Vigan garrison. But Vigo failed to secure its objective. After the attainment of provincial capital status, in November 23 1835.

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