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The opinions about the place-name Durango are very varied. Alfonso Irigoien thinks that: "evidently, it has a high medieval formation as at that time the anthropological name Duranco was in use". Other writers think that it could be a derivation of Urazango and Justo Gárate proposes that it could have evolved from the name Padurango. In the endorsement of the town's municipal charter by Prince Juan (1372) it was named Tavira de Durango. Tavira must have been the name of the original nucleus and Durango was the name of its district. Until the 16th century it was known as Villanueva (Uribarri) de Durango (New Town of Durango).

According to the historian Orella Unzúe, Durangaldea has its own history and its own legal records within the medieval kingdom of Pamplona. Until the year 1095 the county of Durango first belonged to the kingdom of Pamplona and then to the kingdom of Navarre. However after this time it was ruled by the domain of Biscay, but was allowed a certain amount of independence.

Although the exact date on which the town of Durango was founded is not known, most historians agree in placing it in the period between the reign of Sancho VI "El Sabio" ["The Wise"] (1150-1194) and Sancho VII "El Fuerte" ["The Strong"] (1194-1234), who were Navarrase kings that also founded other cities like San Sebastian (1180) and Vitoria (1181). In the year 1195, after King Alfonso VIII of Castile's occupation of the whole county of Durango, the town became part of the Crown of Castile.

The town's original shape must have been made up of three parallel streets (Yuso Street or Barrenkalea, Medio Street or Artekalea and Suso Street or Goienkalea), later growing with the addition of Nueva Street or Kalebarria, and were intersected by a cross street. The doors of Kurutziaga, San Pedro, San Juan, San Martin, Nuestra Señora de la Piedad [Our Lady of Pity] and Santa Ana were surrounded by a wall that still stands today.

Throughout the whole of the 15th century the town was enveloped by the various changes brought about by the conflicts between the Ibarguen, Zaldibar and Unzueta Families. At this time the factional tower-houses were built, of which there are hardly any traces and amongst which we can point out the following ones: Arandoño, Asteiza, Etxebarria, Lariz, Monago and Otalora. Enrique III (1393) and Enrique IV (1457), the Castilian Kings, were both received there, as well as Queen Isabel la Católica ["The Catholic"] (1483) who stayed, according to the Municipal Records, in the Lariz Tower. During this visit she swore the district's and the town's municipal charters.

The most relevant event this century is the one that is known as the one about the Durango heretics (1442-1444). In spite of the lack of documentation that exists on the subject, we know that the main instigator was a Franciscan monk called Alonso de Mella, who was native of Zamora and the brother of Cardinal Juan de Mella. Ernesto García Fernández's opinion, when writing about Alonso de Mella's ideology, was: "precise concomitants can be appreciated with the "Brothers of the Free Spirit" (questions about sexuality etc.), with Joaquinist learning (the arrival of the Age of the Holy Spirit), as well as with gaps in the ideas presented by Wiclifitas and Husitas at the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries (criticism of the wealth of the Church, discrepancy with the way in which the "sacred scriptures" are interpreted by theologians and doctors, positioning against the Papacy etc.)". Given the size of the deed, the public and religious powers intervened in the matter by harshly reprimanding Mella's followers. More than a hundred of them were condemned to death (they were publicly burnt in Kurutziaga, Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Valladolid) however others, amongst them Mella and his companion Friar Guillen, managed to escape. The still present Kurutziaga cross was erected as an expiatory monument to the heresy. The heretic movements in the town continued throughout the 16th and 18th centuries and even in the second half of the 19th century, a self-named "prophet" called Manzanero managed to attract a certain number of followers and create a sect, although it had very few repercussions outside the region.

The most important events in the 16th century are associated with misfortunes that took place in the town. In 1517 Durango was devastated by a terrible epidemic of the plague that caused many deaths amongst the residents. In 1544 a violent flood occurred that swamped a good part of the town. Afterwards, on 11th of March 1554 the town suffered a great fire that, having started in Artekalea, turned all the wooden buildings to ashes, which meant nearly all the buildings perished. Even in 1597 there was another epidemic of the plague. The Town Hall is also recorded to have been built in the 16th century, most of the work was carried out by the great stonemason Bernabé of Solano.

For a great part of the 17th century the township of Durango had to face up to the enormous human and economic cost that was incurred by the various wars that the Castillian Crown embarked upon against France. On various occasions they had to turn to the ports of Biscay and Guipuzcoa for help. As a result of these wars iron manufacturing flourished, the main items manufactured were "metal-tipped sticks, halberds, sword guards, daggers, pikes" and other types of weapons.

The 18th century was a period of economic decline that was reflected in the great number of times the Town Council had to resort to municipal taxes or taxes on foods. In spite of this, one of the most important pelota courts was built in 1785. It is also worth describing Durango's part in the war against the French Convention. Seven companies were formed with sixty soldiers in each. The French entered Durango in July 1795 and they soon left it after the surrender and subsequent neutrality. Afterwards, during the independence war, the French once more occupied the town and the rest of the Country. They ordered the demolishing of the Mary Magdalene church and a cemetery was built in its place.

The various political changes that took place in the country were also reflected in the daily lives of the people of Durango. In September 1813 the Cádiz Constitution was proclaimed in Durango, later, Fernando VII was acclaimed and he then visited the town in June 1828. The Carlist wars had a great effect on Durango. In the first war, after several consecutive Carlist victories, the town of Durango was converted into Court to the pretender to the throne Carlos, who stayed in Juan Santos of Orúe House in Pinondo.

The economic drain, added to the great human loss due to the battles and the cholera epidemic, caused the town to be practically ruined. The first Carlist war ended in Durango when General Espartero arrived on 2nd August 1839. During the second Carlist war (1872-1876) Durango was once more Court to the pretender to the throne Carlos VII. A Carlist battalion of 800 men was formed in Durango and was lead by Francisco Zengotita. In the same way as in the first war, at first the victories fell on the Carlist side but as the war went on the liberal forces started prevailing. On 4th February 1875 the liberal troops entered the town without the slightest resistance.

In 1886 the Euskara [Basque Language] Festival was celebrated in Durango, a very important cultural event, in which the main items were the contests of "bertsolariak" and "txistulariak", and above all the literary competition.

At the end of the 19th century, more exactly in 1882, the Bilbao to Durango Railway was opened, which, in spite of the great material effort needed for its construction was to give a great impulse to town's economy.

At the beginning of the 20th century a period of industrial flourishing started. Various companies were set up in Durango, the most important being Mendizabal's. Afterwards, factories like the Vizcaína and Olma Iron Factory were also set up.

In 1927 the district of Iurreta was annexed which caused the population of Durango to increase by 2000. The later de-annexation did not occur until 1991.

During the dictatorship of Primo of Rivera, the actual dictator came to Durango and opened the food market. On 31st March 1937, during the Spanish civil war (1936-1939), Durango suffered an undiscriminating and systematic bombing against the civilian population. Such an event had never happened in any part of the world before this time. More than 500 people died in the bombing and the occurrences the following days. Shortly after, the troops of the 1st Brigade of Navarre entered the town giving rise to a long period of hunger and general poverty, this continued until the mid fifties when the town, mainly thanks to the industrial flourishing, once more regained its great economic activity. It is also worth describing, as a characteristic of this period, the great affluence obtained by people who came to the town from other areas of the state, mainly Extremadura and Andalucía.

Date of last modification:  20100212110843
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Durangoko Udala - Ayuntamiento de Durango , Barrenkalea 17 Phone: 946030000 [EN]Fax: 946201622 Email: durango@durango.eus