by Saskia Mier
Isla Mayor was known as Villafranco del Guadalquivir up until the year 2000. The town is located close to the Marismas del Bajo Guadalquivir that occupies part of the Doñana National Park. Surrounded by canals, the land was once used to cultivate rice. It has about 5,900 inhabitants.
The origin of Isla Mayor lies in the dispersed population of gañanías (lodging) known as, Casitas de los Ingleses, that were built in the marshes during the Middle Ages by British colonies and later Valencian colonies. In 1253, King Alfonso X granted the marshes to the City Council of Seville.
It was in the twentieth century that the British company, Islas del Guadalquivir, began to exploit the marshes for the cultivation of rice, draining and drying out certain areas. With recent visits that Alfonso XIII made to western Andalusia, he founded the Poblado de Alfonso XIII, a village in 1928, which was at that time the main inhabited place.
Over time, people preferred to stay in the area of Puntal, in the centre of Isla Mayor, growing a population that since the visit of General Franco in 1953 was called, Villafranco del Guadalquivir, and grew to be the main town centre.
Both places these small villages were districts of La Puebla del Río and after many efforts, negotiations and demonstrations, finally in 1994, Isla Mayor gained independence, taking the name, Isla Mayor in a popular referendum.
THINGS TO SEE
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen
The church is an emblematic building of the former Poblado de Alfonso XIII, built with traditional Andalusian style in 1928, inspired by the Iglesia de San Roque in Sevilla. Located on Calle Real del Poblado de Alfonso XVIII.
Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Rocío
The chapel's interior was decorated by the designer, Santiago del Campo, currently used by the Brotherhood de Nuestra Señora del Rocío. It is not in good condition, being previously used as an agricultural building. Located on Calle Carlos Cano.
Iglesia de San Rafael Arcángel
The church was a very modern temple after the Second Vatican Council. Located in Barriada San Rafael, on Calle Málaga.
Edificio de Usos Múltiples Fernando Pallarés y Biblioteca Alfonso Grosso
The building was built in 2007, consisting of the restoration of a previous paper factory, which was built in 1939. The factory used the husk and straw of rice to make paper, but was closed down in 1983. Currently, it is used for cultural activities and the Municipal Library 'Alfonso Grosso' which was opened in 2008. Located on Avenida Rafael Beca.
For activities, opening times are dependant of events.
Library Opening Times:
Tuesday and Friday, 11:00-14:00hrs and 16:00-20:00hrs.
The buildings were used as lodging for day labourers of rice, although it was also used by the Guardia Civil and for the Capilla Nuestra Señora del Rocío. It was built as of 1940, although the date of adjudication dates to 1959. The works were carried out by the English company, Islas del Guadalquivir S.A, with one part currently undergoing restoration. The others are private and have lost their original structure. Located on Avenida Blas Infante.
Molino San Martín
A previous rice mill built by the English dating from 1913, where later in 1931, the settlers set it on fire. Currently it is used to store rice and Town Hall celebrations such as, Velá de San Rafael, Carnival, Día de Andalucía and Día del Arroz. Located on Avenida Blas Infante.
Brazo de los Jerónimos
In 1860 water channels known as, Cortes de los Jerónimos, were initiated, but later abandoned in 1871, with a length of 5km, 100m wide and 3.90m deep. It was intended for the navigation of boats along the River Guadalquivir, reducing the distance from Seville to Bonanza in 39km. The works finished in 1888, causing the previous channel, which passed very close to the town centre by a process of sedimentation, to currently have different dimensions. Currently there is a project planned for the management of the public space on the river bank of Brazo de los Jerónimos by the Junta de Andalucía, with the objective to install a wooden structure for sport fishing. The area also has a picnic spot.
Isla Mayor has such a unique landscape offering walking routes that allow visitors to get a sense of its history in rice production. Routes include, Ruta Brazo de los Jerónimos, Ruta Centro Visitantes José Antonio Valverde (Cerrado Garrido), Ruta Dehesa de Abajo, Ruta Isla Mayor-Alfonso XIII and Ruta Isla Mínima.
Isla Mayor is most well known for its' rice dishes as it is part of the Ruta del Arroz. However crabs and shrimps are also the protagonists of their traditional cuisine with dishes such as cangrejo con tomate (crab with tomato), colas de cangrejo al ajillo o en salsa (crab tails with garlic or in sauce), tortilla de camarones (shrimp torts), camarones con pimiento (shrimp with pepper), arroz con pato (rice with duck).
Cabalgata Reyes Magos
Three Kings procession celebrated on the evening of 5 January.
Día de Andalucía
Celebrated the 28 Febuary.
Día del Arroz
Celebrated in February
Celebrated in February.
Romería de la Virgen del Carmen
Celebrated the weekend after Resurection Sunday.
Feria y Fiestas del Arroz y el Cangrejo
Celebrated the 24 June.
Día del Cangrejo
Celebrated at the end of September.
Velada de San Rafael
Celebrated at the end of September.