In the hills south of Leintz Gatzaga
|Autonomous community||Basque Country|
|• Mayor||Eusebio Villar Azkarate|
|• Total||14.72 km2 (5.68 sq mi)|
|Elevation||455 m (1,493 ft)|
|• Density||18/km2 (46/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
The first part of the name, Leintz, comes from the name of the valley, the village being located in the Valley of Leintz.
The second part is linked to the saltmine (gatzaga in Basque) located in the village, part of the reason for the village's existence. Salt is no longer produced but used to be a mainstay of the village's economy.
Leintz-Gatzaga covers 14.7 km² and is located in the province of Gipuzkoa, very close to Araba/Álava. It is situated in a mountainous area with steep hillsides, wooded and with almost no flat agricultural land. It is in the region of Alto Deva where the source of the river Deba is located.
Leintz-Gatzaga has a small old part that consisting of 4 streets, formerly walled. Most of the residents live in this part, the rest spread over some 35 Basque farmhousess around the village.
The history of this village is linked to two factors, the saltmines and the road.
Salt mines were operated there since the Middle Ages and these are the principal reason for the foundation of the village in 1331. Before the village was formed, there were some farmhouses and small towns that were protected by the Castle of Aitzorrotz. Although the salt mines were owned by the royalty, the residents of the village had some privileges to develop trade and the exploitation of salt.
The salt mines were of major economic importance and led to some disputes. For example, in 1374 the Count of Oñati appropriated the village and Leintz Gatzaga has been burnt down several times, in 1334, 1371, 1492 and 1498. Following the last burning, it was ordered that the old part must be built of stone.
Whereas in most places the vaporization system was used in salt mining, in Leintz Gatzaga, due to its cold and wet climate, salt miners would use fire to evaporate the water. The machinery used changed throughout the centuries. Until the 19th century the work was done without machinery, but when a company called Productos Leniz bought the salt mine, new machinery was introduced in 1920 and production increased. However, the quality of the salt was not as high as that of sea salt and after 1500 years, in 1972, the salt mine was closed.
In the 17th century the Royal Road was built. This road joins the coast of Gipuzkoa with the interior. So this village became part of the route that joined Castilla with Europa. For this reason, the economy of the village grew but this prosperity was affected by wars, such as the War of Spanish Independence, the War of the Pyrenees or the Carlist Wars.
The decline of the village began in the middle of the 19th century. On the one hand, the opening of a new road between Idiazabal and Altsasu in 1851 reduced the importance of the Royal Road. And on the other hand was the construction of the rail line between Madrid and Irun. These two facts marginalized the village and reduced its importance gradually. Apart from that, the salt mines also grew less profitable and were closed. These factors combined plunged the village into a serious economic and demographic downturn.
There is little economic activity in the village. Of the 125 people in employment, only 50 work locally[verification needed]. Most work in the industrial sector. Currently, the village is promoting tourism.
Today the population is 250 and while the village had never been very large in 1950 the population shrank because Leintz Gatzaga was the only village of the region which did not take part in industrialization. The population is ageing although immigration has altered the demographics somewhat.
There is a Salt Museum, detailing how it was extracted and the importance of this in the local economy.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Leintz-Gatzaga.|
- Official Website Information available in Spanish and Basque.
- LEINTZ-GATZAGA in the Bernardo Estornés Lasa - Auñamendi Encyclopedia (Euskomedia Fundazioa) Information available in Spanish