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A comarca (Spanish: [koˈmaɾka], Portuguese: [kuˈmaɾkɐ] or [koˈmaʁkɐ], Galician: [koˈmaɾka] pl. comarcas; Catalan: [kuˈmaɾkə] or [koˈmaɾka], pl. comarques) is a traditional region or local administrative division found in parts of Spain, Portugal, Panama, Nicaragua, and Brazil. The term is derived from the term marca, meaning a "march, mark", plus the prefix co- meaning "together, jointly".
Brazil and Portugal
Until the 16th century, the comarca was a large administrative region of Portugal. There were six traditional comarcas: Entre-Douro-e-Minho, Trás-os-Montes, Beira, Estremadura, Alentejo and Algarve, of which the last had the honorary title of "kingdom". In the 16th century, the comarcas started to be known as "provinces".
The name "comarca" was then given to the administrative and judicial subdivisions of the provinces, introduced in the 17th century. Each comarca corresponded to the territorial area of jurisdiction of a corregidor, a high rank administrative and judicial officer that represented the Crown in the district.
In the 19th century, the old comarcas were replaced by separate administrative and judicial divisions, reflecting the implementation of the separation of executive and judicial powers. The new administrative divisions became the administrative districts and the new judicial divisions kept the name comarca.
Nowadays, in Portugal, Brazil and some other countries of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, the comarca is the basic territorial division in the judicial system. It corresponds to the territorial area of jurisdiction of a court of first instance.
The comarca may correspond to a municipality, or group together several small municipalities. Presently, in Brazil, there are 2680 comarcas. A judiciary organization reform implemented in Portugal in 2014, reduced the number of comarcas from 231 to 23.
The term comarca is used in several regions of the Iberian Peninsula.
- In Cantabria, the comarca exists as a traditional or historical division, usually identified with the greatest rivers of the region.
- In Catalonia and Aragon, the comarca exists as a local government area, and has a representative comarcal council.
- In the Valencian Community, the comarca exists only as a traditional region with no administrative competences. They are legally referred as homologated territorial demarcations instead of as comarques.
- In Galicia the comarca or bisbarra are traditional divisions of the land and enjoy limited official recognition, but have no administrative relevance. However, the Galician government is attempting to transform the bisbarras into territorial administrative tiers, forming up a new regional network allegedly more balanced and efficient. Galician comarcas also have a comarcal council.
In other places, such as Extremadura, the comarca may be simply a loosely defined region.
Because of the comarca's long-standing use, it is sometimes used as the basis for the promotion of tourism, with emphasis on local cultural tradition and history.
In Panama, the comarca indígena is an administrative region for an area with a substantial Indian population. Three comarcas (Comarca Emberá-Wounaan, Kuna Yala, Ngöbe-Buglé) exist as equivalent to a province, with two smaller comarcas (Kuna de Madugandí and Kuna de Wargandí) subordinate to a province and considered equivalent to a corregimiento (municipality).
- Comarcas of Aragon
- Comarcas of Asturias
- Comarques of Catalonia
- Comarcas of Galicia
- Comarcas of Spain
- Comarques of the Valencian Community
- List of terms for country subdivisions
- Provinces of Panama
- Comarcas de Galicia, official site for the management and promotion of Galician comarcas, maintained by the Galician Government (in Galician) (in English) (in Spanish)
- History of comarca divisions in the Catalan Countries (in Catalan)