Valencia (Spanish: Valencia /ba'lenθja/; Catalan: València /və'łεnsjə/) is a medium-sized port city (the third largest city in Spain) and industrial area on the east coast of Spain. It is the capital of the Valencian Country and of province of Valencia. As of the 2003 census, the population of the city of Valencia proper was 780,653, and the population of the entire urban area was estimated to be 1,465,423, ranking as the third-largest urban area in Spain. As of 2004, the mayor of Valencia is Rita Barberá Nolla.
Valencia has enjoyed strong economic growth over the last decade, much of it spurred by tourism and construction. However, this model of development has led to a great deal of building on rural land. Furthermore, the Valencia government's implementation of the LRAU [law regulating urban activity] has been extremely controversial since it involves the expropriation of foreign residents' homes, often without compensation. Critics argue that this legislation (which was theoretically designed to protect rural land) is being misused for large urban and industrial developments. The European Union's Committee of Petitions reported on the issue in 2004, finding that the Valencian government was breaching basic European rights. The ambassadors of EU Member States have protested to the Spanish authorities on behalf of their citizens and the issue may be referred to the European Court of Human Rights. Wide media coverage of the case abroad threatens the local "residential tourism" industry.
It is a predominantly Spanish-speaking city, but a significant minority speak Catalan (virtually always known locally as "Valencian"), particularly with family. For many this is an important issue, and the local government makes sure it emphasises the use of the local language. For instance, all signs in the Metro are in Valencian, with Spanish translations underneath in smaller type. Both languages are official.
The city was founded by the Romans in 137 BC on the site of a former Iberian town, by the river Turia. The river flooded in the 1950s killing many Valencians. The river was re-routed and the dry river bed was converted to a park that runs through the city. The city has been occupied by the Visigoths, Moors and the Aragonese. In 1094, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (El Cid) conquered Valencia (this victory was immortalised in the Lay of the Cid), but the city returned to the Almoravids in 1102. The king James I of Aragon reconquered the city in 1238 and incorporated it to the new formed Kingdom of Valencia, one of the kingdoms forming the Crown of Aragon.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Valencia was one of the major cities in the Mediterranean. The writer Joanot Martorell, author of Tirant lo Blanch, and the poet Ausias March are famous Valencians of that era.
Expulsion of Moriscos in 1609.
After the fall of Madrid in the Spanish Civil War, the capital of the Republic was moved to Valencia. The city suffered from the blockade and siege by Franco's forces. The postwar period was hard for Valencians. During the Franco years, speaking or teaching Valencian was prohibited; using the language at all was subject to criminal penalties.
Valencia was granted Autonomous Statutes in 1982.
The original Latin name of the city was Valentia /wa'lentia/, meaning "Strength", "Vigour". By regular sound changes this has become Valencia /ba'lenθja/ in Castilian Spanish and València in Catalan. The latter name is pronounced /bə'łεnsjə/ in the Standard Central Catalan that one might hear in Barcelona; however, in Valencian (a West Catalan dialect), it is more like /va'lensja/.
Certain Valencian regionalists prefer to ignore the Normes de Castelló (the rules that govern the spelling of the Catalan language) in order to assert their belief that Valencian is a separate language. This has the effect of removing the grave accent from the name, and making it look the same as in Spanish.
See International Phonetic Alphabet for the symbols used to represent pronunciation.