La Mancha

La Mancha
/lah mahn"chah/
a plateau region in central Spain: famous as the birthplace of Don Quixote, the hero of Cervantes' novel Don Quixote de la Mancha.

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 barren elevated plateau (2,000 feet [610 metres]) formed over limestone in central Spain, stretching between the Toledo Mountains and the western spurs of the Cuenca hills and bounded by the La Alcarria region to the north and the Sierra Morena to the south. It includes portions of the provinces of Cuenca, Toledo, and Albacete and most of Ciudad Real. It constitutes the southern portion of the Castile–La Mancha autonomous community and makes up most of the region. Known to the Arabs as Al-Manshah (Dry Land or Wilderness), the region was an intermediate zone between Christian and Moorish forces during the Middle Ages. Until the 16th century, the eastern portion was known as La Mancha de Montearagón or La Mancha de Aragon and the western simply as La Mancha; afterward, the northeastern and southwestern sections were distinguished by the epithets Alta and Baja (upper and lower), respectively. La Mancha is the region Miguel de Cervantes described in his 17th-century novel Don Quixote. Many villages, such as El Toboso and Argamasilla de Alba, both near Alcázar de San Juan, are connected by tradition with quixotic episodes.

      Dry farming of wheat, barley, oats, and wine grapes is the primary economic activity, and wine is exported (some of the most well-known Spanish wines come from Valdepeñas, a fertile area of the La Mancha plain). Farming has been severely restricted by unfavourable environmental conditions, however. Underground aquifers have been used for irrigation, but their quantity has decreased. Sheep farming is important in the province, as is the production of Manchego cheese, one of Spain's most famous cheeses. In the north, hunting and fishing reserves draw increasing numbers of tourists. Since the mid-20th century, the population of La Mancha has decreased as a result of emigration to Madrid.

Vicente Rodriguez
 

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Universalium. 2010.

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