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El Bierzo (District, Castilla y León, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-04-13 by ivan sache
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Flag of El Bierzo - Image by Antonio Gutiérrez (VexiLeón website), 1 October 1999

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Presentation of El Bierzo

The discrict (comarca) of El Bierzo (137,067 inhabitants in 2008; 3,168 sq. km) covers about 25% of the territory of the Province of León (most of its northwestern part).
The district of El Bierzo was established by Law No. 1, adopted on 14 March 1991 by the Parliament of Castilla y León and published on 20 March 1991 in the official gazette of Castilla y León, No. 55 (text). El Bierzo is the first territory to obtain such a nofficial status in Castilla y León. Its administrative body is called Consejo Comarcal del Bierzo (website).

António Gutiérrez & Ivan Sache, 28 August 2010

Symbols of El Bierzo

The flag of El Bierzo (photo, District Council; photo; photo), adopted on 14 April 2000, is quartered white-white-blue-blue by a red saltire and charged in the middle with the district's coat of arms.

The coat of arms of El Bierzo is "Gules the Cross of Peñalba or, a bordure componny of eight argent a grapevine leaf vert and azure two mining tools in saltire or. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown."
The Peñalba Cross, a votive cross offerred by King Ramiro II of León (reigned 931-951) to the now-disappeared Santiago de Peñalba monastery. The cross rewarded apostle St. James (Santiago) for his support during the Battle of Simancas, won in 940 by Ramiro over the Moors. The Cross of Peñalba is similar to the Cross of Los Ángeles shown on the coat of arms of Oviedo; however, as opposed to most votive crosses of the time, made of gold, the Cross of Peñalba is made of brass.
The Cross was kept in the Santiago de Peñalba parish church (the former monastery church) until 1879, when it was transferred into the Leóon Museum. Recent petitions have asked for the "devolution" of the Cross, that is its repatriation to El Bierzo (El Diario de León, 30 October 2009).

The official flag of El Bierzo is sometimes charged with "EL BIERZO" written in white letters in the lower blue triangle (photo). A more elaborated version of the flag has added "REGION" written in blue letters in the upper white triangle (photo).

Valentin Poposki, Antonio Gutiérrez, Santiago Dotor & Ivan Sache, 28 August 2010

On 29 September 2015, the District Council unanimously adopted a motion tabled by Iván Alonso, from the Coalición por el Bierzo (CB) party, also Vice President of the Council, stating that the flag of El Bierzo should be hoisted jointly with the other official flags (Spain, European Union, Castile and León, Municipality) on all the Town Halls of the district. Alonso argued this was a simple symbolic issue, of significance in this period of unemployment and despair. He further said that the hosting of the district flag would be of little cost, being thus not incompatible with the daily struggle for the improvement of the citizen's life.
[Información de León, 30 September 2015]

Ivan Sache, 2 October 2015

Adoption process of the symbols

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Rejected flag proposals - Images by Antonio Gutiérrez, 1 October 1999

Procedures to officially adopt symbols of El Bierzo on 31 March 1998. Three flag proposals were presentd for the flag:
- the already known white-blue flag, objected by various political groups other than the Partido de El Bierzo, for obvious reasons;
- a brand new flag, white with a red saltire; this design was be based on a lance pennant, whose replica (photo) is kept in El Bierzo museum;
- a mix of the two aforementioned designs, eventually adopted as the flag of El Bierzo, together with the proposed coat of arms.

Antonio Gutiérrez, 1 October 1999

Partido Regionalista de El Bierzo

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Flag of PRB, two versions - Images by António Martins, 20 June 1999

The Partido Regionalista de El Bierzo (PRB, website) was founded on 23 April 1979 as the Partido de El Bierzo (PB). Following an internal crisis, the party was refounded in 2000, defending an ideology called Nuevo Bercianismo (New Bercianism); the party currently claims a membership of 1,000.

In the 1983 municipal elections, for which the party had not been registered yet, members of the party competed as Independientes del Bierzo (El Bierzo independent candidates); they already used a white-blue diagonally divided flag. The colours seem to have been borrowed from the sports club Deportiva Ponferradina, although other clubs of the region also used them. Subsequently, the party never accepted the provincial flag with the purple colour representing León, and prefered the white-blue colours, "more typical of the regions and villages of the peninsular north-west".
For one year, the PB used a flag with a green part, symbolizing El Bierzo orchards, a yellow stripe, symbolizing the auriferous river Sil, and a blue part, symbolizing the water resources. The precise design of this flag, is, unfortunately, not given.

In the 1987 regionalist boom, the party restored the flag created by the Independenties del Bierzo. In 2000, the party first claimed that the new official flag of El Bierzo district was a hijacking of the original flag by the dominant national parties (PP and PSOE), but eventually recognized it in 2005. The party proposed the "Special Law of the El Bierzo Council" granting autonomy of the region within Castilla y León. Article 4.1. of the proposed Law says:

El Bierzo shall have its own flag and arms, as adopted on 14 April 2000 by the Council plenum and totally defined. The symbol of the El Bierzo Council shall be the present coat of arms of El Bierzo.

Ivan Sache, 28 August 2010