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Coria del Río (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2015-11-18 by ivan sache
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Flag of Coria del Río - Image from the Símbolos de Sevilla website, 1 June 2014

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Presentation of Coria del Río

The municipality of Coria del Río (30,208 inhabitants in 2014; 6,199 ha; municipal website), is located 10 km south of Seville, on river Guadalquivir. The municipaiity is made of the town of Coria del Río and of the hamlets of Carchena and La Vega.

Coria del Río was probably established by the Phoenicians, as a river port serving a factory. The Roman renamed the place Caura Siarum, subsequently shortened to Caura. The town minted its own coins, which featured a fish. Many other remains from the Roman period have been found in the town, for instance, a funerary stele kept in the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
During the Muslim rule, the town was known as Qawra. Depopulated after the Christian reconquest, the town was resettled by order of King Ferdinand III the Saint, and, later, by Catalan and Aragonese colonists invited by his son, Alfonso X the Wise.
Coria del Río was acquired in the 17th century by the Count-Duke of Olivares, and subsequently sold to the Count of Altamira.

Coria del Río was from 1931 to 1936 the residence of the notary Blas Infante (1885-1936), the "Father of the Andalusian homeland". Blas Infante designed and built the house named "Dar al-farah" / "Casa de la Alegría", today the Museum of Autonomous Andalusia (website).

The unusual family name Japón is quite common in Coria del Río. A local, oral tradition claims that Japanese fishers settled in the town centuries ago. According to Víctor Valencia Japón, the anthroponym must rather be related to the Japanese embassy that visited Spain in 1614-1615, although firm evidence of such a connection is still missing.
Evangelization of Japan was then a bone of contention between the Franciscans and the Jesuits. Friar Luis Sotelo, an influent Franciscan monk from Seville, persuaded Data Masamune, a powerful feudal lord of north-western Japan, to send a personal embassy to King Philip III and to the Pope to promote commercial relationships with Europe. The wise friar expected his order to be rewarded with the monopoly of evangelization in Japan.
Masumane hired General Sebastián Vizcaíno, commander of the Spanish expeditions in Far East, to supervize the building of a ship; the San Juan Bautista left Sendai on 27 October 1613. The ship, commanded by Vizcaino, transported more than 180 Japanese, mostly merchants, Friar Sotelo, and the Japanese ambassador, Hasekura Tsunenaga Rokuyemon (1571-1622), a samurai who had fought in the Korean Wars. Sotelo, with the support of the Japanese, soon took the command of the ship. After a stay in the town of México, the expedition headed to Veracruz. Hasekura selected the Japanese who would travel to Europe while the other sailed back to Acapulco. The Japanese boarded on 10 June 1614 of the San José, a ship part of the fleet commanded by Antonio Oquendo. The fleet reached Sanlúcar de Barrameda on 5 October 1614 after a stormy voyage. The details of the embassy were related by the Italian Scipione Amati in Historia del regno di Voxu, published in Rome in 1615. Amati was a kind of chronicler and confidant of Sotelo; accordingly, the record of the expedition is probably biased towards the friar's views and sometimes exaggerated.
Anyway, the ambassador was munificently welcomed in Sanlúcar by the Duke of Medina Sidonia, and transported to Seville on two galleys chartered by the administration of the town, which moored at Coria del Río. They were welcomed by the councillor Pedro Galindo and Diego de Cabrera, Sotelo's brother, who organized their, once again munificent, transfer and entrance to Seville on 21 October 1614. The ambassador officially visited the administration of Seville on 27 October 1615. The events were reported in a similar way, centered on Sotelo, in Ortiz de Zúñiga's Anales Eclesiásticos y Seculares. The embassy left Seville at some time between the 21 and 25 November, visited Córdoba and Toledo, and eventually entered Madrid on 20 December, "by harsh cold and snow".
The Council of the Indies considered the embassy as of "relative importance" (that is, minor), since it had been sent by a local lord and not by the emperor. Hasekura was christened on 17 February 1615 and made knight of the Order of St. James, upon Sotelo's request. After an eight-month stay at the Court, the embassy was allowed to go to Rome, where Cardinal Borghese introduced it on 3 November 1615 to Pope Paul V. Some official documents seem to indicate that a few of the Japanese merchants part of the expedition did not sail back to Japan but stayed in Seville; they would have settled in Coria del Río and adopted a Spanish family name ending with Japón. Unfortunately, the church registers that could confirm this theory have been lost; the Japón anthroponym is first documented in the municipal archives in 1647. Catalina, the daughter of Juan Martín Japón and de Magdalena de Castro, was christened in 1667.

The story remained unknown to the Japanese until 1989, when an historian found documents on Hasekura in the local archives and contacted the municipalities of Coria del Río and Seville. In 1992, during the Seville Expo, the Japanese embassador met a few locals of Japanese origin. The same year, the municipality of Sendai offered a statue of Hasekura to the town of Coria. The Asociación Hispano Japonesa Hasekura de Coria del Río was established in 1993 to popularize and preserve the memory of the long forgotten Japanese embassy.
The Japanese flag is permanently hoisted on the Town Hall of Coria, together with the flags of Spain, European Union, Andalusia, and Coria.
[El Pais, 28 October 2014; El Pais, 8 June 2013]

Ivan Sache, 1 June 2014

Symbols of Coria del Río

The flag of Coria del Río (photo, photo, photo) is horizontally divided yellow-white with the municipal coat of arms in the yellow stripe.
The coat of arms of Coria del Río shows on a field argent an "old sailboat" sailing on waves azure", beneath, two "fish" crossed per saltire, the ship and waves surrounded by two "wheat spikes" proper [Municipal website].

Ivan Sache & Klaus-Michael Schneider, 1 June 2014