Durango, Biscay


Coat of arms

Location of Durango within the Basque Country

Coordinates: 43°10′8″N 2°37′48″W / 43.16889°N 2.63000°W / 43.16889; -2.63000
Country Spain
Autonomous community Basque Country
Province Biscay
Comarca Durangaldea
Founded In the early 13th century
  Mayor Aitziber Irigoras (PNV)
  Total 10.79 km2 (4.17 sq mi)
Elevation 119 m (390 ft)
Population (2012)
  Total 28,618
  Density 2,700/km2 (6,900/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Durangar
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 48200
Website Official website
Kurutziaga Cross.

Durango is a city and municipality of the historical territory and province of Biscay, located in the Basque Country, Spain. It is the capital city of Durangaldea, one of the comarcas of Biscay. Because of its economical activities and population, Durango is considered one of the most important cities in Biscay after the ones that compose the conurbation of Greater Bilbao.

Durango has 28,618 inhabitants (2012).[2] The town is crossed by three rivers (as illustrated in the town symbol). The Ibaizabal river is the main river, and lies in the middle of its wide valley, with the scenic Urkiola mountain range and natural park to the south. The most important peak is the majestic Anboto (1,331 m (4,367 ft) in elevation). In addition, inside the town stand out two mountains: Pagasarri mountain (838 mts.)and Neberondo (453 mts.).


There are many differing opinions about the origin of the name Durango. Basque linguist Alfonso Irigoyen has suggested its origin to be in the name Duranco, probably used in the early Middle Ages.[3] Other authors suggest the name to be a derivation of Urazango or an evolved form of Padurango. In the confirmation of the town's fuero it is referred to as Tavira de Durango; Tavira was probably the primitive name of the settlement and Durango the name of the region surrounding it. Until the 16th century, the town was known as Uribarri de Durango, Uribarri being Basque for "New town".


It has been postulated by the Royal Basque Academy of the Language that the name Durango stems from the Latin name Turanicus, possibly a Roman fundus like many others in the Basque Country (cf. Kuartango). While it is not known when Durango was exactly founded, it was suzerain to the Kingdom of Navarre, and is attested on a 1179 document revolving around territorial litigation between Alfonso VIII of Castile and Sancho VI of Navarre, The Wise (1150-1194). The impending threat of a military intervention conducted by King Alfonso VIII against the Navarrese led King Sancho VI to found other fortified towns, such as San Sebastián and Vitoria-Gasteiz (1181). Between 1199 and 1201, King Alfonso VIII of Castile finally occupied the lordship of Durango and its hinterland, as well as other key western Basque districts (Álava, Gipuzkoa). Durango went on to form part of the Crown of Castile, but former laws and institutions were upheld by the Castilian king.

In the 15th century, Durango got engaged in the wider War of the Bands, with various conflicts involving the Ibarguen, Zaldibar and Unzueta families. During this period, tower houses belonging to different clans were erected, such as the ones of Arandoño, Asteiza, Etxebarria, Lariz, Monago, and Otalora. Henry III (1393) and Henry IV (1457), the Castilian Kings, were both received in Durango, as well as Queen Isabel of Castile ["The Catholic"] (1483), who enticed Durango and the Lordship of Biscay to her cause in exchange for ratifying their laws and institutions, i.e. she swore the fueros), and favourable trade conditions. According to the municipal records, both monarchs took shelter in the Lariz Tower.

In 1517 Durango was devastated by a terrible epidemic of plague that caused many deaths amongst the inhabitants. Some years after the epidemic, in 1544, heavy flooding inundated a good part of the town. Just the opposite, in 1554 the town was ravaged by fire, burning all wooden buildings to the ground, i.e. virtually all the buildings were burnt down. In 1597 another plague epidemic spread across the town. The Town Hall is recorded to have been built in the 16th century.

The name Durango was used by conquistadors like Francisco de Ibarra to found more Durangos in America named after the Basque original one, e.g. a state in Mexico called Durango, whose principal city is called Durango.

During the 17th century, the town of Durango had to face up to the enormous human and economic cost incurred on the various wars the Crown of Castile embarked upon against France. Following heavy human losses suffered in battles and an episode of cholera epidemic, the town ended up virtually ruined.

At the end of the 19th century, exactly in 1882, the railway line from Bilbao to Durango was inaugurated. While the construction was expensive, during the early 20th century Durango flourished.[4]

During the Spanish Civil War, Miguel Primo de Rivera went to Durango and opened the food market. Later, on 31 March 1937, the town became the first place in the world to be attacked by the Luftwaffe, at the request of General Francisco Franco.

Just like the Guernica bombing that followed, it was a busy shopping day—St. Maria, the central church (now a basilica) with a covered marketplace, was targeted. More than 500 people were killed in the bombing and the following days.

Main sights

The limestone summits of Urkiola; Durango is seen in the background.


There is less heavy industry in the town than in the late 20th century, as it is being replaced by high density housing projects and shopping facilities.

Durango was for many years the home of Euskal Telebista. This public television company broadcasts in Basque and Spanish. It also has a global presence with satellite channel beamed across the world. ETB has moved to a new headquarters in Bilbao.


In Durango, besides Spanish, the Biscayan variety (bizkaiera) of Basque is spoken, with the characteristics of the region.

Politics and administration

Municipal Elections 2011:

The Plenary Council of Durango (2011–2015)
- Political Party Votes % City councillors Representative
PNV 4.649 33,91 % 8 Aitziber Irigoras
Bildu 3.650 26,63 % 6 Urdaspal Bolinaga
PSE-EE (PSOE) 1.801 13,14 % 3 Pilar Ríos
PP 1.501 10,95 % 2 Juan Jose Gastañazatorre
Aralar 1.373 10,02 % 2 Daniel Maeztu



Every half an hour there is a BizkaiBus bus service to Bilbao. There are two routes, one via the AP-8 motorway which takes about 30 minutes. This bus runs on the hour. The other slower crosscountry route stops in all towns and takes about 50 mins. There is also a once an hour bus to Eibar, a neighbouring town of a similar size to Durango.

Buses also run to a variety of coastal villages, such as Ondarroa and Lekeitio (from Iurreta, a neighbouring village part of the Durango conurbation). There are direct buses to Vitoria-Gasteiz and Donostia-San Sebastián.


Trains (from EuskoTren company) are narrow gauge and run on a single track. At this time Durango is cut in two by the railway, as level crossings are used, this can cause unexpected delays in traffic. A rail tunnel is being built under the town, that will solve the problem of the level crossings by 2009. Although this is the projected completion date, there is no sign at the moment that this will meet that target.

Trains run to Bilbao-Atxuri station and Donostia and it is possible to get to Gernika and Bermeo also with a train change at Amorebieta.


  1. "Situación y comunicaciones". Durango Udala. 2012. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  2. "Datos Generales". Ayuntamiento de Durango. 2013. Retrieved 2014-06-10.
  3. History of Durango at Durango's City Hall website (Basque)
  4. "Historia". 2010. Retrieved 2014-06-10.
  5. "Lariz Torre" (PDF). Turismo Durango Udala. 2009. Retrieved 2014-06-10.

External links

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