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La Mancha is an arid, fertile, elevated plateau (610 m or 2000 ft.) of central Spainmarker, south of Madridmarker, stretching between the Montes (mountains) de Toledo and the western spurs of the Cerros (hills) de Cuenca, and bounded on the south by the Sierra Morena and on the north by the La Alcarria region. It includes portions of the modern provinces of Cuencamarker, Toledomarker, and Albacetemarker, and most of the Ciudad Realmarker province. It constitutes the southern portion of the Castile-La Manchamarker autonomous community and makes up most of the region.


La Mancha is derived from the Arab word al-mansha, "land dry". The name of the city of Almansa in Albacete also has the same origin.


La Mancha
The largest plain in the Iberian Peninsulamarker, La Mancha is made up of plateau averaging 500 to 600 metres in altitude (although it reaches 900 metres in Campo de Montiel and other parts), centring on the province of Ciudad Real. The region is watered by the Guadianamarker, Jabalón, Záncara, Cigüela, and Júcarmarker rivers. The Spanish historian Hosta gives the most accepted description of the limits of the geographical La Mancha plain:

All the territory, plain, arid and dry, that is between Montes de Toledo and the western skirts of Sierra de Cuenca, and from Alcarria to Sierra Morena, including in this denomination the so called Mesa de Ocaña and Quintanar, the comarcas of Belmonte and San Clemente and the old territories of the military Orders of Santiago, San Juan and Calatrava, with all the Sierra de Alcaraz; being its limits to the North the Tajo river and the part called properly Castilla la Nueva, to the East the kingdoms of Valencia and Murciamarker, and to the South, the kingdoms of Córdoba and Jaenmarker, and to the West, the provinces of Extremaduramarker, spreading 53 leagues from East to West and 33 leagues from North to South.
Until XVI century, the east part was also called Mancha de Monte-Aragón, because of the name of the mountains that were the old border between La Mancha and kingdom of Valencia, and to the rest simply Mancha.
Afterwards, La Mancha was also divided into Mancha Alta and Mancha Baja, according to the level and flow of its rivers, including the first one the northeast part, from Villarubia de los Ojos until Belmonte, country of the old Iberianmarker Lamitans, and the second one the southwest part, including Campo de Calatrava and Campo de Montiel, old country of the Iberian Oretans.


The climate is continental, with strong fluctuations. Agriculture (wheat, barley, oats, wine grapes) is the primary economic activity, but it is severely restricted by the harsh environmental conditions.


Culturally, La Mancha includes the Sierra de Alcaraz, northern Sierra Morena, Montes de Toledo and Serranía de Cuenca, parts of Tajomarker river valley, and it is administrative divided among the comarcas of Campo de Montiel and Campo de Calatrava to the south—Don Quixote himself started his adventures in Campo de Montiel—the eastern Mancha Alta, the central Mancha Baja, the western Valle de Alcudia, and Parameras de Ocaña y Manchuela to the north.


La Mancha has always been an important agricultural zone. Viniculture is important in Tomellosomarker, Socuéllamosmarker, Valdepeñasmarker and Manzanaresmarker, in Ciudad Realmarker and Villarrobledo in Albacetemarker. Other crops include cereals (hence the famous windmills) and saffron. Sheep are raised, providing the famous Manchego cheese. La Mancha includes two National Parks, Las Tablas de Daimielmarker and Cabañeros, and one Natural Park, las Lagunas de Ruideramarker.


Famous Spaniards like the cinema directors Pedro Almodóvar and José Luis Cuerda, painters Antonio López and his uncle Antonio López Torres, footballer Andrés Iniesta and actress Sara Montiel were born in La Mancha.

La Mancha and Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes gave international fame to this land and its windmills when he wrote his novel Don Quixote de La Mancha. Some believe that Cervantes was making fun of this region, using a pun; a "mancha" was also a stain, as on one's honor, and thus a hilariously inappropriate homeland for a dignified knight-errant. Translator John Ormsby believed that Cervantes chose it because it was/is the most ordinary, prosaic, anti-romantic, and therefore unlikely place from which a chivalrous, romantic hero could originate, making Quixote seem even more absurd.

Several film versions of Don Quixote have actually been filmed largely in La Mancha. However, at least two of the most famous - the 1957 Russianmarker film version, and the screen version of Man of La Mancha, were not. The 1957 film was shot in Crimeamarker, while Man of La Mancha was filmed in Italymarker. G.W. Pabst's 1933 version of Cervantes's novel was shot in Alpes-de-Haute-Provencemarker.


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