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Palos de la Frontera or Palos, is a town and municipality located in the southwestern Spanishmarker province of Huelvamarker, in the autonomous community of Andalusiamarker. It is situated some from the provincial capital, Huelvamarker. According to the 2006 census, the city had a population of 8,415.


The official date of foundation for Palos is 1322, when the town was granted to Alonso Carro and Carro's wife Berenguela Gómez by Alfonso XI of Castile, although the town may have been occupied during earlier centuries by Paleolithic, Tartessian, Roman, Visigothic, and Muslimmarker inhabitants. Palos' name is derived from the Latin word palus (“lagoon”), a reference to the Mar Menor. It acquired its “surname” as Palos de la Frontera in May 1642.

At the time of its establishment as a town by Alfonso XI, Palos was part of the Almohad kingdom of Nieblamarker, and was a small nucleus whose population subsisted on fishing and took advantage of the area’s geographic protection against pirates and storms.

Álvar Pérez de Guzmán is considered the city’s real founder. He was only fourteen when Juan I of Castile granted him the towns of Palos and Villalba del Alcor in 1379 to make up for the fact that Pérez de Guzmán was forced to give up Huelvamarker and Gibraleónmarker, which had become part of the county of Medinaceli. Álvar Pérez de Guzmán received from Juan I the right to tax the first fifty families who settled at Palos, and he began utilizing the lands around Palos for the cultivation of olive trees and production of olive oil. After the death of Álvar Pérez de Guzmán, his widow, Elvira de Ayala, daughter of the Chancellor of Castile, continued her husband’s work until her death in 1434.

Palos' Golden Age is considered to have occurred in the fifteenth century (especially between 1470-1479), when it increased its population to 2,500 inhabitants and its economy, based on fishing and seafaring expeditions to Guinea, flourished.Palos took advantage of the War of the Castilian Succession, which became a war between Castile and Portugalmarker, to challenge Portuguese domination of the Atlanticmarker trade. Castilian naval forces always included natives of Palos, who were considered navigational experts:

Nevertheless, the war ended in defeat for the Castilian forces, and Ferdinand and Isabella, in the Treaty of Alcáçovas (1479) gave up all rights to Atlantic and African lands and seas, with the exception of the Canary Islandsmarker, which remained Castilian. Many natives of Palos nevertheless violated the agreement and encroached upon Portuguese sea routes in the Atlantic.

Columbus' departure from Palos, in 1492, by Evaristo Domínguez.
On August 3, 1492, the Pinta, Niña, and Santa María sailed from Palos. On board were Christopher Columbus and the Pinzón Brothers, who were natives of Palos. Palos is also the site of the Rábida Monasterymarker where Columbus consulted with the Franciscans about his plans for organizing an expedition of discovery. The three ships landed in America on October 12, 1492. The Santa María foundered in American waters, but the other two ships returned to Palos on March 15, 1493.

Palos would play a pivotal role in the settlement and Christianization of the New World in succeeding centuries. La Rábida would play a central in the Christian evangelization of the Americas. As La Rábida was a Franciscan monastery, that order would play a dominant role in this Christianization, and some of the first missionaries were natives of Palos, including Juan Izquierdo, Juan de Palos, Juan Cerrado, Pedro Salvador, Alonso Vélez de Guevara, Juan Quintero, Thomás de Narváez, and Francisco Camacho.

With the establishment of the Casa de Contratación at Sevillemarker in 1503, Palos suffered a decline. Natives of Palos emigrated to America or to Seville, and Palos soon had few sailing vessels of its own. By the eighteenth century, the town had only about 125 inhabitants. However, during the same century, Catalan investors established a viticultural industry centered at Palos, and the population slowly reached its pre-1492 levels. Palos also transformed itself into a center of the shrimp industries, and also became a center for the cultivation of the “fresón de Palos” (Palos-grown garden strawberries), which are now exported to the European Union.

On June 22, 1926, the first hydroplane to cross the Atlantic, the Plus Ultra flying boat, took off from Palos. The journey, done in six stages, ended at Buenos Airesmarker, Argentinamarker. Alfonso XIII of Spain gave the Plus Ultra to the Argentine Navy, in which it served as a postal service airplane; the Argentines donated to Spain a statue of Icarus, which is situated at La Rábida. Alfonso XIII also granted to Palos the status as a city during this time.

John Paul II visited Palos in June 14, 1993, the only time a pope has visited the city. John Paul symbolically crowned the Palos’ patron saint, the Virgin of Miracles (Virgen de los Milagros).

There is a station in the Madrid Metro named after this town.

In 1850 the small town of Trenton, Illinoismarker, located southwest of Chicagomarker, changed its name to Palosmarker. This recommendation was made by M.S. Powell, the local postmaster, whose ancestor supposedly sailed with Christopher Columbus from Palos de la Frontera. When it incorporated as a Village in 1914, Palos officially became Palos Park. The neighboring communities of Palos Hillsmarker and Palos Heightsmarker incorporated at later points. All three municipalities lie within Palos Township.

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