Avellaneda

The seat of the other Biscayan juntas

Avellaneda is a neighborhood in the town of Sopuerta, known for having been the seat of the Casa de Juntas of Enkarterri, the center of the government of this historical comarca. A beautiful and secluded place, it served as the stage for one of the victories of the famous Lope García de Salazar during the War of the Bands.

Plan your visit to Avellaneda – Sopuerta

The town of Sopuerta—where the Casa de Juntas of Enkarterri is found—is an idyllic comarca with an important mining history, a wonderful place for relaxation and walking which has a unique gastronomy. Nearby is the medieval town of Valmaseda and a little farther to the west is the interesting Armañón Natural Park. As this is an up-and-coming tourist destination, there are very few places to stay in the area; we’ve compiled them on our pages about eating and sleeping in Avellaneda.

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In the year 911, Sopuerta, along with Carranza, was one of the towns mentioned in the Chronicle of Alfonso III (a document that records the history of the reigns of the last Visigoth monarchs and the first Asturian monarchs), described as being outside of the new territory of Biscaj (Biscay).

Sopuerta, like the other valleys in the comarca of Enkarterri, was controlled by independent aristocratic families until the 13th century, when the family of the Lords of Biscay completed their process of taking control of these territories. But the powers of the Lord of Biscay (first vested in the Haro family and then in the king of Castile) did not include making decisions or assuming responsibilities in the Juntas of Guernica (a forum of representatives from Biscay), and the government of Enkarterri maintained its traditional meeting places, which tended to be large trees, churches, or even highly-trafficked fountains.

In the case of Sopuerta, its meeting place was El Carral fountain. Also, every now and then, a fire would come down from the peak of Coliza Hill (which is the one that occupies the central part of the territory) and an alarm would be sounded repeatedly to alert the representatives of the ten “republics” of Enkarterri that there would be a meeting under the big oak tree in Avellaneda. It was also there that the representatives of each government elected a Trustee of Enkarterri who acted in the name of the entire comarca in the Junta of Guernica. However, this did not prevent the rest of Biscay from trying to absorb Enkarterri.

In 1394, the laws of Enkarterri were compiled in the fuero (legal code) of Enkarterri. In 1404, the corregimiento of Biscay was established and its administrator, who by law was required to have been born “on the other side of the Ebro River,” became the judge of the territory and resided right in Avellaneda. In 1592, a mansion was built as the official’s residence. New additions were built onto it in the 16th and 17th centuries to house the junta, which until then had met under the big oak tree. From then on, the Casa de Juntas became the main building in the comarca and within its walls it housed a courtroom, a jail, and a tower.

Palacio de Loizaga del siglo XVII
Palacio de Loizaga del siglo XVII

In 1804, the Juntas disappeared from the history of Avellaneda, and its members joined the Juntas of Guernica. Then, the abolition of the Basque fueros meant the end of the comarca-wide juntas and the end of the administrative function of the Casa de Juntas, which experienced a significant decline until well into the 20th century. As a result of an assembly held days before in Portugalete on August 9, 1931, the villages of Enkarterri met in Sopuerta and wrote up the basis of a demand for a statute of autonomy from the Second Republic.

The main attraction in Avellaneda is clearly the old Casa de Juntas (Assembly House), now the Museum of Enkarterri. The original building dates from the 14th century, although it has undergone renovations which did not lessen its important symbolic value. The first renovation, done between 1942 and 1953, finished the tower, which came to be one of the identifying features of the building. Next to it are other buildings: to the right, an old jail which later became a school; to the left, the house of the teniente corregidor (administrator) of Avellaneda. In 1989, the final restoration was carried out, culminating in the opening of the Museum of Enkarterri. The product of this most recent renovation is the building’s current appearance with the new, more modern addition in front of the other parts of the building.

The Museum is an exhibition center that recounts the history and life of the comarca of Enkarterri from prehistoric times through the present day. The design of the exhibit, which continues as you go up the floors, is based on panels, photographs, maps, miniature models, and original pieces. In addition, the institution investigates and publishes studies related to the history and culture of Enkarterri.

Another must-see in Avellaneda is the Church of San Bartolomé the Apostle, a simple church without cupolas which has an arcade and a bell gable. Next to it are the ruins of Urrutia Tower, from the time of the Wars of the Bands (13th and 14th centuries) fought between different families of the rural Basque aristocracy.

A significant archaeological site is the Roman road which runs through part of the comarca. This is an ancient route from the 1st century which formed part of the road that connected Pisuerga and Castro Urdiales.

Museo de Las Encartaciones
Museo de Las Encartaciones

When it comes to gastronomy, Sopuerta and the rest of the neighborhoods are famous for their cured meats, especially blood sausages and chorizo. Once a year, the Basque Country Butcher Festival (Feria Chacinera del País Vasco) is held, where other regional specialties such as cheeses, honey, and txakoli wine are displayed in addition to meat products. The festival’s attractions include the annual selection of the “Best Butcher in the Basque Country.”

Nearby Galdames is Loizaga Tower. The arts patron and businessman Miguel de Vía refurbished this medieval fortress from the time of the Wars of the Bands and Lope García de Salazar, exhibiting an impressive collection of carriages from that period. Check their website to confirm the opening hours.

Basic Facts

Coordinates

43° 15′ 46″ N, 3° 9′ 9″ W (Sopuerta)

Distances

Sopuerta 4 km, Bilbao 32 km, San Sebastián-Donostia 125 km, Madrid 425 km

Parking

At the entrance of the Museum of Enkarterri

Altitude

250 m

Population

2575  (Sopuerta, 2013)

San Bartolomé (August 24)

In Sopuerta Valley: Basque Country Butcher Festival (first Sunday in March), Mendebala Festival of Cantabrian Music and Culture

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