In its distant origins, Guadalajara was linked to Celtoberian culture, though the earliest historical references tell of its strategic military importance to the emirs and caliphs of Córdoba. It was then known as Madinat al-Faray in memory of its conqueror, and Wad al-Hayara, Arab translation of its pre-Roman name, Arriaca.
In 1085, Guadalajara became part of the Kingdom of Castille as a result of the expansionist policy of King Alphonse VI. In later years, this was to be celebrated as a military triumph of Alvar Fáñez de Minaya, as reflected in the coat of arms of the city.
Despite the loss of its status of medina, Guadalajara received numerous royal privileges. Among those were Fueros (charters, rights, privileges) granted by Alphonse VII in 1133 and again by Fernando III in 1219; the right to vote in the Cortes (the Councils of the Kings) granted by Alphonse IX; and the right to organize markets, granted by Alphonse X. Finally, its status as a City was restored by Henry IV of Castille in 1460.
One of the objectives of this royal generosity was to rein in the ambitions of the Mendoza family to control the Concejo (City council). The attempts proved futile, especially after 1475 when Diego Hurtado de Mendoza received the title of Duke of El Infantado. Until then, the city had been known for its prosperity and as a city where Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together in harmony. Proof of this harmony are the mudejar-style buildings in the city.
The consolidation of the House of El Infantado with other branches of the Mendoza family transformed the city into a truly Renaissance style court, full of urban palaces with their coats of arms, beautiful chapels and spacious convents. This expansion continued throughout the 17th century during which, despite the century’s crises, Guadalajara welcomed communities of Franciscans, Carmelites, Jesuits and the Order of Malta.
The end of the Habsburgh dynasty and the arrival of the Bourbons brought unprecedented change to the city. The disasters of the War of the Spanish Succession were followed by sweeping economic and demographic changes thanks to the opening of the Royal Textile Factory in the city. A cosmopolitan and vibrant Guadalajara became one of the leading manufacturing centres of Spain of the Enlightenment.
This period of prosperity ended with the Peninsular War to be followed in 1822 by the closure of the Royal Textile Factory.
The textile factory buildings were reopened in 1833, when the Academy of Military Engineers was installed there as well as in the old Convent of San Francisco.
Once again Guadalajara had recovered its military status, and it was later to become a leader in the aeronautical and automobile sectors. In 1896 it became the headquarters of the Military Air Station, and from 1917 home to La Hispano S.A., manufacturer of both cars and war equipment. These years of optimism, however, were cut short by the Civil War, and, as a “defeated city” it was to be forgotten for decades. In fact, it was only towards the end of last century that industry began to recuperate.
Today, Guadalajara, after a period of extensive economic development and urban growth, is vibrant and welcoming. It is a well-appointed city, with ample green areas and a range of services to meet the needs of its people, who are well satisfied with the quality of life that the city now offers.
Its modern installations have made it possible to attract leading sports events and congresses that in turn have raised the city profile as a city of sports and of congresses.
Its excellent cuisine, based on high calorie dishes suited to the climate of the region, deserves special mention. Amongst its specialities, there is roast lamb and roast kid goat accompanied by breve sauce, a dressing of aromatic herbs soaked in vinegar. For dessert, the star product of the city is bizcochos borrachos (alcohol soaked sponge cake), or honey from La Alcarria, with Designation of Origin since 1992. The visitor has a wide selection of dishes and restaurants to choose from, with something for even the most discerning taste.
Guadalajara is all this and much more. It is a city steeped in history and brimming with hospitality as seen in the friendliness of its people. Here the visitor will find so many options, so much on offer, so much to entertain and instruct that his or her stay will prove unforgettable. A city that has a lot to be discovered, a lot to be enjoyed.