Olivenza (Spanish: [oliˈβenθa]) or Olivença
(Portuguese: [oliˈvẽsɐ]) is a town situated on a disputed
section of the Portugal–
Spain border. It is administered de facto by
Spain, as part of the autonomous community of Extremadura. Portugal
holds a claim on the town and its surrounding territory.
As Olivença, the town was under Portuguese sovereignty between 1297
(Treaty of Alcañices) and 1801 when it was invaded by the Spanish
War of the Oranges
War of the Oranges and then ceded to
Spain under the Treaty
Spain has since administered the territory (now split into
Olivenza and Táliga), whilst
Portugal invokes the
self-revocation of the Treaty of Badajoz, plus the Treaty of Vienna of
1815, to claim the return of the territory. In spite of the
territorial dispute between
Portugal and Spain, the issue has not been
a sensitive matter in the relations between these two countries.
Olivenza and other neighbouring Spanish (La Codosera, Alburquerque and
Badajoz) and Portuguese (Arronches, Campo Maior, Estremoz, Portalegre
and Elvas) towns reached an agreement in 2008 to create a
3 Claims of sovereignty
4 Famous people born in Olivenza
6 External links
Olivenza in the province of Badajoz.
Olivença in the former Alto Alentejo Province.
Olivenza is located on the left (east) bank of the
Guadiana river, at
an equal distance of 24 kilometres (15 miles) south of Elvas in
Badajoz in Spain. The territory is triangular, with a
smaller side resting on the
Guadiana and the opposite vertex entering
south-east and surrounded by Spanish territory. By an agreement
Spain and Portugal, the left bank of the river was recognized
as being Portuguese territory (to a non-defined width,
though), and sets de facto border in that area.
Besides the town, the municipality of
Olivenza includes six villages:
San Francisco (Portuguese: São Francisco), San Rafael (São Rafael),
Villarreal (Vila Real), Santo Domingo de Guzman (São Domingos de
Gusmão), San Benito de la Contienda (São Bento da Contenda), and San
Jorge de Alor (São Jorge da Lor). Another village, Táliga, was
detached to become the seat of a separate municipality in 1850.
Total population is 10,762 (2002), of which 8,274 live in Olivenza.
The total area is 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi). Like
the surrounding regions, population density is low, at 11 inhabitants
Some monuments include the Saint Mary of the Castle Church (Spanish:
Iglesia de Santa María del Castillo, Portuguese: Igreja de Santa
Maria do Castelo), Holy Ghost Chapel (Capilla del Espíritu Santo,
Capela do Espírito Santo), Saint Mary Magdalene Church (Iglesia de
Santa María Magdalena, Igreja de Santa Maria Madalena, considered a
masterwork of Portuguese
Manueline architecture), Saint John of God
Monastery (Monasterio de San Juan de Dios, Mosteiro de São João de
Deus), the keep (torre del homenaje, torre de menagem), and the ruins
of the Our Lady of
Help Bridge (Puente de Nuestra Señora de Ayuda,
Ponte de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, destroyed in 1709 and never rebuilt).
There are still traces of Portuguese culture and language in the
people, although the younger generations speak Spanish only. At the
beginning of the 1940s the city was reportedly mainly
Portuguese-speaking, but after the 1940s a language
shift towards Spanish took place.
Olivenza region falls for the first time into Portuguese
hands during the conquests of Afonso Henriques, the first king of
1189 – Muslims retake the region.
1230 – The
Olivenza area (as part of the
Badajoz surroundings) is
taken from the Muslims by King Alfonso IX of León.
1259 – The Knights Templar already established in the nearby town of
Alconchel, create the first settlement that can be identified as the
origin of the town of Olivenza. The Templars built the first castle
and church of the town.
Olivenza and the surrounding area is granted by King Alfonso
X of Castile and León to the Bishopric and Council of Badajoz, taking
it back from the Knights Templar.
1297 – After the critical situation created in Castile with the
death of King Sancho IV, King Dinis of
Portugal forces King Ferdinand
IV to sign the
Treaty of Alcañices
Treaty of Alcañices (1297) and cede, amongst other
Olivenza to Portugal.
1298 – King Denis of
Olivenza a foral (charter), and
new city walls are built.
1510 – King Manuel I of
Portugal renews the town charter and orders
the building of fortifications and the Olivença Bridge over the
Guadiana River (Ponte de Olivença, later known as Ponte de Nossa
Senhora da Ajuda (Our Lady of
Help Bridge) or, simply as Ajuda
bridge), on the road to Elvas. Construction of Santa Maria Madalena
Church begins. This church would be the residence of the Bishop of
Ceuta for many years.
1668 – Treaty of Lisbon between
Portugal reaffirms the
borders defined in the Treaty of Alcanizes of 1297.
1709 – During the War of the Spanish Succession, the Ponte da Ajuda
Bridge is destroyed by Spanish forces. Its ruins remain until today.
29 January 1801 – France, allied to Spain, demands Portugal, British
ally since the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373, to enter into an
alliance with France in the war against Britain.
27 February 1801 – The brief
War of the Oranges
War of the Oranges begins, with the
French troops marching on Portugal, later followed by Spanish troops.
20 May 1801 – Spanish troops occupy, among other towns, Olivenza.
6 June 1801 – The war is over with the simultaneous signing of two
treaties in Badajoz, Spain, the first between France and Portugal, and
the second between
Spain and Portugal. As both treaties mention each
other and share common clauses, they are frequently referred to as
just the Treaty of Badajoz. Under one of the terms of the Treaty,
Spain gives back all the occupied towns except those on the left bank
Guadiana river (the territory of Olivenza), which are ceded
Portugal to Spain, including its inhabitants, on a 'perpetual'
basis. The Treaty also stipulates that the breach of any of its
articles leads to its cancellation.
29 September 1801 – The treaty is signed again, this time in Madrid,
with slight modifications demanded by France, but not affecting the
stipulated for Olivenza.
26 January 1805 – The Portuguese currency is forbidden.
20 February 1805 – Teaching in Portuguese is forbidden.
14 August 1805 – Adoption of the
Spanish language in city hall
Treaty of Fontainebleau (1807)
Treaty of Fontainebleau (1807) between
Spain and France
Portugal and all Portuguese dominions between them.
November – French and Spanish troops again march over Portugal, in
the Peninsular War.
John, Prince Regent of Portugal, repudiates the Treaty of Badajoz
claiming that the ongoing war abrogated the peace terms of the
Portugal presents to the Junta Central, in Seville, an
official order of restitution of the territory of Olivenza.
19 February 1810 – Treaty of alliance and friendship between
Portugal and Britain, whereby Great Britain pledges to help Portugal
to regain possession of Olivenza, in turn receiving the exploration of
the Portuguese establishments of
Cacheu for a period of 50
Portugal starts negotiating a treaty with the Regency Council of
Olivenza should be given back to Portugal.
March – French general
Soult takes Olivenza.
15 April 1811 – Beresford, a British marshall with the rank of Head
General of the Portuguese Army, briefly retakes Olivenza.
19 May 1813 – The remaining
Portuguese language private schools are
closed by the Spanish authorities.
30 May 1814 – The Treaty of Paris between France and the allied
countries (including Portugal) includes a provision declaring the 1801
Badajoz and Madrid null and void.
Spain is not a part of
9 June 1815 – The Portuguese delegation to the Congress of Vienna,
led by Pedro de Sousa Holstein, succeeds in including article 105 in
the Final Act (aka the Treaty of Vienna), stating that the winning
countries are to endeavour with the mightiest conciliatory effort to
Olivenza to Portuguese authority. The Spanish representative to
the Congress, Pedro Gomes Labrador, refuses to sign the Treaty,
registering a protest against several of the Congress resolutions,
including article 105.
27 October 1815 – Expecting the quick restitution of Olivenza,
Prince Regent John nominates José Luiz de Sousa as Plenipotentiary.
29 January 1817 –
Uruguay due to rebel threats
7 May 1817 –
Spain finally signs the Treaty of Vienna, since, in the
Spanish interpretation, the text is not mandatory on demanding Spain
Olivenza to Portugal. However, the text clearly states that
all the signatary winning powers promise to take all efforts to make
Olivenza is returned to Portugal.
Spain and Portugal, with the mediation of France,
England, Russia and Austria, negotiate in the Conference of Paris
toward a peaceful restitution of
Uruguay to Spain.
Spain accepts the
terms of an agreement proposed by the mediators but due to internal
problems and the Liberal Revolution in 1820, actions never took place.
7 November 1820 – Spanish authorities forbade the use of private
teaching in Portuguese.
Portugal annexes Uruguay. In reaction,
Spain withdraws from
1840 – The
Portuguese language is forbidden in the territory of
Olivenza, including inside churches.
1850 – The village of
Táliga is separated to form its own
1858 – Isabel II of
Spain grants the title of City (Ciudad) to
29 September 1864 – The
Treaty of Lisbon (1864) between
Spain is signed, demarcating the border from the estuary of the Minho
river, on the far North, to the confluence of the
Caya River with the
Guadiana river, just north of Olivenza. The demarcation of the border
is not pursued further because of the situation of Olivenza.
1918/1919 – With the end of World War I, the Portuguese government
studies the possibility of taking the situation of
Olivenza to the
Paris Peace Conference. However, as
Spain had not participated in the
War, the intervention of the international community in this issue is
29 June 1926 –
Spain sign the Convention of Limits
(1926) an agreement demarcating the border from the confluence of
Ribeira de Cuncos with the Guadiana, just south of Olivenza, to the
estuary of the Guadiana, on the far South. The border between Portugal
Spain from the confluence of the Caya river to the confluence of
the Cuncos is not demarcated and remains so nowadays, with the
Guadiana being the de facto border.
1936–1939 – During the Spanish Civil War, Portuguese Colonel
Rodrigo Pereira Botelho volunteers to occupy Olivenza. The 8th
Portuguese Regiment, stationed in nearby Elvas, prepares to take
Olivenza but is ordered not to.
15 August 1938 – The Pro-
Olivenza Society (Sociedade Pró-Olivença)
is founded, the first of a number of pressure groups established to
advance the cause of
Olivenza in Portugal.
1954 – Oliventine children are no longer allowed to take free
holidays in the Portuguese seaside resort "Colónia Balnear Infantil
d'O Século", managed by a newspaper owned charity.
24 January 1967 – The Portuguese government declares the Ponte da
Ajuda Bridge a National Heritage Monument.
1968 – A covenant between
Spain on exploitation of
hydraulic resources in the frontier rivers is signed. All frontier
rivers (including the non-demarcated section in the
are covered, distributing the hydraulic exploitation between both
countries. The hydraulic exploitation of the non-demarcated section in
Guadiana river is assigned to
Portugal (in the same way as the
rights on hydraulic exploitation over other frontier rivers are
assigned either to
Portugal or to Spain). The only difference between
this section and the rest is that the term "international" is omitted
(all the sections are named "international section" but the
non-demarcated one in the
1977 – A Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between
Portugal is signed, with no mention to the
1981 – Former prime-minister of Portugal, Admiral Pinheiro de
Azevedo publishes a book on
Olivenza and visits the town, leading
Spain to send a contingent of the Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) to
prevent any confrontation.
In an Iberian Summit, the prime ministers of
Spain sign a
covenant for the joint effort to preserve the
Ponte da Ajuda
Ponte da Ajuda Bridge,
as well as the construction of a new bridge alongside it, also as a
Olivenza became friendship towns.
1994, November – After internal criticism that the agreement of 1990
would mean the recognition of the de facto border by the government of
Portugal, the agreement is modified in another Iberian Summit.
Portugal is now in full charge of constructing the new bridge and
preserving the old bridge, therefore not putting the Portuguese claim
to the territory of
Olivenza at stake.
March 1995 – The Portuguese government sends its Spanish counterpart
a study on the effects of the construction of the
Alqueva Dam on
Spanish territory. Information on
Olivenza is not included. Later,
Portugal sends further information, including data on Olivenza, under
the title "Territory of
Spain and Olivenza".
October 1999 – The Spanish police stop preservation works being
undertaken by the Portuguese on the old
Ponte da Ajuda
Ponte da Ajuda Bridge on the
left bank (Spanish side) of the
Guadiana river. The Portuguese had
been working on that side of the bridge without Spanish permits
assuming that the left bank-side of the
Guadiana river belonged to
Portugal, according to the 1968 covenant. In
subsequent events, a Portuguese court order prevents
Spain from taking
over the works.
11 November 2000 – The new
Olivenza Bridge, constructed by Portugal,
Spain restarts work on the old bridge, under protest from the
Portuguese government.
25 June 2004 – The Portuguese parliament raises the issue of
Olivenza and exhorts the Minister of Foreign Affairs to try to solve
the question, in a friendly and cooperative way, with
Spain and the
people of Olivenza, within the European Union.
4 September 2004 – The Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Antonio Martins da Cruz states that the
Olivenza issue "is
7 September 2004 – The Government of the autonomous community of
Extremadura declares the old
Ponte da Ajuda
Ponte da Ajuda Bridge a Heritage
2007 – Guillermo Fernandez Vara, who was born in Olivenza, is
elected president of Extremadura.
2010 – The ancient Portuguese street names, that were removed in the
first half of the 20th century, return to the historical city center
December 2014 – Portuguese Nationality is given to 80 residents of
Olivenza, after their formal request. Other 90 similar requests from
Olivenza are received by the Portuguese authorities.
Claims of sovereignty
Olivenza was under Portuguese sovereignty from 1297. During the War of
the Oranges, French and Spanish troops, under the command of Manuel de
Godoy, took the town on May 20, 1801. In the aftermath of that
conflict, the Treaty of
Badajoz was signed, with the Olivenza
territory remaining a part of Spain.
Spain claims de jure sovereignty over
Olivenza on the grounds that the
Badajoz still stands and has never been revoked, thus making
the case that the border between the two countries in the region of
Olivenza should be demarcated as said by the treaty.
Portugal claims de jure sovereignty over
Olivenza on the grounds of
the cancellation of the Treaty of Badajoz, since it was revoked by its
own terms. The breach of any of its articles would lead to its
cancellation, and that happened when
Portugal in the
Peninsular War of 1807.
Portugal further bases its case on Article 105
of the Treaty of Vienna of 1815 (which
Spain signed in 1817) that
states that the winning countries are "committed to employ the
mightiest conciliatory effort to return
Olivenza to Portuguese
authority" and that the winning countries "recognize that the return
Olivenza and its territories must be done". Thus, the border
between the two countries in the region of
Olivenza should be
demarcated by the Treaty of Alcanizes of 1297.
Spain interprets Article 105 as not being mandatory on demanding Spain
Olivenza to Portugal, thus not revoking the Treaty of
Portugal has never made a formal claim to the territory after the
Treaty of Vienna, but has equally never directly acknowledged the
Spanish sovereignty over Olivenza.
Portuguese military maps do not show the border at that area, implying
it to be undefined. Also, the latest road connection between Olivenza
Portugal (entirely paid by the Portuguese state, although it
involved the building of a bridge over the Guadiana, an international
river) has no indication of the Portuguese border, again implying the
There is no research on the opinion of the inhabitants of Olivenza
about their status. Spanish public opinion is not generally aware of
the Portuguese claim on Olivenza. On the other hand, awareness in
Portugal has been increasing under the efforts of pressure groups to
have the question raised and debated in public.
Famous people born in Olivenza
Guillermo Fernández Vara
Guillermo Fernández Vara (1958) – Spanish politician,
president of Extremadura.
Pedro da Fonseca (?–1422) – Portuguese cardinal
Paulo da Gama (1465-1499), Vasco da Gama's elder brother, commander of
São Rafael in the discovery of the route to India.
Vicente Lusitano (c. 1461 – c. 1561) – Portuguese
composer and music theoretician.
Tomás Romero de Castilla (1833–1910) – Spanish theologian,
founder of the Museo Arqueológico Provincial de Badajoz
^ Rongxing Guo, Territorial Disputes and Resource Management: A Global
Handbook, Nova Science Publisher/New York, 2007
Portugal desmiente a la CIA y niega que haya un conflicto por
Olivenza Archived 2011-07-26 at the Wayback Machine. (in Spanish)
^ Martins da Cruz Afirma Que a Questão de Olivença "Está Congelada"
^ Europacto en la frontera hispano-lusa Archived 2011-07-26 at the
Wayback Machine. (in Spanish)
^ Euroregião e Declaração de Olivença (in Portuguese)[dead link]
^ a b c Templespaña (2012). Gran Guía de la España Templaria (in
Spanish). Santillana. ISBN 8403012071.
^ Margarida Garcez Ventura, A Definição das Fronteiras, Ed.
Quidnovi, Matosinhos/Lisbon, 2007, ISBN 978-972-8998-85-1
^ a b c d e António Pedro Vicente, Guerra Peninsular, Ed. Quidnovi,
Matosinhos/Lisbon, 2007, ISBN 978-972-8998-86-8
^ a b in António Ventura, Guerra das Laranjas, Ed. Quidnovi,
Matosinhos/Lisbon, 2008, ISBN 978-989-628-075-8, the text of the
Treaty of Badajoz: "[Preamble] [...] dois Tratados, sem que na parte
essencial seja mais do que um, pois que a Garantia é recíproca, e
não haverá validade em alguns dos dois, quando venha a verificar-se
a infracção em qualquer dos Artigos, que neles se expressam. [...]
Artigo I: Haverá Paz [...] entre Sua Alteza Real o Príncipe Regente
de Portugal, e dos Algarves, e Sua Majestade Católica El-Rei de
Espanha, assim por mar, como por terra em toda a extensão dos seus
reinos [...]. Artigo III: Sua Majestade Católica [...] conservará em
qualidade de Conquista para unir perpetuamente aos seus Domínios, e
Vassalos, a Praça de Olivença, seu Território, e Povos desde o
Guadiana; de sorte que este Rio seja o limite dos respectivos Reinos,
naquela parte que unicamente toca ao sobredito Território de
Olivença. [...] Artigo IX: Sua Majestade Católica se obriga a
Garantir a Sua Alteza Real o Príncipe Regente de
Portugal a inteira
conservação dos Seus Estados, e Domínios sem a menor excepção, ou
^ Instrumento de ratificación del Convenio y Protocolo adicional
entre España y
Portugal para regular el uso y aprovechamiento
hidráulico de los tramos internacionales de los ríos Limia, Miño,
Guadiana y Chanza y sus afluentes, firmado en Madrid el 29 de
mayo de 1968.. Article III states:
El aprovechamiento hidráulico de las siguientes zonas de los tramos
internacionales de los restantes ríos mencionados en el artículo
primero será distribuido entre España y
Portugal de la forma
E) Se reserva a
Portugal la utilización de todo el tramo del río
Guadiana entre los puntos de confluencia de éste con los ríos Caya y
Cuncos, incluyendo los correspondientes desniveles de los afluentes en
In the same article, sections A and B are assigned to Portugal, while
C, D and F are assigned to Spain.
^ Instrumento de ratificacion de España del Tratado de Amistad y
Cooperacion entre España y Portugal, hecho en Madrid el dia 22 de
noviembre de 1977 (in Spanish).
^ Martins da Cruz Afirma Que a Questão de Olivença "Está Congelada"
(in Portuguese), Público.
^ «Una cuestión congelada», según
Portugal (in Spanish), ABC,
September 15, 2004
^ RESOLUCIÓN de 6 de septiembre de 2004, de la Consejería de
Cultura, por la que se incoa expediente de declaración de bien de
interés cultural, para el puente de Ajuda en la localidad de Olivenza
(Badajoz) (in Spanish).
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved
2010-10-31. (in Portuguese)
^ http://diariodigital.sapo.pt/news.asp?id_news=753161 Dezenas de
habitantes de Olivença pedem e obtêm nacionalidade portuguesa (in
^ Jefferies, Anthony (19 August 2006). "The best of both worlds".
Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 19 February
^ Mora, Miguel (4 December 2000). "La eterna disputa de
El País (in Spanish). Ediciones El País, S.L.
Retrieved 19 February 2010.
^ Caetano, Filipe (18 January 2008). "Cimeira Ibérica: Olivença
ainda é questão?". IOL Diário (in Portuguese). Media Capital
Multimedia. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Olivenza.
CIA World Factbook reference to
Olivenza in the "Disputes –
international" section on the
(in Portuguese) Official Map of
Official Portuguese statements GAO
CIA World Factbook reference to Olivença in the "Disputes –
international" section on the
Olivenza in the official website of the Province of
Olivenza in the official website for Tourism in the
Region of Extremadura
Website for Portuguese pressure group "Group of Friends of Olivenza"
Portuguese, Spanish Website for Oliventino cultural group Alemguadiana
Municipalities in the province of Badajoz
Arroyo de San Serván
Benquerencia de la Serena
Bodonal de la Sierra
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Cabeza del Buey
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Calzadilla de los Barros
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Higuera la Real
Hinojosa del Valle
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Villar de Rena
Villar del Rey
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Zalamea de la Se