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Subnational Flags (Spain)

Last modified: 2004-11-27 by santiago dotor
Keywords: spain | subnational flags | autonomous community | comunidad autónoma | province | provincia | region |
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Introduction to Spanish Administrative Subdivisions

According to the Spanish Constitution, there are three main administrative subdivisions: Autonomous Communities, Provinces and Municipalities. As this appears in the Constitution, these three are compulsory administrative entities which cannot be abolished except through Constitutional reform. Besides, the Constitution allows the creation of other administrative subdivisions, without specifying which. The Law on Basic Local Rules (that includes provinces, municipalities and islands) states that these may create their own administrative subdivisions, with the approval of the respective Autonomous Community. These subdivisions may be:

  • In the provinces:
    • Comarca: Grouping of several municipalities with common interests
    • Área Metropolitana: Grouping of several municipalities of big urban areas
    • Mancomunidad: Association of municipalities for fulfilment of common works and/or services
  • In the municipalities:
    • Ente local (Local Entity): Decentralized administration of villages when municipalities comprise more than one inhabited location
Islands, as stated in the said Law, are established entities in both archipelagos. The term island may prove misleading, as it may comprise only one island or a group of them. The administrative subdivisions of the Balearic and Canary islands are:Beneath these remain the municipalities. I think Catalonia is completely divided in comarcas and in the Community of Madrid there are seven (without flags, as far as I know). I know however cases of comarcas (those of Catalonia, for example), mancomunidades and local entities with officially approved flag and arms.

Antonio Gutiérrez, 27 September 1999

Comarcas are only traditional or historical territories, not administrative ones, with some (important) exceptions. The only one I know for certain is that of Catalonia whose Autonomous Government does not like/accept the division of its juridiction into provinces, and uses the division into comarques as official administrative entities, requesting the Spanish government to englobe all of Catalonia into a single province. On the other hand, archipelagos are not divided into comarcas but into islands. Island councils are called cabildo(s) insular(es) in the Canary Islands and consell(s) insular(s) in the Balearic Islands.

Santiago Dotor, 27 September 1999

Autonomous Communities / Comunidades Autónomas

  • Autonomous Cities:

    Introduction to Provincial Flags

    The website Manual del Estado Español (Handbook of the Spanish State, Spanish text only) by Editorial Lama contains the descriptions (no images) of the provincial flags and coats-of-arms.

    Pascal Vagnat, 16 July 1999

    I hope to make a deep revision of the [provincial flags' descriptions] data provided by Pascal Vagnat. I think the descriptions come from Ministerio para las Administraciones Públicas 1992. Some descriptions in this book are inaccurate and other are outdated (for example the coat-of-arms of Albacete province is obsolete, a new one has been adopted).

    Please note that all autonomous communities have provinces, even if some of them are made up of only one province — Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Navarre and the Balearic Islands. Ceuta and Melilla are autonomous cities. In those regions where there is only one province, the administrative role of the province is minimized (and also its vexillological importance). In the Balearic and Canary Islands, the natural scope of identity (and vexillology) is each island.

    Antonio Gutiérrez, 16 July 1999

    Teruel and Zaragoza are two examples that show that the source quoted by Pascal Vagnat has many outdated descriptions (though possibly used at a certain point —maybe even today— in actual flags). Both in the Balearic and Canary Islands there are island councils, called Cabildo Insular in the Balearic Islands and a Consell Insular in the Canary Islands.

    Santiago Dotor, 20 July 1999

    The Diputación Provincial [provincial council] is an administrative body which dissappeared in the early 1980s in those Autonomous Communities which comprise only one province. Note that although the administrative body is now the Autonomous Community, those provinces still exist.

    Antonio Gutiérrez, 18 November 1999

    Pascal Vagnat asked, "did the provinces of the uniprovincial communities —Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Navarre and the Balearic Islands— have a flag and/or a coat of arms". Sure, at least all of them used a coat-of-arms. As far as I know Logroño (nowadays La Rioja) had another flag, and I think the flags of Navarre and Oviedo (nowadays Asturias) used to be the same they are now.

    Antonio Gutiérrez, 22 November 1999

    I plead ignorance about the rules and regulations concerning the design of Spanish provincial flags. Still, I feel it is a shame that most of these flags have reduced their internal, attractive coats-of-arms to a size where the details are hard to discern. Recognizability is a sine qua non of flag design — why waste a beautiful arms by centering it as a tiny object on a monochrome field?

    Lewis Nowitz, 22 January 2002

    I fully agree. I have always wondered why Spanish civic flags are not either simply bi- or tricolours in the main livery colours (with no arms) or a banner-of-arms (simplified or not, as most Catalan civic flags). In my humble opinion, any of both solutions would provide much, much more beautiful flags.

    Usually there are few rules and regulations concerning the designs of these flags, as Lewis Nowitz put it. Most adoption decrees simply say, "the flag is [colour] with the municipal [or provincial etc.] arms on the centre" — nothing else. No information whatsoever about the size of the arms. So from a legal point of view, any size of arms is correct. In actual practice, however, most Spanish civic flags display a coat-of-arms in between one third and half the hoist.

    Santiago Dotor, 23-24 January 2002

    Provinces / Provincias

    Island Flags of the Balearic and Canary Islands

  • Island Flags of the Balearic Islands:
  • Island Flags of the Canary Islands:

    Counties / Comarcas

    Former Administrative Regions

    During the Francoist regime, Spanish provinces (with their current boundaries) were grouped in historical regions, similar to the current autonomous communities:

    • Andalusia, Aragón, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Basque Country, Canary Islands, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, Navarre and Valencia as today
    • Zamora, León and Salamanca provinces separated as León region
    • Castilla la Vieja [Old Castile] region including Cantabria and La Rioja
    • Castilla la Nueva [New Castile] region including Madrid province
    • Murcia region included the provinces of Murcia and Albacete
    The obvious question is whether there were there any distinctive flags or coat-of-arms for these regions, apart from the historical and current ones, like Catalonia, Basque Country and Galicia. By the way, although this division is not politically correct nowadays, it was much more correct from an ethnical and regionalist point of view (the map, not the self-governing structure!): Murcia complete with the Cartagena cantonal territory, separate León and no non-ethnical non-traditional divisions such as Cantabria and La Rioja.

    António Martins, 27 September 1999