Ourense (province)

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Ourense (Spanish: Orense) is a province of northwestern Spain, in the southeastern part of the Autonomous Community of Galicia. It is bordered by the provinces of Pontevedra in the west, Lugo in the north, León and Zamora in the east, and by Portugal in the south. With an area of 7,278 square km it is the only landlocked province in Galicia.

Ourense is surrounded by mountains on all sides. These mountains historically isolated the province from the more populated Galician coast. Until a highway was built in recent years linking Ourense with Vigo in the west and Benavente in the east, the only quick way for people to enter or leave the province was by railway.

The principal river system is the Miño-Sil, the fertile valleys of which produce corn (maize) and grapes for wine. Due to the many rapids these rivers are not navegable, but they have been harnessed for hydroelectric power. The Sil flows through a deep canyon and has become a sought-after tourist site for its river cruises and spectacular views.

The Limia is an important river that begins north of Xinzo de Limia and flows south towards Portugal. The Tâmega River, another important Portuguese river begins north of Verín.

The mountainous terrain and isolation have kept the province economically challenged and encouraged much emigration to the rest of Spain and to the New World. There is some wine production along the Miño valley and near Verín. There is also considerable pig breeding and potato growing, especially around the area of Xinzo da Limia, in the drained lakebed of Antela, which until the 1960s was the largest fresh-water lake in Spain.

Industries include chemical manufacture, milk production, water bottling near Verín, and clothing manufacture near the capital city of Ourense. One of the largest poultry processing companies is also located in the industrial zone near that city.

Although not a major tourist center, tourism contributes somewhat to the economy: the spectacular scenery of the river valleys attracts holidaymakers, there are several preserved medieval towns (Allariz and Ribadavia).

The provincial capital, Ourense, is the only large centre, and the population of the province is predominantly rural.

Of the province's population of 343,768 (2002), three-tenths live in the capital Ourense 107,732hab. (INE 2009). There are 92 municipalities in Ourense. Other than the capital the most important are O Barco de Valdeorras, Verín, Ribadavia, Allariz, A Rua, O Carballiño, Viana do Bolo, and Xinzo de Limia.

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