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Santa Marta de los Barros (Municipality, Extremadura, Spain)

Last modified: 2020-10-26 by ivan sache
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Flag of Santa Marta de los Barros - Image by "Lenguallave23", Wikimedia Commons, 16 March 2020

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Presentation of Santa Marta de los Barros

The municipality of Santa Marta de los Barros (4,122 inhabitants in 2019; 11,970 ha; municipal website) is located 50 km south-east of Badajoz and 30 km south-west of Almendralejo.

Santa Marta was already settled in the Roman period, as evidenced by the La Atalaya villa discovered in 1925 in Las Tiendas by the local scholar Virgilio Vinegria e de Vera; a mosaic pavement featuring Orpheus, dated to the first half of the 4th century, was excavated. In spite of the registration of the site as a National Monument, the mosaic was damaged until transferred to the Badajoz Provincial Museum of Archeology.
[Virgilio Vinegra e de Vera. 1925. Un notable mosaico en Santa Marta (Badajoz). El arte en los campos. Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia, 294-298]

While remains of the Arab period were reported in Argamasa in the 17th century, the modern town originates in the La Pontecilla hamlet, established in the late 13th - early 14th centuries; a document states that King Sancho IV offerred plots located in El Cincho and La Pontecilla to Sancho Martínez. Santa Marta was founded around 1430 on the depopulated site of La Pontecilla; the town was mentioned for the first time in the charter granted in 1481 by Gomes Suárez II to boost the repopulation of the area.
Destroyed in 1646 by the Portuguese, the town was rebuilt according to a grid plan. Santa Marta belonged to the Duke of Feria, Marquess of Villalba.

Ivan Sache, 16 March 2020

Flag of Santa Marta de los Barros

The flag of Santa Marta de los Barros, adopted on 8 April 1996 by the Municipal Council and validated on 9 July 1996 by the Assessing Council of Honors and Distinctions of the Government of Extremadura, is prescribed by an Order issued on 18 July 1996 by the Government of Extremadura and published on 13 August 1996 in the official gazette of Extremadura, No. 94, p. 4,307 (text).
The flag is described as follows:

Flag: Rectangular flag, in proportions 2:3. A green stripe (in width 1/4 of the hoist) running from the hoist's upper angle to the fly's lower angle, the lower triangle red and the upper yellow. Charged in the center with the municipal coat of arms.

The coat of arms of Santa Marta de los Barros, adopted on 18 July 1988 by the Municipal Council and validated on 21 November 1988 by the Royal Academy of History, is prescribed by an Order issued 30 November 1988 by the Government of Extremadura and published on 7 December 1988 in the official gazette of Extremadura, No. 97, pp. 1,391-1,392 (text).
The coat of arms is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Quarterly, 1. Gules a wheat spike or, 2. Or a bunch of grapes vert, 3. Or a dragon vert, 4. Gules an aspersorium and aspergillum or. Inescutcheon, Or five fig leaves vert. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed.

The coat of arms, designed by Jos&ecute; Antonio Martínez Portillo, is supported by a memoir written by the writer Fernando Pérez Marqués.
Fernando Pérez Marqués (1919-1993; biography) was appointed school teacher in Santa Marta in 1953, being awarded Alfonso X the Wise's Cross, the highest award for educationalists. He was also the co-founder of the winegrower's cooperative Santa Marta Virgen.
In his younger age and after having moved to Badajoz in the 1960s, Pérez Marqués published several articles on local literature and history in Hoy, Badajoz' main newspaper, and the national ABC in Madrid. He also contributed to the scholar review Revista de Estudios Extremeños, serving as its secretary from the late 1970s to his death. In the next decade, he initiated the publication of books connected to Extremadura; the Government of Extremadura commissioned the publication of a selection of his writings (Reflejos de la Memoria), which was completed in 1992.
Fernando Pérez Marqués left several unachieved works, a monography on Santa Marta included.

The first quarter highlights the town's traditional and main source of income, wheat growing. The local farmers bred the famous Santa Marta wheat variety, which gained the highest market rate and was awarded several prizes in national and international fairs; Francisco Cansado y Rodríguez obtained a silver medal at the Paris World Exhibition, while Pedro Thomas García obtained a gold medal at the 1892 Extremadura Regional Fair.
The fame of the Santa Marta wheat is conformed by contracts signed in 1604, 1609 and 1630 in Badajoz with muleteers from Navarredonda (Ávila) to transport grains; there are records of wheat sales to Alcaçar do Sal and Seville.

The second quarter recalls that the lords of Feria required the new colonists "to plant at least one aranzada of grapevine". Those early plantations are referred in documents as "Old Grapevines". The tradition is maintained today by the wealthy Santa Marta Virgin cooperative. Founded in 1963, the cooperative groups 95% of the local farmers, who produce wine, olive oil, and olives.

The lower quarters refer to the town's patron saint and namesake, St. Martha. The Golden Legend relates Martha's life as follows:

Saint Martha, hostess of our Lord Jesu Christ, was born of a royal kindred. Her father was named Syro and her mother Encharia. The father of her was duke of Syria and places maritime, and Martha with her sister possessed by the heritage of their mother three places, that was, the castle Magdalen, and Bethany and a part of Jerusalem. [...]. After the ascension of our Lord, when the disciples were departed, she with her brother Lazarus and her sister Mary, also Saint Maximin which baptized them, and to whom they were committed of the Holy Ghost, and many others, were put into a ship without sail, oars, or rudder governail, of the paynims, which by the conduct of our Lord they came all to Marseilles, and after came to the territory of Aquense or Aix, and there converted the people to the faith. Martha was right facound of speech, and courteous and gracious to the sight of the people.
There was that time upon the river of Rhone, in a certain wood between Arles and Avignon, a great dragon, half beast and half fish, greater than an ox, longer than an horse, having teeth sharp as a sword, and horned on either side, head like a lion, tail like a serpent, and defended him with two wings on either side, and could not be beaten with cast of stones new with other armour, and was as strong as twelve lions or bears; which dragon lay hiding and lurking in the river, and perished them that passed by and drowned ships. He came thither by sea from Galicia, and was engendered of Leviathan, which is a serpent of the water and is much wood, and of a beast called Bonacho, that is engendered in Galicia. And when he is pursued he casts out of his belly behind, his ordure, the space of an acre of land on them that follow him, and it is bright as glass, and what it toucheth it burneth as fire. To whom Martha, at the prayer of the people, came into the wood, and found him eating a man. And she cast on him holy water, and showed to him the cross, which anon was overcome, and standing still as a sheep, she bound him with her own girdle, and then was slain with spears and glaives of the people. The dragon was called of them that dwelled in the country Tarasconus, whereof, in remembrance of him that place is called Tarasconus, which tofore was called Nerluc, and the Black Lake, because there be woods shadowous and black. And there the blessed Martha, by licence of Maximin her master, and of her sister, dwelled and abode in the same place after, and daily occupied in prayers and in fastings, and thereafter assembled and were gathered together a great convent of sisters, and builded a fair church at the honour of the blessed Mary virgin, where she led a hard and a sharp life.[...]

St. Martha's legend is a main component of the Provencal folklore, once celebrated by Frédéric Mistral. The Tarasque Festival is organized every year in late June in Tarascon - which also features the beast on its municipal arms.
[Ministry of Culture]

The escutcheon features the canting arms of the Suárez de Figueroa lineage, Dukes of Feria and Marquesses of Villalba. Historical sources state that Santa Marta did not exist as a settlement before the establishment of the domain of Feria in 1394 by Gómez I Suárez de Figueroa (1382-1429), the son of Lorenzo I Suárez de Figueroa (1345-1409), Master of the Order of Saint James (1387-1409).
[Municipal website]

Ivan Sache, 16 March 2020