SANLUCAR, GATEWAY TO DOÑANA
The first time we can historically talk about Doñana is around ten centuries BC, where ancient texts (Strabo, Avienus, etc…) locate the mythological and legendary Tartessus.
Etruscan, Phoenician and Greek civilizations have settled here, and we can still find evidence of the Roman times in the National Park and surroundings.
Afterwords there was a long historic parenthesis until 1255 when Alfonso X “The Wise” granted part of the marshlands of the Guadalquivir River to the city of Seville, and in 1262 this same King reconquests the Muslim kingdom of Niebla (Huelva). The first written testimonies that we have of the Doñana territory and ones surrounding them recall the tales in the “Chronicles” of Alfonso X “The Wise”.
During that time period hunting was of utmost importance; the King finds in these lands an excellent place for this sport and establishes the territory of La Rocina and its surroundings as royal hunting grounds. A hermitage (nowadays not standing) is also built here, at the shore of the Santa Olalla lagoon.
In 1294 Sancho IV “The Fierce”, donated some territories to Sir Alonso Perez de Guzman “The Good”, Lord of Sanlúcar due to his services during the Reconquest. The limits of these lands are unknown, but thought of being a strip of land that went roughly from Arenas Gordas to the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. Instead of marking the boundaries, it was agreed that it would be all of the territory where you could hear the ringing of a cauldron that was placed in the middle of this area.
The 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia was married to Lady Ana Gomez de Mendoza de Silva y de la Cerda, daughter of the Princess of Eboli. It is said that Lady Ana, embarrassed by her mother’s libertine lifestyle, sheltered herself in the forest, where her husband built a palace. This is why the lands started to be called as the forest of Doña Ana (Lady Ana), later becoming popularly known as Doñana.
In 1624 King Philip IV visited the forest, which is a significant moment in the history of Doñana. The palace that we can find nowadays is from this period, because the owners, Dukes of Medina Sidonia, had to reinforce the old and modest palace (the one built by Lady Ana Gomez de Mendoza).
In 1797, Goya painted the Duchess of Alba, wife of the owner in that period (Sir Jose Maria Alvarez de Toledo), a painting that is now at the Hispanic Society of America in New York. It is thought that he also painted “Las Majas” and that the model was possibly also the Duchess of Alba.
In 1903, the Duke of Tarifa gave the forest another heyday. He expanded the Palace, building a chapel where the Virgin of Carmen would be throned, the Plancha Dock, subsided the work of the archeologist Adolfo Shulsten, that searched for Tartessus at the Trigo Hill and the Tower of Zalabar, but only finds a greek ring and Neolithic two stone axes. In this period King Alfonso XIII loves to go hunting in the forest.
In 1961 Dr Valverde wants to save the marshlands in an ecological way. From this the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) is born. The Spanish delegation is called ADENA.
In 1964 the High Council of Scientific Investigations acquired, with a financial contribution to the WWF, part of the lands that were property of the Doñana Palace Forest Society, PLC. 6794 hectares are acquired, which becomes the Doñana Biological Station.
In 1969, by the Ministry of Agricultures decree 2412/1969, the National Park of Doñana becomes a protected Biosphere Reserve. This park has 37425 hectares, of which 19946 are part of forest hunting grounds and 17479 hectares are marshlands outside the forest and where of the city of Hinojos and private premises of the Aznalcazar Marshlands.
In 1978, finally, they were reclassified.
The territory that nowadays is known as the National Park of Doñana has had an extensive history with Sanlucar de Barrameda.
When in 1297 the lordship of Sanlucar is given to Guzman “The Good” along with the hunting grounds, forest, dunes and marshlands of the Guadalquivir’s River delta.
The first known use of the forests and plains of the now National Park of Doñana is for hunting grounds. The origin of Doñana is a complicated matter.In the first manuscripts that we can find mentioning the grounds, it is called Oñana. Other theories say it is due to the VII Duchess of Medina Sidona, Doña Ana (Lady Ana) de Silva y Mendoza.