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Numancia Resists an Urban Development Siege

The archaeological site of Numancia, a 2010 Watch site, recently overcame a siege of urban development proposals, with the threat of construction of a new 120-hectare industrial park and 50-meter-high concrete towers.

The government of Castilla y Leon and the municipality of Soria, with the support of the central government, was planning the construction of the industrial park in the historical and cultural area of Numancia, directly adjacent to one of the encampments of the Roman General Scipio Africanus, who besieged the city in 133 B.C. during the Celtiberian Wars.

Numancia, which in 1882 became the first National Historical Monument to be declared in Spain, has resisted another attack on its history and culture, this time in the twenty-first century!

The battle for the expropriation of the land belonging to the Marichalar family and the construction of the industrial park began in 2004. The grandfather of the present owners, Luis de Marichalar, Viscount of Eza, bequeathed the present day city of Numancia to the state; his descendants have had to defend against the development of an industrial park on their land.

After ten years of legal battles, headed by the law firm of Diaz Aguilar, with encouragement from the Spanish Royal Academies of History and Fine Arts, ICOMOS, World Monuments Fund, UNED, CEU, Hispania Nostra, Europa Nostra, the German Archeological Institute, a multitude of institutions and universities from around the world (including Germany, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, and Costa Rica), and representatives of the European Parliament, spearheaded by Amalio de Marichalar, Count of Ripalda, the recent decision of the Spanish Supreme Court is a victory for Numancia’s integrity as a major archaeological site.

The Spanish Supreme Court was overwhelmingly emphatic in declaring that the intervening parties and institutions had a responsibility to respect the site with the utmost care, and to consider the impact of any urban development there, as well as the sustainability of any initiative. Respect for culture ensures the balance and compatibility between economic, social, and environmental development.

The Supreme Court ruling has set an environmental and cultural precedent in that, from now on, Numancia represents a paradigm of what should be a universal approach to cultural heritage: respect for a common European history as declared by the European Parliament. Numancia, with its story of Celtiberian resistance to Rome, is still recognized for the defense of liberty, dignity of a people’s honor, and of resistance—all principles that were singled out and recognized for posterity by Roman writers after the legendary victory of Scipio Africanus.

Such intangible values are what the West, from both sides of the Atlantic, are championing in defense of liberty of peoples and their dignity, facing the challenges of a contemporary global society. Such principles are just as valuable today in defeating global and local crises for the good of present and future generations.