El Puerto de Santa María is mostly renowned by its fino wines and its stale wine cellars, as wellas by its seafood gastronomy; and, thus, few are the curious or travelers who have not visited one of such cellars nor pigged out on any of its famous restaurants. Which is all quite good, except that such picture gives us a very incomplete view of this city’s outstanding historical importance.
So, it seems to be proven that, thirty centuries ago, under nowadays’ El Puerto de Santa María there was a Phoenician settlement that lasted no less than seven hundred years, until the Romans took over in the IInd century b.C. Later on, it was populated by the Visigoths until, in VIII a.D., these were ousted by the invasion of Iberic paeninsula by the arabs, who named Amaría Alcanatif what, by then, was no more than farmstead dependant on Seres (Sherry-Jeréz).
But it wasn’t until five centures later than, in 1260, Alfonso X the Wise would regain the city for Christendom and renamed it as Santa María del Puerto, granting it the privileges in 1281, and joining it to the crown of Castile.
And it’s only then when the really important historical landmarks to accentuate the city start taking place. Prior to his famous journey, Christopher Columbus was hosted by the lords of El Puerto and got funds for the voyage that would end up in the discovery of the New World, as well as for his second voyage. Here was supplied the immortal Santa María, owned by the sailor Juan de la Cosa, who was a pilot for Colón in 1492, and who in 1500 would draft in El Puerto the first chart including America.
By the beginning of the XVIth century the streets of the city turned into a throng of traders coming from the New World, thus becoming El Puerto one of the first places where to purchase the products coming from overseas. Along this commercial apogee era, which lasted two centuries, luxury houses were built by the merchants of the Indies, thus shaping a wealthy collection of monumental houses-palaces, most of which, though worsened, are still on foot.
Also during those days El Puerto was headquarters of the General Captaincy of the Oceanic Sea, which added to its importance for naval military expeditions.
Later on, the city played also a leading role in XIXth century’s important historical events, being headquarters of the army of the Hundred Thousan Sons of Saint Louis, for finish off the liberals from Cádiz, free Fernando VII and abrogate the Constitution of 1812, thus restoring the monarchical absolutism.
But it was only by XXth century when El Puerto de Santa María became what we know today, because, after the economical recession following the loss of our last colonies overseas (Cuba and Philippines), the trade of wine started being exploited, along with an improvement of turistic infrastructures.