Cantabria käntäˈbrēä [key], autonomous community and coextensive prov., 2,057 sq mi (5,328 sq km), N Spain, on Santander Bay and the Bay of Biscay. It is bordered by Asturias (W), Castile and Lén (S), and the Basque Provinces (E).The capital is Santander. Cantabria rises from the coast and foothills to the Cantabrian Mountains, with the highest peaks in the Picos de Europa section. It is drained by short, swift rivers, including the Miera, Besaya, and the Deva, forming deep, green valleys. The Ebro River rises in the south near Reinosa. The population is concentrated toward the coast, which has several good harbors, including Santander, Santoña, Castro Urdiales, and Laredo. Santander and Reinosa are the commercial centers. The mountainous interior has extensive forests and excellent pastures, where there is farming, cattle raising, and dairying. Lead, zinc, pyrites, and iron are mined, and there are limestone and rock-salt quarries. Chemicals, leather, textiles, and perfume are manufactured. Along the coast the chief occupations are fishing, fish processing, and boat building. The site of some of the oldest surviving Paleolithic art in Europe, Cantabria was later inhabited by Iberians and Celts, and after the fall of the Roman Empire was ruled by the Visigoths. It remained free of Moorish rule, becoming part of the kingdom of Asturias and later of Castile.

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