Archena is located in the Vega del Segura, closes off the access to the Moorish Valley of Ricote and opens onto the rich, fertile plain that leads to the regional capital. Its central axis, the Segura, flows through the area for over seven kilometres and leaves fertile fields full of fruit and citrus trees in its wake. The water provided by the Ricote Valley represents its singularity and the contrasts of its landscape between the irrigated orchards and the desert of un-irrigated land and limestone mountains. Its location and always scarce water resources have allowed for the existence of human settlements which, in Archena's case and thanks to a recent Chalcolithic Age excavation, date back six thousand years.
The spring of thermal water which rises up just two kilometres from the town centre is another fundamental reference point in Archena and probably the attraction that most outside visitors identify Archena with. The curative properties of its waters, used by Iberians and Romans, have always attracted people with aches and pains, allowing Archena to become the most visited Spa in Spain towards the end of the nineteenth century. The influx of visitors, who frequently stayed in the villager's houses, has given the village its open character and has allowed spa tourism, even before it became popular, to complement the local economy, which is of course based on its agricultural wealth.
Archena is located geographically in the Ricote Valley but administratively has remained far removed for centuries because the outlying settlements that make it up constituted a single Appointment to the Order of Santiago, whilst Archena was handed over to the Military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. The landscape and the strong impression left by the Arab culture, irrigation techniques, the condition of the last Moorish redoubt in Spain, the silk harvest or the later introduction of citrus fruit, as well as other less evident but just as fundamental elements over time, like the harvest and manufacture of goods with esparto grass, are, of course, common elements to the villages of the area.
The highpoints of the accelerated changes brought about over the last one hundred and fifty years include the arrival of the railway, the export of agricultural products or the extension of the canned-foods industry. The elements of material progress and development that, whilst generalised, deserve to be highlighted are the change in the population structure, which has moved from working mainly in agriculture to being employed in the industry and service sectors (a trend to which the recently created industrial areas have contributed), and the change in migratory flows that have converted Archena into a focal point for immigrants who now represent almost 20% of the 17,500 people who currently live in the village.
Francisca Amorós Vidal
Archena Municipal Archivist