Extremadura is an autonomous community of western Spain whose capital city is Mérida. Its component provinces are Cáceres and Badajoz. It is bordered by Portugal to the west. To the north it borders Castile and León (provinces of Salamanca and Ávila); to the south, it borders Andalusia (provinces of Huelva, Seville, and Córdoba); and to the east, it borders Castile–La Mancha (provinces of Toledo and Ciudad Real). Its official language is Spanish.
It is an important area for wildlife, particularly with the major reserve at Monfragüe, which was designated a National Park in 2007, and the project of the International Tagus River Natural Park (Terreno Natural Río Tajo Internacional). The government of Extremadura is called Gobierno de Extremadura.
Lusitania, an ancient Roman province approximately including current day Portugal (except for the northern area today known as Norte Region) and a central western portion of the current day Spain, covered in those times today's Autonomous Community of Extremadura. Mérida (now capital of Extremadura) became the capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, and one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire.
During the Andalusian period as of 711, present-day Extremadura was on the north-western marches—extremadura is from Latin words meaning literally "outermost hard", the outermost secure border (the march) of an occupied territory—with Mérida being its head city. It was part of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba, but after its definite collapse in 1031 the Caliphate fragmented into small regional kingdoms, and the lands of Extremadura were included in the Taifa of Badajoz on two taifa periods. The kingdom in turn broke up twice under Almoravid and Almohad push (1094 and 1151). After the Almohad disaster in Navas de Tolosa (1212), Extremadura fell to the troops led by Alfonso IX of León in approx. 1230.
Extremadura was the source of many of the initial Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) and settlers in America. Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, Gonzalo Pizarro, Juan Pizarro, Hernando Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, Pedro de Alvarado, Pedro de Valdivia, Inés Suárez, Alonso de Sotomayor, Francisco de Orellana, Pedro Gómez Duran y Chaves, and Vasco Núñez de Balboa were all born in Extremadura, and many towns and cities in America carry a name from their homeland: Mérida is the name of the administrative capital of Extremadura, and also of important cities in Mexico and Venezuela; Medellín is now a little town in Extremadura, but also the name of the second largest city in Colombia; Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and its name is due to a transcription mistake of Alburquerque, another town in Extremadura. The two (to date) Spanish astronauts, Miguel López-Alegría and Pedro Duque, also have family connections in Extremadura. King Ferdinand II of Aragon died in the village of Madrigalejo, Cáceres, in 1516. Pedro de Valdivia founded numerous cities in Chile with names from small villages in Extremadura, such as Valdivia and La Serena. The capital Santiago de Chile was founded as "Santiago de Nueva Extremadura" (Santiago of New Extremadura).