Rice arrived in Spain in about the eighth century, from the Moors, and the Spanish word “arroz” comes from the Arabic. In medieval times, growing rice was extremely controversial, largely because the rice fields were a breeding ground for malaria. For this reason, the Spanish city of Valencia, to this day renowned for its rice and its paella, was called “land of rice, land of tears.” Various regulations restricted the growth of rice in order to limit malaria. Debates continued to rage throughout the eighteenth century, a distinction was commonly drawn between fields with stagnant water and irrigated fields, which were supposedly safer.
The clincher: Malaria has long been eradicated in Spain, but to this day “the allocation of land or enclosures for rice growing requires special authorization from the office of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture in Valencia.”