Manuel Cadenas became a miner when he was only 16 years old. Life forced him to run fast, because at that time he was already a war refugee in Paris and an orphan. Without a mother and with a sick father, the hard, black and deadly mine was, paradoxically, his lifeline for this boy. He started out as a gourd, assistant, in the San Víctor Mine in the Turón Valley. Nine hours a day and seven days a week. Accidents were so common that they inspired Manuel, who spent a decade combining his job as a picador with his nursing studies. He then worked in the company hospital until he retired 40 years later.
Thus, Cadenas became another protagonist in the transformation of the Asturian basins. The population grew around the region’s most important economic engine: coal. And thousands of families from all over Spain and Portugal came to the Nalón or the Caudal. Below mine. My paternal grandparents settled in La Felguera in the 1950s. My father grew up in these narrow valleys surrounded by mountains, where the river ran black and the Turullu rang at all hours, announcing the ascent and descent of the miners. Business flourished in the cities and there was a strong club and cultural life among the neighbors. The workers’ struggle was also part of the culture of this region. The greatest exponent of this “struggle” were the strikes. They were epic and even put the dictatorship in check. Many things were achieved, but they did not prevent the gradual closure of the coal mines, the lack of jobs and the consequent depopulation.
The children and grandchildren of those who had come looking for work were now leaving for the same purpose. December 31, 2018 is the day considered as “Mining Closure in Asturias”. But the truth is that the San Nicolás mine in Mieres is still in operation. If it ceases operations, it can be said that it will be the end of coal as an industry in Spain after more than two centuries of history. Today the river flows cleanly and the headframes, which have rusted over time, are struggling to stay standing. Nature reclaims the space between the bars. The depopulation is evidenced by hundreds of doors and windows with the blinds down. There is no coal, but the pride of being the result of mining heritage remains in the basins. An example of this is the Turón Mining Choir, a group of retirees who travel the world in their helmets and work overalls, singing the songs many of them learned while going to work as pumpkins in the mine.
The Soto de Ribera thermal power station. Lys ArangoA group of miners in adit 7 (580 meters underground) of the San Nicolás shaft in Mieres. It is the last working coal mine in Spain. Lys ArangoAbandoned objects in the offices of the Candín mine in Langreo, closed since 2013. Lys ArangoThe Rioturbio mining district in Mieres was built in the 1950s. It had a population of 2,500 people, but the closure of the valley’s mining operations caused the progressive exodus of its inhabitants.Lys ArangoThailand’s Mellado Fernández, 36, pushes a cart at the San Nicolás fountain. She is the daughter and granddaughter of miners. Her father died in an accident at work when she was a girl, Lys ArangoA closed shop in the Rioturbio district of Mieres. Lys ArangoA group of young people at Bar La Carbonera, one of the few nightclubs in Mieres that is still open. Lys ArangoThe Sotón Fountain mining monument pays homage to the thousands of workers who died in an industrial accident in Asturias coal mines. Lys ArangoManuel Cadenas, 98, sits in front of Mount Felechosa in the Asturian mining residence of Montepío Lys Arango
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