Crediton, United Kingdom

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Wall Art


Artist's Description

La Unión is located in the Murcia region of southeast of Spain. Today the old mines remain, abandoned and derelict, again not an official tourist attraction, the main headquarters a hike up the side of a mountain, where you explore at your own risk! The whole surrounding countryside is dotted with abandoned mines and their associated derelict buildings, this is one such pithead on an adjacent mountain to the main headquarters! The Pitheads/Castilletes feature a large pulley, or wheel, that allowed the miners and their tools and materials to enter and exit the shafts. These pitheads are the most distinctive symbols of the Sierra Minera.

La Unión, City of Minerals: The history of La Unión is interwoven with the varying fortunes of its lead, silver, zinc and iron mines, which have shaped the history of the town. Until the early years of the 1990s, the varying fortunes of the mines dictated the economic growth and the social and cultural life of the area.

The exploitation of the mineral resources of the hills around the town, known as the Sierra Minera, dates back to prehistoric times. The Mina Balsa, Atalaya and the Iberian-Roman village of Cabezo Agudo are some of the earliest settlements.

In the Roman period, hundreds of slaves worked in the rich metal industry of the hills. The archaeological remains of the Roman villa at Portmán (then named Portus Magnus), are a memory of the peak of Roman activity. Over the centuries that followed the end of Roman rule, mining and processing decreased and almost disappeared. At the start of the 19th century, the villages that were later to combine to form La Unión, Portman, El Garbanzal and Los Roches, had to rely on the poor resources of the surrounding countryside and hills and on animal herding.

Mineral fever took off in 1840. The mineral wealth beneath the earth gave rise to the metallurgical industry, particularly foundries. The population increased, above all due to the arrival of immigrants from other areas of Spain. Large numbers of people came from Almería. At that time, the area was under the jurisdiction of Cartagena. The increase in mineral exploitation activities and the growth of the populations of Garbanzal, Herrerías, Portman and Roche, led to a separation from Cartagena and the setting up of a municipality and town hall named Villa de El Garbanzal, on January 1, 1860. Friction between the populations of the main settlements, Garbanzal and Herrerias, led to a change in the name of the new municipality, which was known as La Unión from 1868.

However, the mineral economy was fragile and under capitalized. It depended on the movement of prices on the London metal commodities markets, and there were repeated crises that kept the population in a constant state of anxiety.

The “golden age” for La Unión came at the end of the 19th century and in the first years of the 20th century. In 1908 the population reached 38,000 people, making it the fourth biggest centre in the region of Murcia. During this time there were important urban developments and many significant buildings were built. These included, the Public Market, the Piñon House and the Rosario House. However, there were outbreaks of violence in the period from 1898 to 1916 as a result of the social tensions caused by the poor working conditions.

A crisis in the minerals sector was made much worse by the First World War and the problems continued into the period of the Spanish Civil War. By 1950, the population had been reduced, largely by migration, to only 10,000 inhabitants. From then on, however, there was a modernisation of the methods of extraction, with the introduction of open-cast quarries and differential flotation washing. However, in 1991 all mining ceased and two millenniums of activity came to an end.

© Copyright 2008 Squealia, All Rights Reserved

Artwork Comments

  • muckypup
  • Squealia
  • Xandru
  • Squealia
  • Jerame    *
  • Squealia
  • Antanas
  • Squealia
  • Patricia Montgomery
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  • janeymac
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  • handprintz
  • Squealia
  • Alessandro Pinto
  • Squealia
  • Pamela Jayne Smith
  • Squealia
  • Colin Cartwright
  • Squealia
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