Postcard from... Asturias


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The Independent Online


You could mistake them for potholes, but the charred bumps across the roads in the rural villages of this autonomous region of Spain are in fact scars from violent protests.

Last summer the mining community shut down the entire valley, laying fires and blockades across the roads, and fighting pitched battles in the hills with Spanish riot police.

This district was built for coal, and lining the thoroughfares are rows of crumbling, tiled houses where lived poor families from the surrounding mountains, Galicia and Portugal were imported in the 19th century to drill the coal seams. But slowly this valley’s coal industry became outdated. 

The legacy of a failed uprising in 1916, two years before the start of Spanish civil war, is spray-painted in communist slogans on bus stops. After more violence and protests in the eighties, many of the newer mines were left derelict.

Now, the fields are pitted with deep crevasses where the land has sunk. The rivers that once ran black are grown over and leafy. Of hundreds of thousands of miners in the valley, barely 8,000 are left. And since last June, when Spain’s central government cut subsidies for the region again, many of these villages will be left empty for good.