Out of Darkness: Miners celebrate

A simple tribute to the miners of Orgiva on Santa Barbara day, 1 December

The first explosions went off at 9.00 am, while we were having breakfast. The dog leapt onto one chair and I fell off the other, then we clung to each other for comfort.

In town, police cordons festooned the street in front of the cathedral. In the Plaza, a huge tent was setting up lunch for around 100 diners. Had Christmas come early? For a select few, yes.

The 1st of December celebrates Santa Barbara. She is the patron saint of miners, and anyone who works with cannons and explosives. And at one time, half the men in our mountain town of Orgiva, south of Granada, worked in the nearby mines of the Sierra Lújar. They were continuing a tradition that stretched back 3000 years to Phoenician times, and only ended in 1989.

In his informative and entertaining blog, “Because They’re There” climber and muser Alen McFadzean writes about the history of the mines, and shares copious photos from his exploration of the area. Once yielding lead ore, silver and other minerals, the mines have now reopened to liberate the fluorospar, used in the Basque steel industry.

Alen went up to around 3,000 feet so you don’t have to, and I warmly recommend reading his account and seeing the photos.

Anyway, on our way back through town, we asked the growing crowd of bystanders around the church, whether the saint was coming out for a procession. “No,” said the elderly lady next to me, her eyes shining with anticipation. “They’re going to let off a socking great pile of firecrackers now.”

Fred and I made a run for it as the explosions began, and just reached our front door in time for the dog to hurl himself into my arms again.

Still, a happy day in Orgiva, for the remaining 30 or so miners and their families to reminisce about the joys and sorrows of mining life, and we wish them many more Sta. Barbara celebrations!

Photo: (With thanks to Fred Shively)


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