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The Miners’ Strike of 1934

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A couple years before the Spanish Civil War, a mini-revolution would rock Asturias and Oviedo. The Miners’ Strike of 1934, or the Revolución de Asturias, lasted just two weeks but resulted in a lot of carnage. It was one of the first indications that the bad blood between “The Two Spains” was about to boil over.

In 1933, Conservatives swept to power in national elections, freaking out the leftist parties: the Socialists, Communists, Anarchists and the labor unions. In response, a general strike was called across the country. Though it failed miserably in most of Spain due to poor organization and decisive police action against leaders, Asturians were determined to see it through. Workers from mining towns banded together and marched on Oviedo. They encountered little resistance, and captured almost all of Asturias in a short time.

The strike really was more of a revolution, if we can understand that to mean an armed group of discontents overthrowing a democratically elected government. The workers were strongly anticlerical, and over 30 priests were executed during the revolution’s course. The Cámara Santa was dynamited, and churches burnt to the ground.

The rebels weren’t able to long enjoy the fruits of their conquests, however. The national government soon sent in General Francisco Franco, who quickly quashed the revolt with his trademark brutality. 75,000 miners were arrested and 3000 killed in the fighting. Presaging the Civil War which would come a couple years later, in-fighting between the Communists and Socialists spelled doom for the leftists in Asturias against a more efficient, organized enemy.

Oviedo was devastated by the Miners’ Strike. The University building was badly damaged, with the irreplaceable loss of much of its library. The Cathedral and the center of city were heavily injured. Reconstruction would last years, right until the start of the Civil War, when the city was again almost destroyed.

Phew. I’m happy we live in happier times. There’s still quite a bit of tension here… the Church is much more political than I’m used to in the States, and strikes have a more aggressive tone… but generally Spain seems to have figured out how to get along with itself. And I think everyone can be relieved by that.

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October 4, 2010 at 6:34 pm Comments (5)

The Museum of Mining and Industry in El Entrego

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While we were in Oviedo, I found myself thinking a lot about mining for the first time in my life. The trapped Chilean miners were making headlines worldwide, a miner’s strike was big news in Spain. But once I started considering the profession, I couldn’t turn my mind off it. The vulgar exploitation of both workers and the earth for the further enrichment of corporations makes the mining industry the zenith of human greed and misery. There’s something grotesquely romantic about it.

El Entrego

Coal mining is woven immutably into Asturian history and we decided to spend a rainy day by visiting the museum dedicated to it. 45 minutes from Oviedo by train, in the valley town of El Entrego, is the Museum of Mining and Industry (The MUMI), the second-most visited museum in the principality.

For centuries, coal mining has been one of the principal economic activities of Asturias, especially in the cuenca: the coal-rich valley of the river Nalón. The abundance of “black gold” made Asturias one of Spain’s most prosperous regions for a long time, but the boom ended a couple decades ago. The mines are still active, but the pall of economic hardship on the mining villages is unmistakable.

The museum is fascinating. The top attraction is a “simulated” mine, about which I had been skeptical, but was pleasantly impressed with. If you didn’t know it was fake (and didn’t touch the plastic walls), you might really believe you’d descended hundreds of meters underground. The half-hour long tour of the mine introduces the devices and explosives used to excavate coal, as well as some of the daily dangers which miners faced, and does so with a degree of clarity which would be impossible in a real mine.

Above ground, the museum boasts a number of exhibits, some hands-on, which demonstrate the contraptions used in mining operations: humans who would walk in giant hamster wheels to raise water buckets, the introduction of the steam engine, and of course the singing canary. Visitors are also given a thorough, and disgusting, overview of the illnesses often suffered by workers in the days before health regulations.

The museum recommends two and a half hours for a visit, and that’s not an exaggeration. We found ourselves needing even more time. The MUMI is great; one of the can’t-miss museums in Asturias.

Location of the Museo de la Minería y de la Industria
Official Webiste

Museum Coal Asturias
Coal Mine Tour
Coal Mine
Train Coal Asturias
Mumi
Coal Mine Asturias
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Human Hamster Wheel
Mining Industry
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September 18, 2010 at 3:13 pm Comments (2)
The Miners' Strike of 1934 A couple years before the Spanish Civil War, a mini-revolution would rock Asturias and Oviedo. The Miners' Strike of 1934, or the Revolucin de Asturias, lasted just two weeks but resulted in a lot of carnage. It was one of the first indications that the bad blood between "The Two Spains" was about to boil over.
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