The Mayor of La Union and Executive Chairman of the Cante de las Minas Foundation, Francisco Bernabé, and Deputy Mayor of Culture and Director of the International Festival del Cante de las Minas, Julio García, today personally visited miner Salvador Galián Pérez and the widow of miner Ginés Segura Peñaranda, Carmen Roca Olmos. This visit took place as a prologue to the official tribute scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 6th, as part of the “Day of La Unión” International Festival del Cante de las Minas opening.
As is traditional each year, La Unión presents its compliments to a miner and a miner’s widow in memory of the sacrifices made in the development of this difficult profession which today is a past all the people of La Unión are proud of.
In this personal visit, Francisco Bernabé expressed the “immense satisfaction felt by La Unión upon paying tribute to our miners and their widows, for in this way we do justice and reconcile us all to our past, which, after all is no more than the world of the mine and the people who worked there”.
Miner Salvador Galián Perez was born in 1939 in El Algar. It was 1958 when he was just 19 years and “still practically a child”, he began his work in the “Tranvía” mine to extract silver, sphalerite and pyrite, around the time when Esteban Bernal, future Mayor of La Unión, was the owner of the mine.
Lively and full of anecdotes, Salvador tells us what his years in the mine were like: “I started working there because there was nothing else,” remembers Salvador, who admits that working conditions were very harsh, “you went down in a bucket into the well and there were galleries, and you had to fill buckets with material to send up to the street; it was very hard, with hammers, we had to throw it over our shoulders or head to remove it.”.
Trembling, he takes out a cracked old photograph to show us a scene in which some half-dressed young people are seen; he is among them, and he says “all these ones here, they’re all dead but me”.
The thing is, that despite his long hard life, Salvador can be considered a lucky man. Except for some non-serious accidents at work, this miner has cheated silicosis of a victim, and has reached the age of 74 with good enough health that still allows him to joke about it: “If I had had the sickness, I’d be dead and buried by now” .
He moved to La Unión 54 years ago out of love for his wife, María Melgarejo Aznar, with whom he had 9 children. Following the closure of the mine in La Unión, he moved to Mazarrón to continue working in another mining operation, the Pedreras mine. As head of household, Salvador devoted his mornings to working in the mine, and evenings to working in the fields. “You had to make as much money as possible, and salaries were not very high”.
After eleven difficult years, Salvador left the mine to start working in the city hall of La Unión, where he said he worked as “everything: undertaker, butcher, sweeper …”
Even having lived a more quiet life until his retirement in 2003, Salvador proudly declares that if he had the chance to go back in time and had the opportunity, he would work in the mine without thinking twice: “of course I would , fearlessly, since I already know what that is, so yeah, I’d do it”.
The life of Carmen Roca Olmos has also been very hard. She was married to miner Ginés Segura Peñaranda, who died in October last year at the age of 82, victim of the notorious “miners’ disease”, silicosis. Born in La Unión in 1931, from early on he worked in the mines of the Penyarroya company, “Brunita” and “Gloria”.
Carmen and Ginés began courting when she was just 14 and he 18. The boy began to visit his girlfriend every day in El Algar, her hometown, until they decided to embark on a life together and a long marriage that lasted 64 years. From this union were born three children, two girls and a boy.
His widow says that Ginés always chose “the worst digs” to make more money, about 1,000 pesetas a week in the decade of the 60s. Ginés also worked at the mine to help finance the medical treatment of a sister, ill with tuberculosis.
For 15 years this native of La Unión devoted his life to extracting ore from the Sierra, enduring high temperatures, difficult breathing and suffocating humidity. Until a brother of his emigrated to Barcelona, and took him along with him.
The children of Carmen and Ginés grew up in the Catalan city for 30 years. And it was towards the end of the 90s when the sickness of Carmen’s mother forced them to return to La Unión. Ginés had been retired for a long time, and his wish, and that of his entire family, was to return to their hometown.
Carmen remembers emotionally how Ginés loved the mine despite everything. His musical idol, and that of his wife, could be none other than Antonio Molina. And his favorite song, “Soy Minero.” A hymn that this tireless woman, full of life at age 78, cannot listen to without being overcome with emotion.
The miner’s widow honored this year greatly appreciates the recognition of the Festival del Cante de las Minas, but assures us she would have appreciated it more if this honor had been received while her husband was alive. Out of modesty and love for her spouse, Carmen says: “He deserved it more”.