Guarding a Tradition of Progress:
The Miners of Asturias

Cathi McGill gives historical context to the miners’ protests in 2012 and describes the threat to their livelihoods from globalisation and austerity measures


The opening words of a popular song from the 1960s reflect the near-mythical status achieved by the collective actions of the miners in Asturias, that small, poor and remote province in the north of Spain. The unity and determination of the people of the cuencas mineras – the mining valleys – were already well-known from their short-lived revolution in the run-up to the Spanish civil war.

In 1962-63, the miners inspired not only the song, but workers in other industries across Spain, who began to organise in ways that were punishable by prison under the Franco dictatorship. On both occasions, they used whatever methods were available to them, and they had the complete support of their towns and villages, where everyone depended on the mines for their livelihood.

In Spring 2012 the miners of Asturias appeared for a third time, bursting on to TV screens around the world, masked and firing home-made rockets, setting alight barricades of tyres on motorways and marching to Madrid in protest. Eighty years ago the talk was of marching on Madrid – under arms. How did we get from there to here..?

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