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La Unión (Municipality, Region of Murcia, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-04-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of La Unión - Image by Ivan Sache, 5 May 2015

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Presentation of La Unión

The municipality of La Unión (19,452 inhabitants in 2014; 2,460 ha; municipal website) is located in the south-east of the Region of Murcia, 50 km of Murcia and 10 km of Cartagena.

La Unión was connected all along the history with mines of lead, silver, zinc and iron. Mining is documented back to the Prehistoric (Mina Balsa and Atalaya) and Iberian (Cabezo Agudo) times. The Romans industrialized the activity, employing up to 40,000 slaves in the mines; the villa of Huerto del Paturro (1st century BC - 3rd century), discovered in Portmán (Latin, Portus Magnus, the Big Port), is considered as one of the most important Roman remains in the Region of Murcia.
Mining then disappeared until 1840, when underground extraction of ore allowed the establishment of furnaces and forges. Hundreds of immigrants came from the Province of Almería (Andalusia). The demographic boom prompted separation from Cartagena: Garbanzal, Herrerías, Portmán and Roche formed the new municipality of Valle de El Garbanzal, established on 1 January 1860. Following quarrels between the inhabitants of the two main settlements, Garbanzal and Herrerías, the young municipality was renamed La Unión in 1868.
The local economy, however, remained flimsy and submitted to boom-and-bust cycles, being totally dependent of the variations of the prices of ore at the London stock exchange.

La Unión experienced its Gilded Age at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries; in 1908, La Unión was the 4th most populous municipality in the Region of Murcia, with 35,000 inhabitants. The town was then rearranged, with the building of the Market Hall, of the Town Hall and of the Church of the Rosary. At the time, the hard working conditions caused social unrest, especially in 1898 and 1916.
The mining crisis caused the decline of the town after the First World War, aggravated during the Civil War. Emigration caused the population of La Unión to decrease down to 10,000 in 1950. Technological modernization (opencast extraction and washing by differential floating) reactivated the mines, which were eventually closed in 1991, ending two millenniums of mining activity in the region.

La Unión is the birth town of the writer Andrés Cegarra Salcedo (1894-1928). Cegarra founded in 1912 the review Juventud, signing his articles as "Salvador Gómez" or "Marcial Berroeta"; from 1912 to 1914, he directed the Worker's School, aimed at providing education to the orphans and the miner's children. Left totally paralyzed in 1915, Cegarra hardly left his birth town, where he was remembered as "always optimist and cheerfully friendly". He dictated his further tales, poems and articles (Sombras, Gaviota y otros ensayos, La Unión, ciudad minera) to his sister María. In 1918, Cegarra presented his play Olvidar in the town's theatre and initiated with Pedro García Valdés the "Editorial Levante" project, aimed at popularizing the works of the local writers of the time.
Encouraged by her brother, María Cegarra Salcedo (1899-1993) taught chemistry, being the first women in Spain to be awarded the title of perito (expert).in chemistry. A noted poet, she was a close friend of Carmen Conde (1907-1996), the first women enrolled in the Royal Academy of Spanish Language, and of the poet and playwright Miguel Hernández (1910-1942).

Ivan Sache, 5 May 2015

Symbols of La Unión

The flag of La Unión (photo, photo) is white with the municipal coat of arms in the center.

The coat of arms of La Unión is prescribed by Decree No. 1,600, adopted on 26 June 1975 by the Spanish Government and published on 18 July 1975 in the Spanish official gazette, No. 171, p. 15,310 (text).
The "rehabilitated" coat of arms, which was validated by the Royal Academy of History, is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Per pale, 1. Gules a miner's lamp or superimposed to a sledgehammer sable and a pickaxe of the same crossed per saltire, 2. Azure a mount argent with a mine gallery sable ensigned by five bees argent per saltire. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown closed.

The 1st quarter features miner's tools. The 2nd quarter features the ore mountain (Sierra Minera), while the bees are a symbol of relentless work.
The arms were originally adopted on 25 August 1926 by the Municipal Council, as proposed by the chief of the town's militia (somatén). During the Holy Week, the penitents carry miner's tools and lamps during the processions.
[Entre Pueblos, 6 February 2010]

Ivan Sache, 5 May 2015