La Unión is a municipality of about 19,000 inhabitants enclosed by the municipality of Cartagena on all sides except the south, where it borders the Mediterranean.
The most important aspect of the town is both historical and geographical: the mines, their exploitation the focal point around which the History of La Unión revolves..
For over 2000 years the mines of the Sierra Minera, which stretches from Cartagena to Cabo de Palos were exploited for their reserves of minerals. The Romans tunnelled deep into the hillsides 2000 years ago, and the process ended with open cast mining gouging the landscape, millions of tons of waste material dumped into Portmán bay and in the area surrounding the town. In 1991 the mines finally closed when there were too few minerals left to make continued activity economically viable.
However, the town is now capitalising on the traditions brought by the Andalucian miners who came to work in the mines, their cante, the songs of the mines, the music of flamenco, music which fills the old Mercado Público, el Catedral del Cante, and the Festival Internacional del Cante de las Minas.
A new flamenco school aims to develop the tradition of flamenco in the town, a new Café Cantante is planned and work is underway to build a sustainable all year round tourism industry based on flamenco.
In addition, the town has developed the Parque Minero, a mining park with the stunning Mina Agrupa Vicenta at its heart, and the town also has a Mining Museum, the Matildes Mine and a flamenco museum, as well as the various options for those who wish to explore the mining landscape around the town.
On the outskirts of the town is Portmán Bay, with one recovered beach and plans approved to regenerate the bay and remove the sterile wastes dumped during the mining process, developing the area for residential tourism.
The Cante de las Minas is the other important attraction of La Unión, the most prestigious celebration and competition relating to Flamenco in Spain, filling the historic old marketplace, the Catedral del Cante with flamenco every summer. Parallel to this, the town is also developing its potential with the addition of a flamenco school, and regular flamenco performances in the mine itself.
Click for map, La Unión