Cante de las Minas International Festival
For all of you who are fond of Flamenco, one of the most representative musical styles of Spain, you shouldn’t miss the Cante de las Minas International Festival in La Unión, an old mining town that is considered to be the Mecca of the flamenco in Spain.
The Festival was born in 1961 when, during a performance by Juanito Valderrama, he started singing a traditional cartagenera (a flamenco music form). The audience of La Unión didn’t receive this very well and started demanding his more commercial repertoire, to what the artist reacted by reproaching the audience for their little appreciation of the almost forgotten music of their own region. This happening awoke the conscience of a group of men who decided to recover the local tradition, and for those means they organized a Cante (the name given to singing in flamenco) contest.
The original idea was to celebrate the contest during the local festivities in the month of October. The Cante de las Minas International Festival was held at a cinema until 1979, when it moved to the venue where it takes place today, the Old Public Market, now known as “the Cathedral of Cante”. Throughout these years (1961-1979), the contest gained notoriety and became a proper Festival, and also moved from October to August, in order to attract a wider audience that could use their summer holidays to visit the Festival.
The festival was first conceived as a singing contest only, but in 1980 a guitar contest was introduced, and in 1990 a third section was presented: a flamenco dance contest. Nowadays, there is even a fourth competition for flamenco instrumentalists, which was first held in 2009. The festival is open to both amateur and professional artists, and the prize is called the “Mining Lamp”, whose first winner was Antonio Piñana.
In 1991, when the last mine shut down in La Unión, the event went through some struggle to stay alive. Not only did the organizers overcome these difficulties, but after these hard times the festival opened up to a wider, more international audience. The festival is nowadays a benchmark for the flamenco world, and the international presence in the festival is each year more representative. The Festival has also made a timid opening to the influence of other musical genres, always mixed with a flamenco basis, like classical music, jazz and experimentalism, which can be better reflected in the dance contest section, more prone to renovation.
Throughout its history, the biggest and most recognized flamenco stars have performed at this Festival, like Paco de Lucía, Camarón, José Menese, Calixto Sánchez, Antonio Canales or Manolo Sanlucar. Other younger artists like Mayte Martín or Miguel Poveda have made a name for themselves through their performances at this Festival.
The reasons of the Cante de las Minas International Festival to exist were, basically: the competitive aspect that had the intention of promoting new talents in flamenco, and the recovery and diffusion of the tradition of those cantes, trying to restore them to the privileged position they used to hold. Nowadays, those objectives have been fulfilled, having reassessed flamenco and its cantes, both inside and outside of Spain. Aside the main events of the festival, many other activities take place, such as gastronomic journeys, exhibitions, courses, conferences and projections.