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November 7, 2010

Today we went to Aracena, about an hour northwest of Sevilla in Huelva province. It was a really nice day trip. Other than the land that has been absolutely destroyed by copper mining, the landscape is pretty breathtaking, in a very picturesque Spanish countryside kind of way.

That is especially true around the town of Aracena, and we will get there, but first, we visited one of the mines. I had seen sited very similar on a hike a went on quite a few weeks ago (I am not sure I ever got around to talking about it on here. I was a little torn up about the land still destroyed after centuries left to recover, and it was hard for me to process. I got really angry.) But this was a little more extreme:

The water – part of the Rio Tinto – is bright, bright red from all of the metals and oxidation.

We also got to go down into the mine, and wear colorful hard hats. So that was fun!

Our guide telling up about the mine. In his hard hat.

The mining region in Huelva along the Riot Tinto and nearby is pretty interesting. The land near the river is super barren and nothing can live there. NASA thinks that any water on Mars would be like that in the river, so they have done a lot of tests in the area.

I have heard conflicting information about the role of humans this barrenness. The guides that I was on the hike with told us that the mining played a major part in polluting the river, but our guide today told us that the river has always had this super high acidity and metalic content just because of the way the land is. I am sure both know their stuff. And I am trying not to be mad at today’s guide for denouncing any human influence, which I generally find pretty annoying. But seeing giant mines like this one, and how barren the land is until it suddenly turns into forest, it’s obvious that the landscape has been dramatically changed because of the mining.

It’s something that struck me both times, and that made me kind of emotional. It’s frustrating not only because such extreme degradation occurs, but also because no one else in the tour groups seems to react to it. It worries me.

I understand the necessity of mining for industrialization, and everything. I know I don’t have any answers to any problem. It has just really scared me to see how drastically we’ve changed the landscape in a more immediate context than cities.

Aracena, the town, was really cute. All the buildings are white and very typically pueblo, except there were these really cool modern art statues everywhere. Of course I didn’t take any pictures, but in every plaza I went to there were modern statues in varying styles.

The region around Aracena is really known for its jamón ibérico – ham from pigs that are exclusively fed acorns. We ordered some in the restaurant we went to, but the waiter didn’t bring it in time! Big bummer. I’ll try to find some here, I guess.

A pig statue across from the Ham Museum. You bet.

In Aracena there is also this huge cave, the main tourist attraction in the town – next to the ham and the ham museum, probably. It is gigantic and absolutely incredible. And photos aren’t allowed inside. So all I have to share with you is a postcard Amy bought (I didn’t see them! Aaah!) of the Sala Desnuda – Naked Room – and you will just have to try to make that out in the postcard. The name is quite fitting, and that is all I will say.

I will leave you with some photos from the window of the bus on the way home. So pretty.

I was in Granada on Friday and Saturday – busy weekend – and once I go through all my pictures I will get those posted!

Teaching starts Tuesday! Eek!

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