Lys Arango (ES) "The River Ran Black" - Helphoto 2023




The River Ran Black
Lys Arango’s grandparents settled in the mining basin of Asturias, Spain in the 1950s, a time when coal mining was the engine of economic development in the region. Her father grew up in these narrow valleys surrounded by mountains, where the river ran black and where the sound of the siren announced the descent of the workers into the depths of the Earth.

From 1985 began a great cycle of general strikes intended to prevent the industrial desertification of the mining basins. Despite this movement, Spain’s entry into the European Economic Community triggered the countdown to the definitive closure of the mines. In 2023, the San Nicolás mine will cease its activity, sealing the end of the history of coal in Spain.

This decline has marked the landscape and the population. The rusting mining towers still stand as nature reclaims the space. In the villages, hundreds of houses and businesses have closed their shutters. Young people leave for lack of job prospects and those who stay remember with nostalgia the years when the region attracted workers from all over Spain, and when a strong associative life flourished.

Today in Asturias the media spotlight has gone out for good. Born in Madrid, far from these northern lands loaded with the symbolism of the workers’ struggle, Lys decided to return to the place where her paternal family was born, to photograph the end of an era and collect the stories of the last miners.

Today the river runs clean and yet, every day, there are fewer people to admire it.

Lys Arango is a Spanish photographer and writer based in Paris, France. She is a graduate in International Relations from the University of Liverpool and holds a master’s degree in journalism from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Lys tackles humanitarian issues, exploring how they converge in a historical and cultural context. She has worked on assignments for international NGOs, the UN, and between 2016 and 2019 she worked in 17 countries immersed in deep food crises. Her work has been published among others by CNN, The Independent, BBC News, Le Monde, El País and Marie Claire Magazine. 

Lys Arango (ES) "The River Ran Black" - Helphoto 2023
Lys Arango (ES) "The River Ran Black" - Helphoto 2023