The Cante de las Minas Festival in La Union exalts flamenco in its different facets—singing, guitar playing, and dancing—as its own musical genre and originating from these lands. It is a heartfelt acknowledgment of the vicissitudes and hardships to which the miners of the Sierra de Cartagena-La Union were subjected in the 19th century.
It is a great event of flamenco authenticity that sets out to search for new artists and promote young talent. It is an event of International Tourist Interest that has been held since 1978, in the majestic modernist-style building of the old Public Market of La Union.
On October 13, 1961, the year when it was first held, the event was presented only as a singing festival. Later, during the 1980s, it was expanded by the incorporation of the Spanish guitar. Later, in the 1990s, flamenco dancing was added. In recent years, a flamenco instrumentalist section has been added, with the first presentation in 2009.
Flamenco, which has its own traditions and cultural elements, is the absolute owner of this festival. This musical genre is exalted, in both its most classical and pure version and its modern, avant-garde, contemporary versions.
The artists who participate in the festival and who compete for great prizes come from the different provinces of the country. They were selected through a rigorous process that lasts for months.
These selective tests are extremely important because they fulfill the fundamental task of locating, developing, and promoting new values in the country. At the same time, they make it possible to spread this flamenco festival throughout the world.
In its development, the festival advances with presentations that position the contestants until they reach the final three contests. The one referred to as “cante” is the most moving and, therefore, the most prestigious and popular among the public. It is the object of great prestige among the singers who compete for the greatest prize, the “Lámpara Minera”.
The flamenco guitar competition takes place at the same time as the singing competition. The highest distinction awarded is the “Bordón Minero”.
Finally, the third contest is related to flamenco dance. Here, the grace and dexterity of body movements, particularly the feet of the dancers, are tested. The dance is highly colorful due to the design, color, and accessories of the costumes and the complex choreography. The three expressions of flamenco come together in this event.
Also presented at the festival is a set of galas: presentations by the leading exponents and established artists of this musical genre. In addition, during the days of the festival, there are activities of various aspects related to flamenco, such as literary presentations, screenings, exhibitions, and poetry recitals.
The Cante de las Minas Festival in La Union was declared of National Tourist Interest in 1984, and the “Cantes Mineros y de Levante” were recognized as being of Intangible Cultural Interest in 2010. In this same year, this musical genre—the flamenco—was declared of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
The 60th edition of the Cante de las Minas Festival in La Union, which was to take place in August 2020, has been suspended as part of the measures taken to protect the population from the serious threat of Covid-19.
There is a consensus regarding the desire to not hold a low-quality event—one not in accordance with the recognition it has achieved as the most important in the country, as well as with the international prestige it has received.