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Villablino (Municipality, Castilla y León, Spain)

Last modified: 2016-04-23 by ivan sache
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Flag of Villablino - Image by Antonio Gutiérrez (VexiLeon website), 15 March 2015

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Presentation of Villablino

The municipality of Villablino (9,784 inhabitants in 2014, therefore the 7th most populated municipality in the province; 22,823 ha; municipal website) is located in the north-west of the Province of León, on the border with Asturias, 110 km of León. The municipality is made of the town of Villablino (5,782 inh.) and of the villages of Caboalles de Abajo (1,230 inh.), Caboalles de Arriba (444 inh.), Lumajo (88 inh.), Llamas de Laciana (48 inh.), Orallo (226 inh.), Rabanal de Abajo (53 inh.), Rabanal de Arriba (40 inh.), Rioscuro (180 inh.), Robles de Laciana (126 inh.), Sosas de Laciana (178 inh.), Villager de Laciana (550 inh.), El Villar de Santiago (86 inh.), and Villaseca de Laciana (96 inh.).

Villablino is the main town in north-western León and the capital of the Laciana district. The town boomed in the early 20th century when coal extraction was industrialized. Prior to 1900, coal manually gathered was transported on carts to Ponferrada. Land traditionally dedicated to agriculture and cattle-breeding was very reluctantly assigned to coal miners.
The First World War caused an increase of 275% in the price of coal, prompting the Spanish government to find new local sources of coal. Minister Francisco Cambó ordered in 1918 the large-scale exploitation of the coal deposits of Laciana; the Sociedad Anónima Minero Siderúrgica de Ponferrada (MSP) was established on 31 October 1918, with an initial capital of 30 millions pesetas, while 4,800 workers were hired to build a railway connecting Villablino to Ponferrada. Due to the Spanish flu, only 1,200 workers could actually come, which did not prevent the first train to enter the station of Villablino on 23 July 1919. Three years later, the train transported 279.505 t of coal to Ponferrasa, 70% of them extracted from the MSP mines. The journey from Villablino to Ponferrada lasted 3 hours and 20 minutes.
The notables of Villablino developed the mining industry according to the norms of the times, establishing a miner's estate (La Minero) quite far from the downtown but providing the miners with good conditions of work, expecting them to boost the local trade. In the 1960s, the mining company massively hired Portuguese workers to compensate for the decrease in local manpower. In 1975, 4,000 Portuguese worked in the mines, subsequently joined by immigrants from Cape Verde, who established a significant African community (c. 1,000 people).

The mining company, then one of the most important private mining companies in the country, started to decline in the 1980s. The steam locomotives, the last to be operated in Europe, were replaced in 1980 by diesel-powered locomotives. The restructuration of the mining company started in 1992. On 7 March, a thousand of miners started the Black March (Marcha Negra), which ended 18 days later in Madrid in a huge street demonstration, the 500 "survivors" of the March being welcomed by more than 15.000 people. The action was less successful than expected but prevented the total closure on the mines; back to Villablino, the marchers "released" the miners that had promised to stay in the Calderón shaft, 300 m underground, until the conflict is solved.

Ivan Sache, 15 March 2015

Symbols of Villablino

The flag of Villablino (photo) is prescribed by a Decree adopted on 26 September 2014 by the Municipal Council, signed on 3 October 2014 by the Mayor, and published on 24 October 2014 in the official gazette of Castilla y León, No. 205, pp. 72,830-72,831 (text).
On 26 January 2014, the Commission of Permanent Information and Survey of the Interior Manpower and Regime proposed to initiate the process of adoption of the municipal flag. Based upon the report submitted on 5 November 2013 by the Integrated Responsible of the municipality, the Mayor ordered on 5 February 2014 the initiation of the process through a call for proposals.
The historic memoir supporting the proposed flag (Reseña histórica sobre el municipio de Villablino – Valle de Laciana) was submitted by Delia Méndez Moreno, B.Sc. in Geography and History.
On 14 April 2014, the Commission of Permanent Information... reviewed the submission made by Óscar Fernández Gatón; the Commission selected two proposals among those submitted by the author, requiring some minor modifications.
On 24 June 2014, the Commission selected proposal "A" submitted by the author on 21 May 2014. The suppression of the red writing "Valle de Laciana" from the central stripe was required, since the 15 villages forming the municipality are already represented by the 15 flowers surrounding the coat of arms. The author agreed on 7 July 2014 to make the required modifications.
The flag, which was approved on 11 August 2014 by the Chronicler of Arms of Castilla y León, is described as follows:

- Dimensions: 2:3
- Arrangement and proportions of the stripes
The flag is made of three horizontal stripes, the two outer, light green, each covering 30.41% of the vertical area, the central white, covering the remaining 39.18%.
In the central part, covering the whole white stripe and slightly more than the two thirds of the green stripes (in vertical dimension), is placed the coat of arms of Laciana, in full colours, surrounded by 15 yellow gritxándana [daffodil] flowers, which represent the 15 villages forming the municipality.
The green and yellow colours are those from the coat of arms of Laciana.

The call for proposals (text) stated that the proposals should include the coat of arms of Laciana (image). This is indeed the municipal shield of arms, surrounded by laurel branches tied beneath the shield by a red knot to which is appended a scroll inscribed with "Laziana".

The coat of arms of Villablino is prescribed by Decree No. 1,159, adopted on 6 May 1971 by the Spanish Government and published on 3 June 1971 in the Spanish official gazette, No. 132, p. 8,930 (text).
The coat of arms is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Azure a cross flory or cantoned by four fleurs-de-lis [or] and two caldrons sable in base waves argent and gules. A bordure gules charged with 10 St. Andrew's crosses [or]. The shield surmounted by a Royal crown.

The Royal Academy of History validated the arms. The memoir supporting the proposal was submitted by Viñayo González, corresponding member of the Academy. The arms are those of the Laciana lineage, known by García de Laciana and Díez de Laciana, among others. The arms have been reportedly used for ages by the Laciana Council, as confirmed by Francisco de Cadenas, another corresponding member of the Academy. The Academy recommended to drop the Cross of St. James flanking the shield on the original proposal of arms, since such an ornament is not suitable on civic arms.
[Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia, 1973, 170, 3]

Ivan Sache, 15 March 2015

Flag proposal


Proposed flag of Villablino - Image by Jose Antonio F. M, 15 March 2015

Juan Manuel Lorenzo shows on the Blog de Laciana y Comarcas Limitrofes a proposal designed by Jose Antonio F. M. Whether this proposal was submitted to the Commission is not stated.
The flag is quite similar to the design eventually adopted, being horizontally divided black-white-green with the coat of arms in the middle. Black represents coal, white represents snow, and green represents the natural environment.

Ivan Sache, 15 March 2015