Friday, 16 April 2010
A shipwreack story
My father started to work when he was 16 years old or even younger. He was in a kind of apprenticeship in Astano, combining working hours and study. Astano is a shipyard located in Fene, Galicia by the river Juvia estuary. By those times late 50's In order to get a job it was necessary to have the approval from the village priest. I am not sure if this was the case of my father as he had the approval and recommendation from his own uncle. His uncle was the owner of the main wood supplier carpentry company for Astano. His uncle was a very respectable citizen by those Franco times. But he was a good person and I adored him myself.
My father had another uncle who was working for a newspaper, El Ideal Gallego. He had a brief work experience there too. He told me once that this was the job he would have liked. His mother did not think the same. Astano was closer to my grandparents house and my grandmother did not want my father to move out. My father would have had to move to A Corunha to his uncle's in case he wanted to work for the newspaper.
In those times and due to his age and character my father felt obliged to follow my granny's orders.
Astano was booming by the time my father started to work in there, late 50's early 60's. The First State development plan made huge investments in Ferrolterra .
Astano benefited from it, improving its installations. From that period is the huge blue crane placed in the shipyard . An impressive and suggestive sight of my childhood. It looked to me like a bridge to nowhere.
Astano was building many different kinds of ships but specialized in civilian or cargo ships, also on fishing ships. The fishing industry is very big in Galicia. For military ships there was Bazan which was almost opposite in the ria to Astano but in the Ferrol side. In short time Astano was going to specialize in the construction of large oil tankers2.
Ironic as it is, those large oil containers were going to crash and spill their cargo, thus contaminating the Galician coast periodically, killing the flora and fauna, almost every five/ten years.
Polycomander 1970, oil.
Urquiola 1976, oil.
Cason 1987, chemical products including 1430 drums of 126 tons of sodium.
Mar Egeo 1992
Dad got used to his new life pretty soon, he was studying and working,:making money and new friends, becoming a man. He was never good at manual work but he was an excellent administrative and in those early days very good at networking. I think life was looking good and promising for him. Even if he did not get the job he wanted.
He met my mum and married, soon afterward I was born .
At the same time constant pollution and degradation of the environment were taking over their area. Pontes CCGT plant and Meirama combined their efforts, mining and burning coal, to better contaminate the air and rivers. Worth to mention is the destruction of river beds like Eume by sucking their sand which was to be used in the construction sector. I witnessed all with disgust but without fully understanding the consequences. I do now. This was called progress.
I have a brother, he is ten years younger than me. By the time my mum was pregnant with my brother the prosperity and progress dream bubble exploded. Astano was in crisis, it could not compete with other similar shipyards located in countries were human labor was much cheaper.
There were many meetings, mobilizations, strikes, committees, occupations, unions selling out and etc, etc, all of it was for nothing. The whole process killed my father's spirit, dreams and way of life. It was the 80's and the word was reconversion. Reconversion meant lots of people loosing their jobs and the decay of the whole area. Astano was not an isolated case. People did not have money to spend nor to pay their debts. Debt collectors started to knock at the doors, and many business closed due to lack of customers. Recession and depression took over, I grow up in this atmosphere of no hope.
Sadly, there were more bad news, after a visit to the doctor my father knew he would soon completely loose his sight. He retired prematurely from his endangered work. He never recovered his high spirits and died of cancer during his fifties.
Love you dad, fuck you economy and progress .
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