The Regional Ministry of Culture and Historical Heritage continues the programme Document of the month in the Provincial Historical Archive of Almeria with the exhibition, on this occasion, of the Regulations of the Society of Stonemasons and Marble Workers of Macael, made in 1898.
The presentation of the document and the information that accompanies it was attended by the territorial delegate for Development, Infrastructures, Territorial Planning, Culture and Historical Heritage, Eloísa Cabrera; the director of the centre, María Luisa Andrés; the researcher Andrés Molina, as an expert on the subject and the mayor of Macael, Raúl Martínez, who referred to the proposal promoted for UNESCO to include the Macael marble quarrying in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The delegate reiterated the Andalusian Government’s full support for this initiative and recalled the ceremony for the presentation of the documentation held in June at the headquarters of the Andalusian Government Delegation in Almeria and presided over by the Regional Ministers of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development and Culture and Historical Heritage, Carmen Crespo and Patricia del Pozo.
The initiative, which opens the process to achieve the Unesco distinction, highlights the value of an intangible heritage that encompasses knowledge and techniques (stonemasonry and its associated trades, craftsmen, carters…): craftsmen, carters…), instruments and tools (mortars, sinks, crosses, “cabestranos”…) and cultural spaces (the quarries, the placetas, the workshops, the factories, etc.), together with their oral expressions, social uses and festivities, such as those dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary, the devotion of the stonemasons.
Del Pozo applauded “initiatives that turn heritage into a factor of social cohesion” and announced as a first step, the inclusion of marble quarrying in the Atlas of the Intangible Heritage of Andalusia.
For his part, the Mayor of Macael said during his speech that the declaration by Unesco “would mean the opportunity to make known internationally and guarantee the safeguarding of this culture, which is an identity of the territory and its inhabitants, and which presents particularities that make it unique on a world level: such as the social struggle, throughout history, to maintain the public/communal nature of the quarries” and has stressed that Macael “has a singularity that makes it different from other mining territories, the fact that its quarries belong to the people, it is the town council that holds the ownership of its quarries and is the mining concessionaire, something that only happens in this municipality”.
For Raúl Martínez, this recognition would represent “a paradigm of safeguarding a valuable natural resource thanks to a communal management that has allowed its sustainable use: or constituting one of the few cases in which a mining agglomeration becomes an industrial district that gives it great resilience”.
As the expert and researcher Andrés Molina pointed out during his intervention, in 1898 the Mayor’s Office of Macael denounced the constitution of a clandestine society in the municipality “in which the stonemasons and labourers were forced to register in it and pay an amount that they demanded under different receipts and titles”.
As a result, the court opened a case for illicit association. At this time, there were already one hundred and seventy-four members, mainly stonemasons and marble workers, who had paid four or five monthly dues at the rate of ninety-nine peseta cents a month.
Faced with a situation that could end up with the members in prison, the President of the Society wrote to the Civil Governor, pointing out that the intention was to place “before the Courts honest parents who ignore any malice in the proceedings” and sent him the Statutes, which were approved on 21 March 1899, and the society was constituted under the presidency of Antonio Molina Rueda.
The main purpose of the Society, according to Andrés Molina, was to maintain a contractual relationship and to collect sufficient funds with which to help “those who, being members, were disabled or suffered some mishap in their work that prevented them from working for a predetermined period of time. In addition, every member had the right upon his death to have his burial and coffin paid for by this Society (art. 1)”.
The expert added that “if the Society had a clear regulation with regard to its objectives of covering the risks of illness and death, the needs of the workers would transform its meaning, on the one hand, by acting as a consumer cooperative, on the other hand, by defending the professional and local interests of the stonemasons. Its Social Welfare activity changed at some points into a Consumer Cooperative, a Resistance Society and then a Professional Union, always improving the standard of living of its members”.