Wednesday, August 10

From banners and cauldrons to the novel, the fight against the Riaño reservoir is still alive asking for its emptying

At a time when hydroelectric power plants emptying swamps to obtain large economic returns generates great controversy, there is a reservoir that many would like to see completely emptied by the suffering and destruction that its construction entailed more than three decades ago. The one in Riaño, in the province of León. Become a symbol of the environmental struggle in a Spain in which the value of the conservation of the environment was hardly known at that time.

The old Riaño flooded under the waters of a reservoir revives on Facebook 35 years later

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34 years after the complete destruction of the Riaño valley and the total or partial flooding of 9 localities (Anciles, Burón, Éscaro, Huelde, La Puerta, Pedrosa del Rey, Salio, Riaño and Vegacerneja) and the expulsion of their neighbors. , the fight against the reservoir becomes a novel by the hand of Alfonso González Matorra. This Saturday he presents his first literary work at the (new) Riaño, ‘Tocan las campanas a Concejo’ (Letrame Grupo Editorial).

In his novel, with the subtitle of ‘Riaño, the dream’, the author pays tribute “to the countrymen of the earth, to my ancestors and to the people with whom I have lived since I was a child.” In it, he fictionalizes what happened in a town -Riángulo- that is shocked to find itself in a conflict that will lead to their disappearance. Through the president of the Council, the ancestral Leonese system of government in town, Honorio Balbuena, tells the story of how the so-called ‘progress’ abruptly devastates a way of life. Any resemblance to reality is always more than possible.

The intention of the author, also known as ‘Fonso’ or his pseudonym Agustín Lasai, is that the history of Riaño’s struggle does not fall into oblivion. “When young people speak of defending nature it is important, but we must not forget that the reservoir (of Riaño) has been the greatest ecological and social attack in this country. And we have to retrace this path, without resentment, so that this disappears, “he explains. His desire, “to recover the valley and rebuild a town in the image and likeness would be a milestone, and it is possible, even if it is emptying it into cauldrons.”

González Matorra is, in addition to the author of this novel, one of the mountain people who most resisted against the construction of the Riaño reservoir. He was one of the 3 young people who, in the early morning of July 6 to 7, 1987, warned the people that the military was arriving to occupy the valley, evict their neighbors and demolish all the houses. The beginning of the end of the Riaño valley, whose water filling began on December 31 of that same year. Years later, after healing the internal wounds caused by the drama of being expelled from their homes, he promoted the Platform for the Recovery of the Riaño Valley, which has claimed the emptying of the reservoir beyond a utopia. “My soul lit up, I had been asleep for 20 years, and I have been carrying the cauldron for 15 years,” recalls the new writer.

And this novel is a new form of struggle for ‘Fonso’ González Matorra. If in recent years he promoted the movement of emptying the swamp ‘cauldron by cauldron’, giving away metal cauldrons to personalities so that they would understand the need for their emptying, now it does so in novel format. “It is a novel, but it includes a reflection and feeling, a lot of dedication and a lot of care”, he points out to highlight that “I have been with the cauldron for a long time, and after the disappointments and joys I wanted to show another facet to show in another way the desire I have for the swamp to disappear. I wanted to make my claim but in a slightly more literary way. We are still in the war but in a different way ”.

Although Balbuena is one of the main threads, the novel is a choral work, where the spaces of towns and landscapes take their own prominence. González Matorra acknowledges that “It is a story that can be perfectly real, but from the point of view of the feeling of admiration and recollection. Also with the ingredient of the fight, of something hard that changes the destiny of the people, the conflict that everyone faces to save the mountain and their way of life ”. The farmer and rancher Balbuena has to make important decisions as president of the town that he never suspected before that he was going to have to make. A situation that many faced in the mountains of León more than 30 years ago.

In recent years, Riaño’s activism has been changing, which González Matorra himself acknowledges, “I am no longer so active in raising the banner but we continue to do the same but in a different way.” Now through social networks, especially an active Facebook group Riaño Vivo, the history of the town and the towns that were flooded under the waters are remembered.

Currently Riaño is experiencing, for its part, a great tourist moment. In the town, the recreational use of the reservoir has been promoted with initiatives in the heat of the claim of the ‘Leonese fjords’, in addition to tourist claims such as the ‘most beautiful bank of León’ or a giant swing, of great success, or even being able to do a safari with bison. And at this point ‘Fonso’ values ​​that “Riaño can be successful even with a swamp, but without a swamp it would be the ostia.” And he does not lose hope of its emptying, since “no one should take for granted that this is forever, we must make it disappear (the swamp) because it no longer makes sense.”