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Javier Martin

Veteran Member
First of all, many thanks to Laurie, "peregrina2000" in this phorum, for her work translating it to english.

What follows is a rough translation of the announcement of a march and protest that will take place on the Via de la Plata, between the towns of Santos de Maimona and Villafranca de los Barros, on March 7, 2009. Proponents of the “BALBOA REFINERY,” seek government permission to build directly on the Via de la Plata. The proposal is currently in the Environmental Impact Assessment stage, and this event will raise the voices of those who oppose the refinery for all of the reasons listed below. More information can be found on the website of the Galician Friends of the Camino de Santiago,

International March and Informational Workshop in Support of the Via de la Plata and Sustainable Tourism – REFINERY NO!

March organized for the 7t of March between Santos de Maimona y Villafranca de los Barros.

1.Justification and goals of this meeting: We are calling all of the Friends of the Camino de Santiago, whether they be members of a group or individuals, to march in defense of the integrity and the surroundings of this section of the Via de la Plata. We oppose the polluting project of an oil refinery (known as the “Balboa Refinery”) on the San Jorge Ranch, which is located directly on a segment of the Via de la Plata.

This stretch of the Via de la Plata should be declared a Holding of Cultural Interest. It is also on the list with UNESCO as a preferred candidate for designation as Patrimony of Humanity. We believe in the need for a new model of sustainable development that will produce an orderly and planned land development. The Via de la Plata is an important social, environmental and economic resource that we must protect from brutal and irreversible impacts. Locating a petrochemical plant there would be completely incompatible with those goals.

Another reason for this meeting is that we must protest the administrative-juridical processes that are taking place in our regional, national, and European institutions.

In this march, what is at stake is much of what we love about the different Caminos – beautiful countryside, historical roots, spiritual enrichment, and an opportunity to improve our quality of life. This space, which belongs to all of us, must be protected by us and by the governmental institutions that represent us.

2. This demonstration has no political goals, we are only focusing on the preservation of our historical, spiritual, and natural resources. Various groups have come together to plan the event – the Gallego Friends of the Camino as well as the grass roots local opposition group “REFINERY NO!”

We are open to participation and support by all groups, organizations and individuals who share our goals.

3. Need for the Demonstration against the BALBOA REFINERY

This project is in the preliminary phase, in which its environmental impact is being evaluated by the Minister of the Environment. This means that our chances of stopping the project are much greater now than they will be later, which is why we have convened the demonstration for March 7.

After the developer/promoter (the Alfonso Gallardo Group) submitted its Environmental Impact Statement, a huge public outcry emerged, which produced thousands of criticisms against this project, because of its many negative, critical, and irreversible impacts.

Currently, the Environmental Impact Statement, as well as all of the written opposition (including a petition with more than 1000 signatures), is being evaluated by the bureaucrats in the Ministry of the Environment. This march will be an important way of imposing social pressure on our institutions, including the Spanish Ministries of Environment and Culture and Tourism, the European Union, and UNESCO.

We can identify five major negative impacts of the Balboa Refinery:

1. Health impacts. The towns of Los Santos de Maimona, Villafranca de los Barros, y Fuente del Maestre will be a few kilometers from their carcinogenic emissions.

2. Environmental impacts. Numerous contaminating emissions – CO2; water with high levels of heavy metals, chemicals, and salt; huge use of water in a very dry part of the country.

3. Agricultural impacts. This project is proposed to be built in an area of extreme agricultural importance, principally in the cultivation of olives and grapes (for wine production).

4. Impact on the Cultural Patrimony of the Via de la Plata. This is one of the most important Caminos, recognized internationally. We seek to preserve this space for our social and spiritual development, a space for friendship among all peoples, a Camino without borders and for peace.

5. Tourism impacts. The historical importance of the Via de la Plata means that it is ripe for development of infrastructure for tourism. Development of the refinery would put a dirty, smelly, smoky, noisy and unhealthy industry right in the showcase of one of our most important cultural, natural and touristic treasures.

4. Brief description of the BALBOA REFINERY

The refinery will sit right on the Via de la Plata. This type of industry is categorized by the Environmental Ministry as one of the 5 most polluting industries. This means that the pilgrim or tourist will see a huge cap of smoke that will dirty the blue horizon and raise the questions – Are the yellow arrows sending me to that dirty black city? Didn’t they tell me that the Via de la Plata was a beautiful place, where I would find culture and nature, spiritual enrichment, and opportunities for sport?

Step by step, the pilgrim will approach the doors of the petrochemical plant. Condemned, like prisoners, we will have to enter their ditry jail. For two long kilometers, we will have to walk through the heart of a polluting petroleum refinery. And even more shocking, this is only the tip of the iceberg, because the developers have plans for a larger petrochemical complex than the one initially proposed.

Only 5 meters from our heads they have planned three large bridges for hundreds of trucks carrying flammible materials, for intense vehicular traffic of all types; in addition, innumerable pipelines; all of this accompanied by dangerous smoke, petrochemical smells, dangerous visual impacts, intolerable heat generated by the microclimate created in the surroundings of the refinery. Although the plans show that the path will still be open for pilgrims to traverse, we will enter into the bowels of a black city of smoke, iron, and bad smells between huge factories (50-90 meters tall), huge chimneys spewing pollution, etc. Pilgrims, hikers, bicyclists, tourists would have to travel for two unending kilometers stuck in the iron and serious pollution; surrounded by a totally polluting atmosphere. This would irreparably damage the Via de la Plata, destroying its cultural, natural, and spiritual elements.


Starting and ending point of the march: We will march between the two towns that will be most heavily affected by this refinery. We will walk the 15 kilometers between Los Santos de Maimona and Villafranca de los Barros. We will stop to protest at the exact spot where the refinery is proposed. All of this should take between 3 ½ and 4 hours.


This schedule is still tentative, because we must get permits for our march and an auditorium for our meeting. As soon as these details are finalized, we will let you know.

10 a.m. Meet in the Plaza de Espana in Los Santos de Maimona (near the church). Time for gathering signatures for our petition, distributing information, etc.

11 a.m. Departure – Our march will be led by some old, traditional, muleteer carts that belong to the Friends of the Camino de Santiago-Via de la Plata of Fuenterroble de Salvatierra. Our dear parish priest Blas, President of the Association, will be in the head cart. Another cart will carry a beautiful wooden sculpture of Santiago Peregrino. The other carts will have themed displays (about wine, olive oil, etc.)

12:30 p.m.. Arrival at the San Jorge Ranch, the place where the refinery is proposed. We will read a Manifestation in Defense of the Via de la Plata and of all the Caminos de Santiago.

3:00 p.m. Arrival at Villafranca de los Barros, at the Plaza Corazon de Maria, next to the church.

3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Lunch and Fiesta. We advise you to bring your own food (sandwiches, etc). We will supply the wine and we may be able to roast some meat. We also hope to arrange a performance by folklore musicians.

5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Meeting in Defense of the Via de la Plata and Caminos de Santiago. We will hear from three speakers, each of whom will speak for 20 minutes. We will also have a roundtable, and a brief poetry recitation. This will be followed by a performance under the direction of the songwriter-singer Jose Maria Maldonado, who will sing beautiful songs about his Camino experiences.

7:00 p.m. End of our Day.

Now that you have a summary of our goals and program, we will soon be able to give you information about hotels and albergues for those of you who would like to make reservations, especially those who are coming from far away.

We will invite the national and international media, and we hope that our participants will come from abroad, because approximately 40% of those who walk the Via de la Plata come from outside of spain.

It is time for us to mobilize in defense of our Cultural, Spiritual, and Natural Patrimony, all of which are interrelated and at stake here on the Via de la Plata. May our voices be heard by the institutions that purport to represent us, especially at this crucial point of Environmental Impact Assessment.

We cannot allow the destruction of our Caminos!

we can not allow the establishment of bararic precedents, so much is at stake in this project!


Hoping to see you very soon on the Camino,

Diego Munoz Hidalgo

(representing the Friends of the Via de la Plata-Camino de Santiago)

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
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Javier - I will be with you in spirit if not in person.
I have a strong right arm from carrying placards and strong legs from standing in protests (during our apartheid years) and would love to have been with you to protect the camino.
buen suerte,
Or ... think about it - you could also build a huge runway and then be able to refill all those jumbo jets that bring the pilgrims over -
I mean, the refineries have to go somewhere - so why not make it easier and have it right on one of the actual Caminos - perfect! :wink:

Actually, there are some very long straight stretches on the Frances ... they could put a runway alongside one of those sections - would save all that toing and froing between airports and railway stations and so on ! and then maybe a big pipe from the refinery right across Spain ... that would work wouldn't it? :wink:
peregrina2000 said:
So, Javier,
Tell us about the march. I thought of you while I was taking some friends around Lisbon yesterday, wishing I could be on the Vdlp!

Hi Laurie, everybody.

I'm just returned from Zafra in VDLP. Yesterday we were at least 600 people, pilgrims, ecologists, and so on. But in my opinion we were just defending our Camino free of everything, nothing else. From Compostela came a full bus with 50 pilgrims and more friends involved in pilgrimage from all Spain and Portugal. And buses from Seville and other places.

It looks to be a political problem, because someone has decided to construct it just over there, on the Camino, doesn't matter the reason why. Why not 10 km. to the west or to the east? I don't know.

This morning we saw any local newspapers with a short mention with photos about the march. They talk about "200 people" with "some gaiteiros from Galicia". Gaitas were playing all the time in Maimona de los Santos and in Villafranca de los Barros.

In my opinion many people came because today, everybody knows that we could stop the polygon in O Pino. Why not the same with this refinery?

I don't know what else I can say about. Only, it would had been great to be with you there.

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
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Congratulations once again, Javier, for your tireless work in defense of the Camino. And for making us all aware of what is going on.

Buen Camino,
Javier Martin said:
.... Yesterday we were at least 600 people, pilgrims, ecologists, and so on....

Did I say 600 people...? I was wrong!! It seems to have been about 1,500 people!!

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.

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