Conceived as an essayistic teaser for a feature film currently in development, Lorenzo Sandoval’s Aquel Verano del 22. Las leyes traces the initial trajectories of a critical poetic approach to the ecological degradation in the Mar Menor, Europe’s largest salted lagoon, and the adjacent region of Campo de Cartagena, in the coast of Murcia, Southeast Spain. Taking the laws of the Spanish state as the guiding thread for this teaser, a polyphony of voices joins in the defense of this endangered territory and ecosystem, through interviews with activists, scholars, scientists, and writers, as well as with politicians, flamenco musicians and academics, and fishermen in the lagoon. Within the hottest summer in the area since records began, the most glaring indicator of the climatic emergency which gives title to the film (‘Aquel verano del 22. Las leyes’, or ‘The Summer of ‘22. The Laws’), the work aims to question the idea of the territory as an unlimited and immediate source of wealth, and the increasingly urgent need to understand the limitations of resources at a global level.
The coast of Murcia has witnessed a three-part extractivist process which has progressed chronologically through mining, urban development, and intensive agriculture. This deepens a series of extractivist policies initiated in the 19th century within the mining industry in the municipality of la Unión, one of the three main geographical sites of the research together with the aforementioned Mar Menor, and La Manga, the stretch of land that embraces the lagoon, which separates it from the Mediterranean Sea (or Mar Mayor), frontline of the touristic urban development in the area. The devastating effects of these policies and resulting extractivist processes are wide-ranging, clearly apparent, and persistent to this day. Although the mining exploitation ended in the 1990s, its extractivist conception was also applied to real estate speculation, first in the early 1960s and later imploding with the 2008 financial crisis. It has also permeated the more recent intensive agroindustry, in which chemical contamination resulting from the illegal use of fertilizers has caused anoxia or lack of oxygen, implying a nearly complete collapse of the fauna contained in the Mar Menor.
Aside from the film, the project at large (Garganta/Brazo/Surco) connects this threefold extractivist process to different human anatomical parts, thus embodying the damaged landscape: the profound throat for mining, the arm for the rapidly urbanized elongated spit of land of La Manga (“the sleeve” in Spanish), and the furrow for the linear scars left in the land by the agroindustry. Here a musical dimension is added, through the subterranean variant of the cante jondo (literally “deep song,” one of the main exponents of Andalusian vocal folklore;) and mineras (the local palo –style– originated by the miners themselves), syncopated to the slow but constant hammering echoing in the mine. These musical elements are then physically juxtaposed with the effect the extraction of minerals generated in the throats of the miners, known as silicosis, developed with the aspiration of the silica crystal particles suspended on the air, which would ultimately produce the suffocation of the workers—mining wastes that would also contaminate the surrounding ecosystem, with more than 60,000,000 tons inundating the nearby bay of Portman. Meanwhile, the urban development of La Manga, with its fraudulent and corrupt system, is paired with the so-called canción ligera, pop music of the 1970s with figures such as Julio Iglesias, as well as to the shooting of commercial movies in the area, which emphasizes the usual spectacular dimension of extractivism.