On 13 November 2002, Spain’s worst ever environmental disaster occurred when the hull of the Prestige oil tanker gave way and oil began spilling out towards the Galician coast. Following a chain of unfortunate decisions by the authorities to move it away from land, the tanker went down in the Atlantic, causing one of the most environmentally devastating shipping accidents and also unprecedented social mobilisation. American photographer Allan Sekula documented the disaster in his series Black Tide (2002), commissioned by the newspaper La Vanguardia.
The Prestige was a Liberian ship operated by a Greek shipping company sailing under a Bahamas flag that was transporting 77,000 tonnes of fuel oil belonging to a company registered in Gibraltar: a model based on flags of convenience, poor working conditions and unsound ship maintenance. As it made its way through the Galician marine corridor, a leak caused it to sink, with the ensuing spillage affecting over 2,000 kilometres of coastline between northern Portugal and south-west France.
In addition to the terrible environmental impact, the Prestige oil spill unleashed a double reaction: on one side, the international response of solidarity from hundreds of volunteers who joined naval workers and seafood farmers to clean tar for months on end; and on the other, a mass citizen mobilisation that coincided with anti-globalisation marches and the protest of “NO WAR” against the Iraq War, an armed conflict also marked by oil. Allan Sekula’s series, displayed in part, documents this selfless and committed clean-up work by volunteers on numerous days in December 2002.
Another impact of the Prestige was political, and different associations and collectives, articulated through the Nunca Máis (Never Again) platform, managed to organise coordinated activities and assemble thousands of people in demonstrations held in Santiago de Compostela and Madrid to demand justice and relief. These mobilisations were joined by significant cultural actions, carried out by Plataforma contra a Burla Negra and created in November 2002, just days after the disaster. From the cataloguing, study and display of its cultural archive, the cultural association Unha Gran Burla Negra displays in this room a selection of materials to rethink and place value on one of the biggest citizen movements in contemporary history. The materials have been selected by María Bella, Daniel López Abel, Jorge Linheira and Germán Labrador, members of this collective.