Mills in Alto Aragón - central eléctrica

Huerta de Vero

Huerta de Vero is easily reached from Barbastro where you follow the signs towards Alquézar. The road follows the Río Vero and you will pass first Castillazuelo and then Pozán at about 10 km from Barbastro. The mill is about 2.5 km further at the left and just before a bridge over the Río Vero.

Pictures: 26.XII.1995, 08.XI.2011

(1) Central del Americano in Huerta de Vero — 1995.

(2) Wiring and light at the old building
The site looks abandoned, the white building empty and lacking maintenance and everything is slowly getting hidden below the vegetation. The site, however, is still producing electricity; generators can be heard humming in the basement.

The original mill was probably housed in the smal­ler construction (1 & 3 right), but outside there was nothing hinting at its former purpose and I couldn't possibly enter.

The site has a long history and was at times impor­tant as supplier of electricity to the wider region.

(3) Powerstation with old (mill?) building; notice tree on the roof — 2011.

(4) Bank of old insulators.

Maps of the IGN (°) in their 1931 edition show a grid with lines running on the left bank of the river from this mill to­wards Pozán de Vero and then on to Castillazuelo. The pole shown in (1, 6) must have been part of this section.

The other section of the grid runs northwards to Huerta de Vero and southwards to Azara where it branches to Azlor and Peraltilla.

The grid shown in the map of 1952 keeps exactly the same extension. Other lines are coming nearer but this grid stands still on its own. Castillazuelo, however, is now serviced by two lines: the one at hand and one coming from the east. The latter com­pany will eventually take over the former.

In 2012 a local magazine () ran a story about elec­tricity in Castillazuelo. Our mill is also men­tioned and I will therefore give the relevant lines.

(5) Insulators
(6) Old wiring hanging down

La electricidad en Castillazuelo,
apuntes sobre su historia.

José Antonio Cubero Guardiola ()

...
en Huerta de Vero, Mariano Lorenz Buera, labrador, nacido sobre 1867, está pensando en ampliar su negocio. En 1900 vive en la calle la Iglesia número 29. Sabe leer y escribir. Su hermano Manuel, tres años mayor, es el Alcalde. Mariano, en mayo de 1911, ya tiene el proyecto que el ingeniero industrial José Maluquer le ha diseñado para llevar la "luz eléctrica" a su pueblo, Huerta de Vero, y a los vecinos de Azara, Azlor, Castillazuelo, Peraltilla, Pozán, y el Monasterio de Nuestra Señora del Pueyo. Su ambicioso proyecto tiene un presupuesto de 25.850 pesetas (5).

Mariano aprovecha la fuerza de la turbina, de 40 caballos, del molino harinero de su propiedad, para mover un alternador de 30 kilovatios (5). La corrien­te alterna obtenida es elevada por un transfor­mador hasta los 3.000 voltios para su distribución medi­ante líneas trifásicas (de tres conductores) para reducir las pérdidas. El trans­formador de Castilla­zuelo —para todo el pueblo— tiene 4 kilovatios. La línea del Pueyo se quedará en el tintero.

El 12 de octubre de 1912 una Real Orden le otorga a Mariano la concesión solicitada y a los pocos días inicia las obras.
....

Electricity in Castillazuelo,
notes about its history.

José Antonio Cubero Guardiola ()

...
in Huerta de Vero, Mariano Lorenz Buera, a farmer born around 1867, is considering an expan­sion of his business. It's the year 1900 and he lives at number 29 in the Church street. He knows how to read and write. His brother, three years older, is the local Mayor. In May 1911 already, Mariano had his plans ready. The project, designed by the industrial engineer José Maluquer, was to bring electric light to Mariano's village Huerta de Vero, to the people of Azara, Azlor, Castillazuelo, Peraltilla, Pozán and also to the Monastery of Nuestra Señora del Pueyo. The cost for this ambitious plan was estimated at 25 850 pesetas (5).

Mariano makes use of the turbine (40HP) of his own flour mill to drive an alternator of 30 KW. The alter­nating current is then transformed up to 3 000 Volt and distributed via three phase lines (3 wires that is) in order to reduce losses. The transformator of Castillazuelo has a capacity of 4 KW — for the entire village! The line to el Pueyo will never materialize.

On October 12, 1912, a Royal Order grants Mariano his concession and the work starts only a few days later.
....

(7) Azud in Huerta de Vero.

...
En 1929, los vecinos de Pozán denuncian el mal estado de la línea del pueblo. En estos años las instalaciones y su mantenimiento son muy precarios y los cables están muy cerca del suelo con el consiguiente peligro "para personas y caballerías" y también para las labores del campo —como por ejemplo coger las olivas— por el peligro de tocar con cañas, palos o incluso con el cuerpo al subirse a un árbol.
....

Mariano Lorenz cambia el nombre a su empresa y pasa a llamarse "Electra Lorenz". En 1931 inicia los trámites para dar servicio a Buera (14). El alum­brado para los particulares es muy caro —pero menos que Joaniquet— y por UNA bombilla (de 16 bujías) cobra, al mes, 2.50 pesetas. Este precio obliga a aprovechar el único punto de luz y para ello se hacen esos huecos, encima de las puertas, que se ven en algunas casas antiguas, para iluminar a los dos lados.
....

La guerra lo destroza todo —incluidas las notarías— y allí se pierde la escritura de la venta, que en 1935, hace Mariano Lorenz junto a su hermano Manuel, de sus derechos y la propiedad de las instalaciones y líneas a Felix Lalanne. Electra Lorenz cambiará su denominación a "Hidroeléctrica de Huerta de Vero".
....


(5) AHPH (Archivo histórico provincial de Huesca), Obras públicas 148/55.
(14) AHPH, Obras públicas 190/221

...
In 1929, the people of Pozán denounced the poor state of the line to their village (a). In those years the installations and their maintenance were most insufficient. Moreover the lines were very close to the ground and posed a danger to people and horse­men and also to people working on the fields. During the harvest of olives f.e. there was the risk of hitting the lines with the poles used during this endeavour and people who climbed in a tree could inadvertently touch live wires.
....

Mariano Lorenz changes the name of his company into Electra Lorenz. In 1931 he initiates the proce­dures to service Buera (14). For private persons the tarifs are very steep at 2.50 pesetas a month for a SINGLE lightbulb of 16 candles — but Joaniquet (b) charges even more (c). Prices like this forced people to make the most of a single point of light. They made holes in the wall, above the door, in order to give light to both sides. In some old houses these holes can still be seen.
....

The war destroys everything —including notaries— and so the deeds of the sale were lost, but in 1935 Mariano Lorenz and his brother Manuel sell the entire business to Felix Lalanne (d). Electra Lorenz now becomes Hidroeléctrica de Huerta de Vero.
....

(8)
Some remarks
(a) The website of Pozán de Vero (VIII.2016) features a text by Vicente Rubiella about the history of the village. A few lines relate to the mill at hand:

...
Hacia el año 25 se construyó la Central de la Luz, por acciones (todos los veci­nos del pueblo éramos socios, con más o menos acciones), entonces tenia luz todo el pueblo, los más pudientes tenían cua­tro ó seis bombillas, nosotros teníamos una en la cocina y otra en el patio con­mutadas.
...
Antes de la central, el pueblo se servia de la Luz del "Americano", que bajaba del Molino de Salas. Pero esta luz solo la podian pagar los pudientes, lo demás nos alumbrábamos con candiles de aceite y después de carburo ...

So the text goes:
Around [19]25 the powerstation was built and shares issued (all villagers were partners with more or fewer shares). As a result all the people had light, the wealthy had four or six bulbs and we had one in the kitchen and another one in the courtyard commutated.
...
Before that electricity was delivered to the village from the mill of Salas (e), so called Light from the Americano (d) which only the rich could afford. We, the other people, used oil lamps and later carbide ...
Notice that there is a conflict between the years in both articles. In Zimbeler it was 1929 when the people of Pozán were not happy, but the website says Pozán got its own electricity already around 1925. Before that they got their light from the Americano (d). It was however not before 1935 that the Americano bought the business of the Lorenz brothers () unless it is true what Vicente Pinilla () writes:
Además en los años veinte con­struyó la central hidro­eléctrica de Huerta de Vero que no solo suministró luz y energía a la bodega y casa familiar, sino a gran parte de la comarca.
Weird however that no map shows the lines reaching the bodega and that there is a dam and a fábrica on the Río Vero just a few steps away.

Someone should clear this up.

© Instituto Geográfico Nacional, leaf 287, 1932

(b) Celso Joaniquet owned Riegos y Fuerzas del Cinca which managed the mill of El Grado (). In 1929 his grid reached Castillazuelo (this explains the 2nd line shown on the map of 1952) and he intended to connect also the monasterio, something Electra Lorenz didn't manage.

(c) In 1898 a lightbulb of 10 candles would cost between 1.75 (Jaca) and 8 (Montoro) pesetas a month. Most companies set the price at 3 or 3.5 pesetas which was rather demanding for ordinary people of the time (). The rate of 2.50 ptas is therefore rather reasonable at the national level. But then people should not compare with the 1.75 ptas paid in nearby Salas (line coming from Alquézar), or the 1.65 ptas near San Sebastián (Gaceta de Madrid, Num 67, 8.III.1933).

(d) Félix Lalanne was the 3rd son of Francisco Lalanne who was married to Juana Felicia Lataste (). The couple was sent to Buenos Aires by Francisco's father Maurice who was a winegrower near Bordeaux since 1842 and wanted to sell French wines in Argentina. Francisco got supply problems because of the Phylloxera plague. He sent his 6 sons out over the world and Félix went to Spain with instructions to organize supply from there. Bad times lay ahead: protectionism in Argentina, end of the trade agreement with France, arrival of Phylloxera and the vineyards around Barbastro were reduced to one third of their extension a few years earlier. It must have been after 1891 that he settled in our region. He married and bought the domain of San Marcos. Taking Bordeaux as an example he organized his business with chateau San Marcos in the center of his vineyards. Bodegas Lalanne were born in 1894.

The website of the Bodegas Lalanne (IX.2016) explains that the domain was named Torre del Americano in honour of the rootstocks that were brought back from the Americas. I dare to question that. Félix (and later also his parents) came from America and he kept the Argentinian nationality up until his death. That is why I think that he is referred to as Americano and his chateau as Torre del Americano.


(e) The mill of Salas relates to this very same mill. Old maps show a road, named Camino del Molino, between the mill and the village of Salas Altas.

(9) Canal running high above the Río Vero — 2011.

° Instituto Geográfico Nacional of Spain, series MTN50, leaf 287
 José Antonio Cubero Guardiola —2012— La electricidad en Castillazuelo, apuntes sobre su historia.
in ro Zimbeler de Castillazuelo — Revista informativa de la asociación cultural "Castillazuelo"; Num. 24, Jan. 2012.
 Isidro Sánchez Sánchez —1999— Las luces del 98. Sociedades eléctricas en la España finisecular.
in Sociabilidad fin de siglo: espacios asociativos en torno a 1898 — Universidad de Castilla La Mancha; 326pp.; ISBN 84-89958-89-0
 Vicente Pinilla Navarro —2009— Félix Lalanne Lataste
in Grandes empresarios aragoneses by Germán, Luis — Lid Editorial Empresarial S.L., Madrid; 488pp.; ISBN 978-8488717498


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