The mining town of Fontao is shrouded in mystery and is rich in history. It is located in the middle of a desolate landscape of sheer beauty. There, wolfram, a mineral which was longed for by all the confronting sides, could be found.
Along with the increasing extraction of this mineral, the town was born. About seventy taverns were set up, together with two cinemas and three dance halls, several restaurants, inns and apartments to accommodate workers. All these services were located in the Barrio de Madeira, a bustling place in the Deza region which provided money to cope with a post-war period which had brought about hunger.
At the peak of the wolfram exploitation, around 6,000 people were officially working there. However, in those times of poverty, many risked sneaking in the excavations under the cover of night and smuggling the mineral.
Women played a significant role in the mines, as it can be seen in the different photographs from that time. They were not allowed to enter the galleries or the factories but carried out the washing tasks to separate the minerals. The women from the place of A Brea tell their grandchildren stories about the secret coming and goings they experienced. The mines, which were controlled by the Germans, were object of desire of the allies, and so many of those women risked their lives to earn their living, by selling quantities of the mineral to the highest bidder. Many of these women were arrested while leaving their workplace for carrying wolfram in their vats, hidden under earth. Men also used tricks: they used to wear wool clothes and when the working day was over, they would throw themselves onto a pile of ground mineral. Later, at home, they would jump on a white sheet to drop the wolfram, which would be sold to gain extra money.
The valley, crossed by the Deza River, was arbitrarily chosen to place the mine. Today, there is a beautiful canyon and, not far away, the highest cascade in As Rías Baixas and in Galicia: the cascade of the Toxa River. The Carvoeiro Monastery is also nearby and it was the scenery of the skirmishes of those on the "smuggling route", who tried to run away with the wolfram they extracted from the mines.A Brea is also a unique place to enjoy the properties of the water in the Spa-hotel of A Brea. Its modern facilities, surrounded by woods and water, are a perfect place to enjoy balneotherapy. Come and get immersed!