An active volcano from an inactive newspaper

A legend about an active volcano situated in Granada province came from a report mentioning a mysterious cavet in The New York Herald Tribune in 1956

ALEKK M. SAANDERS

The Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma is still erupting. It evokes awe with its frightening beauty, though the sadness appears with the realisation of the continued suffering of the local people. The Canary Islands are rich in active volcanoes, though it was surprising to learn that there is not much data on how many volcanoes there are: it is estimated that the number is around 30.

Nevertheless, it is known that anything that is not so clear leads to myths, legends and anecdotes. Although Andalucía has several inactive volcanoes in the very east, there is a legend about an active volcano situated in Granada province.

This year, that myth is 65 years old. Its origin is accurately known because the deliberately misleading story was spread by an American newspaper in 1956. In April of that year, catastrophic earthquakes occurred in Granada province between the villages of Atarfe and Albolote. About 3,000 buildings were damaged, 74 people were injured, and thirteen died.

In its coverage of the Granada catastrophic earthquakes, American newspaper The New York Herald Tribune published a report mentioning a mysterious cave in the Sierra Elvira mountains from which currents of air, fire and stones emanated. The article referred to the Raja Santa chasm, located between the cliffs of the Sierra Elvira, and the idea of a hidden active volcano was expressed.

Specialists immediately assumed it as a canard - a false or unfounded report. Different groups of speleologists stated again and again that the tragic earthquakes had nothing to do with the Raja Santa chasm.

They also confirmed that Raja Santa is a simple chasm of thermal waters similar to those that can be found in other parts of the province, such as Alhama de Granada which is located on the border with Malaga province.

However, the hypothesis in the American newspaper caused concern among the people of Granada. Many of them took the report so seriously that they started believing that a hidden volcano was awakening from its slumber and had caused the tragic earthquakes in Atarfe and Albolote. In 1966, The New York Herald Tribune closed its doors, but its legendary canard was remembered for decades. Tremors in Granada and its metropolitan area are quite frequent, and the idea of the hidden volcano used to come up from time to time.

Legends are always at their best when they include a scary event. By definition, they don't need logical explanation nor proof. It appears Malaga also has its anecdote about volcanoes. Some local people say the iconic Malaga hills - the Turtle (Monte de la Tortuga) and the Hair (Cerro Cabello) are volcanoes though very ancient and already very, very, inactive.

The legend goes round: whether it is true or false... it's everyone's right to decide for themselves.