Economy The coronavirus drives the urban exodus in Catalonia

The coronavirus drives the urban exodus in Catalonia

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The consequences of the Covid crisis push hundreds of people to seek new ways of life in rural settings

Breaking news on the coronavirus crisis

Gabriela his life was perfectly organized. She ran a cocktail bar that she owned and earned extra income from the cute crafts she made from home in her spare time. Enough to pay the 900 euros in rent that the apartment in which he lived with his two children cost him. But the arrival of the coronavirus turned everything upside down.

 «I had to close my business. Suddenly he couldn’t pay the bills or the rent increase; I realized that it was time to start a new life. And so he did. In a reverse path to that of the rural exodus, which, from the second half of the 20th century, emptied countless Spanish towns and villages, Gabriela prepared the signs and began her particular odyssey. From the boisterous and brackish Castelldefels (Barcelona) to the calm and subalpine Gósol (Lleida).

 € œI didnâ € ™ t even know where it was, but once I saw that I had everything I needed, including a good home, I didnâ € ™ t think about it. I was very lucky because when I arrived the only grocery store in town was transferred and I was able to take care of it. Now two and a half months have passed and I can say that I have gained quality of life. And my children no longer want to return to Barcelona, ​​they prefer to stay and go to the river when they leave school than to be within four walls again, ”explains Gabriela.

His case is an example of the recent urban exodus to rural areas undertaken by hundreds of Catalan urbanites, both impelled to undertake a new vital project after seeing the one they already had frustrated because of the Covid crisis, as well as jaded by how the The pandemic has modified their living conditions in the city, and it has acquired an unusual momentum thanks to particular initiatives such as Repopulation, a Twitter account Рwith almost 19,000 followers Рcreated last August by Your Lloret, who for 15 years has lived in Argen̤ola, a Barcelona town of just over 200 inhabitants.

 «I wanted to create something practical, a useful meeting point for appeals made by small town councils to attract new neighbors and for urbanites who are considering the possibility of going to live in a rural setting in root of the coronavirus », explains Lloret, who despite the success of his proposal regrets that it is basically an « emergency solution »that fills the gap left by the Catalan Administration when it comes to facilitating success. urban exodus.

 «That this initiative, which arises from a private individual, has had such an impact shows that for many years the Govern It has not bothered to carry out serious repopulation policies that revert the negative effects that the rural exodus has generated in the villages, ”says the creator of Repoblem.

The lack of rental housing,  «basic for those who want to repopulate to test their adaptation to the village before deciding to buy a house»; difficulties related to connecting to internet,  «necessary for teleworking to be possible»; the lack of economic activity beyond tourism â € œso that people can earn a livingâ €; or the lack of services are some of the problems that, according to Lloret, make it difficult for the current trend of migrating to towns to go from what could remain a mere fad to a consolidated phenomenon.

In his particular mission, the platform accompanies him Living in Rural, launched two months ago by the Grup Leader Alt Urgell-Cerdanya Consortium together with the Association of Rural Initiatives of Catalonia (ARCA) -formed by local public and private actors-, and which provides services and resources for those who want to settle in a town.

 «We offer information about educational and cultural services, about job and housing banks or about the health network in different rural areas to people in the city who do not know the territory or who do not have a social network to help them settle in a town », explains the manager of ARCA, Albert Puigvert.

 «Any initiative that is launched is necessary because welcoming new families does not only mean that schools in small towns can be consolidated, that there are more services and shops because there are more people who need them or that city councils have more income that helps to maintain infrastructures, such as the water network, sewerage or public lighting, which originate in a past with more inhabitants; it also means having a more intense social life and the possibility of doing workshops or cultural activities », says the president of the Association of Micro-towns of Catalonia and the mayor of Torrebeses (Lleida), Mario Urrea.

 «It remains to be seen whether the new residents of the towns will continue to be so in a year from now, to see if they are able to overcome or adapt to winter, which is the hard time, because the alternative is not just that more towns are completely abandoned, there is also the danger of major fires due to the lack of farmers and ranchers working the fields to act as firebreaks, “concludes Urrea.

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