Love of the Land
An investigation into what attracts people to move from city life to rural living in Asturias, Spain. Completed as part of a residency in Oviñana.
Manu’s work as a structural engineer has taken him all over the world, but he still sees his family holiday house in Ballota as home. His job affords him the luxury of working for 2 years and then taking 5 years off. He passes his time by walking in the forest or having an evening smoke, looking up at the stars from his back garden.
“There are three strong emotions that keep me here: the sea, the mountains and the green of the grass.”
Originally from Catalunya, Asun spent most of her life in Madrid where she taught physics at university level. When Asun and her husband came to visit the Asturian coast for a weekend, they left a few days later having negotiated the price on a piece of land, despite not knowing much about the region. After initially using the house as a second home, their visits back to Madrid grew less frequent.
“Every minute of the day is different in comparison to Madrid.”
Asun finds peace in puzzles. Upstairs she has two rooms devoted to them. The first is set up with two large tables devoted to active puzzles she is working on. Their boxes line the shelves of the room, separated into those she has completed and those in the queue to be completed. In the sizeable second room, lit by a single skylight, Asun’s completed puzzles cover the bare floors. Her greatest achievements are those with 10,000 pieces.
“The longest took 9 months. It was like a pregnancy,” she laughs.
Originally from London, Debbie has been living in Spain for 25 years. She first moved to Barcelona before Asturias and was shocked when she realised she had been learning Catalan, not Spanish.
“It’s a lot freer here, not so much CCTV and I don’t feel like I’m being watched. England is more fearful and the youth culture here is totally different, although Asturias does sometimes feel 20 years behind the rest of Spain.”
Mariano left the mainland heat of Madrid to live on the cooler Asturian coast.
Mariano has a complex and at times difficult relationship with his son who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder Despite the continued support provided by him and his wife, both financially and emotionally, it is the distance between them that has enabled both parents and child to strike a sense of equilibrium. The space affords all parties a greater sense of independence, including Mariano running a hiking group.
“Although it’s tough, we have shells as hard as turtles.”
Mar’s studio is attached to her house which is situated on the edge of a scenic mountain. She has worked in different jobs from being a receptionist to fog collecting on the Canary Islands, but her passion is ceramics.
“Sometimes it allows me to disconnect and I get into the flow of creating something, or it can be frustrating when it’s not coming together how I want. I’m interested in the metamorphosis.”
Jandro has been climbing for 20 years. He misses climbing with his friends since the mountains in this region are made out of slate and not safe for climbing. He decided to build his own climbing wall in the garage out of recycled pylons.
“When I’m climbing in the mountains I can see the smog above the city.”
Marga left Santander after 36 years to leave her old life behind. After working as a teacher, social worker and cultural intermediator for the gypsy community she now loves to teach in rural schools where others prefer not to.
“Here it’s tranquil, it doesn’t smell of fumes, I can stroll as much as I want. My soul feels free.”
Despite loving her home village of San Tirso de Abres, the harsh winters and low population led her to Oviñana where Mara owns the popular bar Cai Milio with her husband. Mara happily connects people to others in the village community, all whilst caring for her extended family.
“Sometimes I go back to my village for a few days to recharge. I need my time alone, since I share so much with the family: the house, our business.”