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Mieres Reborn

The Reinvention of a Catalan Community

Alexander F. Robertson

Publication Year: 2012

Mieres Reborn reveals how patient observation and an analysis of one small community have much to tell us about human progress more generally.
Not long ago Mieres, a village in the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees, seemed destined to die. As in countless thousands of rural communities around the world, young people in Mieres over the years have moved to the towns and cities, leaving behind abandoned fields and meadows, derelict houses, and their aging and disconsolate parents and grandparents.
Close observation of this social microcosm over two decades reveals the capacity of ordinary people in a locality to reinvent themselves, reconstruct relationships with the wider world, and confront new threats to their collective survival. A. F. Robertson describes how the determination that Mieres should survive is most evident in a vigorous round of fiestas, fairs, and other public events in which natives, exiles, and newcomers work to create a lively sense of belonging. Since the 1980s, Mieres has been enlivened by a reverse flow of migrants from the cities, new settlers who have brought an infusion of youth to the community, devised new livelihoods, revitalized the village school, energized the native ”Mierencs,” and provided the impetus for a rediscovery of historical roots and political identity.
The regeneration of life in the countryside, in part a reaction to urban expansion and decay, is a global phenomenon of increasing political, economic, and social significance.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Cover Page

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p. C-C

Title Page


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-20

Not long ago, Mieres, set in a valley in the lower reaches of the Pyrenees about an hour from the Mediterranean, was visibly in decline. Many of its houses were vacant, falling into disrepair and ruin. Its fields and meadows were neglected. the younger generation was moving to the towns and cities, and by the early 1990s their parents and grandparents had come to believe...

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Chapter 1: The End of History

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pp. 21-39

La Guerra, La Misèria: the lingering wretchedness of civil war, the crippling hunger, the strife that cut deeply into the heart of families and neighborhoods, the humiliation of defeat and the reprisals exacted by the battered victors—all of these left villages like Mieres with few of the material, po liti cal, and emotional resources essential to community life. one of the afflictions of the Civil War was the loss of history, a...

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Chapter 2: Dreams and Reawakenings

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pp. 40-61

In the 1950s, about the same time as people of Belmonte de los Caballeros were telling Lisón- tolosana that their town had no history, the historian E. H. Carr was asking his professional colleagues the disturbing question, “What is history?” not, he argued, an apodictic account of “great men and great deeds” but a much more subjective, interpretive pursuit of relative ...

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Chapter 3: Resurrection

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pp. 62-84

In Belmonte de los Caballeros in the 1960s, in the thick of the Franco dictatorship, Lisón-Tolosana found that perceptions of the past, the present, and future prospects were radically conditioned by the experiences of three distinct cohorts: a “declining” generation of fifty-five- to seventy-year-olds, who had been politically polarized during the Spanish Civil War; a “controlling”...

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Chapter 4: Rebirth

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pp. 85-103

I brought my own faulty stereotype of the “hippies” to Mieres from Formentera in the Balearic Islands, where my Canadian cousin had been a hippie pioneer. For a couple of months in 1963, my mission was the altogether unhip, parasitical one of researching a dissertation for my master’s degree. At that time 40 percent of the Formentera hippies were from north America, ...

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Chapter 5: New Livelihoods

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pp. 104-124

For those who spent their lives keeping the arable fields, pastures, orchards, and woodlands in good heart, the degeneration of Mieres is writ large in the landscape. the disappearance of the old meadows and fields of grain and the deterioration of woodland into choked scrub evoke the mood of aching, regretful yearning for which Cata lan has a special...

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Chapter 6: Conviviality

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pp. 125-150

Small communities are well known for their social closure, the idea that newcomers must serve long probationary periods—maybe even a generation or two—before they are admitted as insiders. Recent settlers in Mieres sometimes complain about this, and there are some natives who openly resent the intrusion of outsiders. but Catalans have been peripatetic for centuries, and ...

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Chapter 7: Civic Rejuvenation

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pp. 151-168

The Festa Major, held each year at the end of August, is the civic party par excellence. It is sponsored by the Ajuntament, and without it Mieres would in some significant sense cease to exist. throughout much of europe, the town or village fete is a pub lic statement of national belonging and a celebration of local po liti cal identity; in some places (perhaps where survival is most at issue) its intensity is quite frenetic.1 In Spain, teams from different...

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Chapter 8: Rebuilding Mieres

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pp. 169-185

In Mieres, past and present, the clearest indicator of who you are and where you belong is the house, the physical container of your life. In the literature on Catalonia, and in the wider Mediterranean region, the verdict on this is unanimous: “the basic element of Catalan society and history has been indisputably the casa, not the individual.”1 Where the mundane realities of...

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Chapter 9: Imagining Change

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pp. 186-196

Latterly, when I was seeking to round off my own impressions in the preparation of this book, I was asking everyone the same question: What will become of Mieres? the question, it seemed, was tacitly historical in that it obliged people to situate their speculations in the critical context of what the community is and has been. but what that “normality” should entail is currently under strenuous discussion among those who might fashionably...


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pp. 197-226


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pp. 227-238


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pp. 239-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780817385972
E-ISBN-10: 0817385975
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317430
Print-ISBN-10: 0817317430

Page Count: 255
Illustrations: 25 illus
Publication Year: 2012