Culture relocates the image of the rural world

The image of the rural world in Spain has undergone a transformation in the narratives of culture and the media. It is a fine rain that has been pouring down for years, but has gained strength in recent years. It is a movement that goes beyond the label coined by Sergio del Molino in 2016 with his essay The empty Spain.

In fact, the decomposition of that traditional discourse is manifested in a cultural production parallel to the protest movement of emptied Spain. In this sense, this new positioning is located next to the label new rurality. But what is new in this narrative? And where does it take us?

A new discourse on the rural dawns in the culture before the decline of an old one.
Photo: Enric Castelló, Author provided

What we have called, then, relocated rurality it is a narrative displacement within the culture that overcomes certain stereotypes of the rural world that were accumulating in literature, cinema or television. By this we refer to stories in which victimhood, tremendousness, idyll, romanticization or, more recently, the hippy.

Relocation changes the relationships between culture, society and rurality, and this modification is expressed in all kinds of productions – artistic, literary, audiovisual or broadcast on social networks.

Ruralizing the trial

There are key authors who activated this relocated rurality. One of the most relevant is María Sánchez. Your book land of women represents well the movement that generates this narrative. The victimizing tone of the inhabitants of the rural world is overcome and a transformative and proactive position is taken.

This text is both manifest and intimate: it does not deny the grievance suffered by the countryside but it does not remain immobile in the face of imbalance. It implies a calm cultural activism based on technical knowledge, as is the case of Sánchez, a field veterinarian.

The concept is also present in the projects promoted by Vanessa Freixa, such as the documentary The not to him –co-directed by Pepe Camps–, which problematizes the policies of rewilding designed from the offices without taking into account local realities. With them, it is intended to reintroduce wild species, such as the bear, in a sparsely populated but humanized territory, in which communities that already have a complicated existence resist.

In his recent essay ruralismethe also illustrator and activist Freixa talks about the need to ruralize ourselves wherever we are.

trailer of The not to him (Freixa and Camps, 2022).

Collaboration and sisterhood

The relocated rurality works in a network and is collaborative. That is the logic of projects like repoblem of Ton Lloret or The Hunter of Masíes by Marta Lloret.

Both initiatives are daughters of social networks and were turned into essays that propose a fight against depopulation and in favor of the heritage of farmhouses and rural culture. The idyll is replaced by a possibilist realism, aware of the difficulties and obstacles, recounted without stridency.

The displacement towards the rural world displays a gender perspective. Proof of this are the creations around associations such as Ganaderas en Red or Ramaderes of Catalonia, women who claim their position as ranchers or shepherds, share their story and nurture the sorority that they establish among themselves to promote their projects. This ecofeminism connects with a new way of relating to the land and animals, without seeing simple causalities or offering easy solutions.

Cinema, literature and journalism in relocation

Recent films set in the rural world, such as alcarràs, as beasts either surothey ride on plots of friction in rural spaces, such as the massive installation of renewable energies, the agri-food production model or the working conditions of migrants.

Although in some of these productions the remnants of victimhood or previous tremendousism may appear, they have also meant innovations in the systems of representation of rurality.

trailer of as beasts.

In the field of narrative, works such as One Love, by Sara Mesa, which the filmmaker Isabel Coixet is adapting to the big screen. Here, a young woman moves to a small town to reconstitute her own life, although she will find a context far removed from the idea of ​​a comforting and friendly place.

This novel can dialogue with the disgusting, by Santiago Lorenzo, where the rural world is a place to escape to. A young man flees to an abandoned town after a confusing event in the city. There he does not find a vacuum, but rather he confirms the superficiality in which we live in the big cities. Far from talking about rurality –as some unsuccessfully seek in this novel–, Lorenzo presents a story about the emptiness of urban and modern life.

Other examples of this are journalistic initiatives, albeit small. one is the Wild Magazine, second prize for “Excellence in communication” in the XII Edition of the Excellence Awards for Innovation for Rural Women of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. From a calm, quality and sensitive reporting, the publication develops a creative, deep, innovative look. In this sense, we witness the implementation of initiatives “from” rurality, rather than “on” it.

In the Ruralim research project “New rural imaginaries in contemporary Spain: culture, documentary and journalism” we have organized a seminar in which we inquire about those stories that are transferred to literature, cinema, documentary or the media . These narratives make emerge a new conception of the rural and demonstrate their imaginaries are changing in multiple cultural expressions.

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