Spaniards abandon big cities for country life in search for jobs

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VILLANUEVA: A street at night in the village to the west of Madrid.

THERE is a new movement within Spain that sociologists have dubbed ‘Rurbanismo’. This term describes the reverse migration from city to country that has stemmed a generations-old trend that has long been the usual pattern in most advanced industrial economies, according to a study by Professor Carles Feixa of the University of Lleida.

Although the movement has been steadily building for some time, it has been accelerated by Spain’s economic crisis, breathing new life and entrepreneurship into some nearly abandoned areas.  ‘Rurbanismo’ started before the crisis.

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The internet has made it possible to work anywhere. The crisis is making it even more attractive. A chemist by training, Silvia Barcenilla searched for a job in Madrid for nearly a year.

In March she tried a different approach, moving to the village of Villanueva de la Vera, a two-and-a-half-hour drive to the west. Within two months, she was working for the Hospedería del Silencio resort, which runs yoga courses. 

Her two-bedroom apartment costs €200 a month, a fraction of what it would cost in Madrid. Last October, a group of 15 performers set up the Toribio Circus Company in what was Villanueva’s dancing hall, renting a 2,100-square-foot space that had been closed for 22 years for €100 a month. 


On the other hand, economic necessity is certainly not the only reason Spaniards are moving to the country. A community of artists in Villanueva – from graphic designers to musicians and sculptors – found their ‘Shangri-La’ by renovating abandoned farm buildings into trendy studios and apartments.

Other new migrants are returning to the villages where they grew up or where earlier generations of their family lived, sometimes taking over property that was empty or used only for vacations. 


Fifty years ago, a child born in a Spanish village was expected to move eventually to the big city. Maybe ‘Rurbanismo’ will help rejuvenate some of the more depressed areas and create aware-ness that  ‘Shangri-La’ is on your own doorstep.




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