ExperiencePlus! Blog

A Catalan Tradition Revived: Shepherding

Photo courtesy of teh Washington Post

Our tour leaders in Spain recently forwarded this compelling New York Time’s article on Shepherd Schools in the Catalonia region. The story struck close to home for Tour Leader and Spanish Tour Manager Joan Escosura who was born in Barcelona and spent a good deal of his childhood in a small village in the Pyrenees where his father tended cattle as a young man.

Joan, you come from a farming background. How did your father feel about your move to the city?

My father was born in a tiny village in Asturias (northern Spain). His family raised cows, and he spent at least 3 months of the year as a shepherd living in a small hut in the mountains with two guys from town who did the same job. His wish, along with all of the other families in the area, was to have their kids go to school and leave the countryside for a better life in the city, as the article reflects…

Did the article stir any memories for you?

In many ways I feel this article mirrors my own experiences growing up. What really struck me was the section that talked about when brown bears were reintroduced to the area. I remember it very well and all of the shepherds and farmers panicked because they believed those poor bears (there were just a few of them in the beginning) would eat the thousands of sheep being raised in the Pyrenees at the time. Farmers and shepherds said it took them generations to extinguish the bears, and it made no sense to reintroduce the threat. Now it seems the bears are one of the few reasons that the shepherd tradition will survive. Life always surprises us!

Do you think that people in Spain still dream of city life and all it can offer?

There is certainly a “different dream of what city life can bring” for many people in Spain. There are those who moved from the countryside, or from smaller towns to a larger city to find their dream but now with the deep economic crisis we are suffering, the better option seems to be to escape the city and return to the country. For many going “home” is a better bet especially after losing jobs and housing because the city didn’t offer the opportunities they hoped for.

What do you think the future will look like for those who go back to the country?

The future is encouraging as eating locally becomes more and more important to people and there is a renewed emphasis on quality organic farming. With this in mind, some careers that were up until recently considered unattractive, lacking interest and worth, seem to now be a viable alternative. Many believe that living in a natural environment and escaping from the tyranny of modern times is a real and attractive alternative.