Josetxu Martínez Montoya
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The new rural residents
Emerging sociabilities in Alava, Basque Country

Incomers need not come from afar. In fact they might be local returnees. In his chapter, Josetxu Martínez, an anthropologist of his home region, studied the evolving patterns of residency and sociability in the Basque province of Alava. Between the 1960s and ‘80s, villagers left for the sake of jobs in the provincial city. But from the 1980s, in part stimulated by the local implementation of the rural interventionist programmes of the EU, these same villagers started to make seasonal returns to their natal villages. Financially secure thanks to their urban employment, they now saw the countryside not as the site of ill-paid drudgery but as a recreational space in which to relax and socialize among their kin and affines. Though ageing locals saw them as outsiders because they were no longer tied to the soil, these urban escapees continued to regard themselves as insiders. They did not see themselves as returning to a home they had earlier abandoned because, Martínez argues, they were not aware of having ever left it. They had moved to the city physically, not emotionally. Thus, he contends, we should speak of a new rural-urban continuum in the area, which is replacing the previously well-established separation between the two.

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