I’ve taken a short break from this blog to complete the production of Elyn’s next book: The Question—A Magical Fable, about which, I will write more in a later post. I left off at the end of our journey on foot to Finisterre from Santiago de Compostela.
One question that we had pondered during the months of our travel in the UK and Spain was: what to do about our residence in Catalonia. We had experienced a rewarding 8+ years living in Girona, but the political situation in Catalonia had been deteriorating for the past few years. This, in our perception, was due to Spain’s refusal to deal with Catalan concerns in a fair and equitable way. The difficulties were of long standing, going back for centuries, but in recent years the ruling party in Spain had managed through the Spanish court system to strike down several laws that had been passed by the Catalan parliament and ratified by the Spanish parliament. Catalans felt that they were not being heard in Madrid, and this led to increasing calls for separation from Spain.
Spain’s response was heavy handed and insensitive, and the Catalan parliament called for a referendum to determine the sentiment of the population about independence. The referendum was declared illegal, even though it was to be only an opinion poll and not an actual vote. The first referendum was held anyway and a majority of those “voters” were for independence. This opinion poll was not decisive because it did not represent a majority of the population, so the Catalan parliament decided to hold a second referendum on October 1, 2017. The Spanish government sent in Guardia Civil troops to stop this referendum. The 5,000 or more troops caused many injuries to voters and considerable loss of property.
In response, the Catalan parliament declared independence from Spain. The Spanish government dissolved the parliament and took over direct control of the region. Some of the elected officials of the Catalan government were imprisoned and have been kept in Spanish prisons without a trial for many months. Others fled to European countries where they have been subject to international arrest warrants, which, so far, are unsuccessful.
We realized that the situation in Catalonia was not likely to change any time in the near future, and we needed to be elsewhere. The question was where to go. We could, of course, return to the USA, but the political climate there seemed intolerable to us. If we tried to move to a country other than Spain we would have to go through the lengthy process again of obtaining residency. We didn’t like the idea of continuing to live in Spain, given the political climate here, but we decided to try to find a place where we could live comfortably within the country and not feel the oppression of the Spanish state.
A friend suggested we check out Asturias, so we made a trip to Oviedo to test the waters here. Asturias is a bit of a backwater, somewhat isolated from the heart of Spain, on the other side of the Picos de Europa mountains. It has a long standing socialist-leaning government going back to the miner’s strikes in the 19th and 20th centuries. We discovered that Oviedo is a modern city with most of what we need readily available within walking distance. We decided to try living for a month here. After a few weeks we started looking for an apartment to rent.
The first apartment we looked at was in the old central section of the city (Casco Histórico) with a view of the cathedral. It is 5 minutes from two major concert halls, which have active calenders of theater, opera, dance, and music, along with a series of free movies, some in English. We decided to rent the apartment after less than an hour of deliberation.
We returned to Girona and got rid of most of our stuff, and arranged for the rest of our belongings to be transported to Oviedo in February. After several trips to the local Oviedo IKEA store, we are comfortably ensconced in our place on Calle San Juan, just a few steps from nearly everything we want and need.
We have now been living in Oviedo for nearly 3 months and continue to be very happy with our choice. We have made new friends, purchased season tickets to the opera, and are in the process of settling in to our new home. We have met a number of very friendly, compatible people. We feel far from the political struggles of Catalonia and far from the oppression of the Spanish government. There are some challenges, including losing our excellent Catalan health care, but we have adjusted to our new home and plan to continue to live here for the foreseeable future.
My first lifetime “ended” with my divorce and my retirement from Iowa State University. My second lifetime has been this 20+-year adventure with Elyn Aviva. I feel I am now entering my third lifetime with our settling in to Oviedo. May this lifetime be as wonderful and fruitful as the first two were!