The Simple Things
Return of a rural idyll
WOMEN ARE THE KEY TO SAVING SPAIN’S GHOST VILLAGES, AND A NEW SHEPHERDESS SCHOOL IS SHOWING THEM HOW
Green rolling hills dotted about with little stone villages, connected by centuries-old sheep herding paths – it’s not perhaps the image that comes to mind when you imagine Spain. The rural landscapes of Cantabria in the north of the country are far removed from urbanised seaside spots on the
Costa Blanca, or cities like Barcelona.
Idyllic as it sounds, Spain’s towns and cities have long proved more alluring, especially to women who are more able to find work in urban areas. But without the women, villages disappear, depopulated and emptied.
However, a new school for shepherdesses hopes to change that. Escuela de Pastoras was founded by Susana Pacheco to offer women a foothold in what has traditionally been a male-dominated profession, and to give them a reason to stay in the thousands of countryside towns that are fading from the map.
The nine-month long course has been designed around women’s needs, factoring in work-life balance, and networks of mutual support. Trainees are able to bring their children along with them, and the course includes additional modules on beekeeping, cheese making and sustainable tourism – all tools that will allow these newly-trained female shepherds to diversify their income. It’s already proved overwhelmingly popular – with 265 women applying for the 30 places available.
Women have always been involved in rural work; this school hopes to give the work they do a new dignity, and show proper recognition of their importance to the ongoing life and future of places like Cantabria.