Cultural adaptation to the effects of migration and agricultural change in a rural Spanish community


Material Information

Cultural adaptation to the effects of migration and agricultural change in a rural Spanish community
Physical Description:
xiv, 196 leaves : ill., maps ; 28 cm.
Reddy, David de la Peña, 1950-
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Peasants -- Spain -- Liébana   ( lcsh )
Rural conditions -- Spain   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1986.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 179-195).
Statement of Responsibility:
by David de la Peña Reddy.
General Note:
General Note:

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 000892223
notis - AEK0700
oclc - 15266684
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Full Text



David de la Peta Reddy




A la communidad de Li6bana


I owe a special debt of gratitude to Kathleen Anne

Cook Reddy and our child Emily, who accompanied and aided

me in my fieldwork and bore with me in the production of

this dissertation. So many people helped us in Li6bana,

putting up with my questions, letting me tag along in their

everyday pursuits, explaining the obvious and giving me

time to figure out the next question, it is impossible to

mention more than a few: "Los Rodriguez," whom we stayed

with in Liebana, provided us not only with shelter, but

with an introduction to a close-knit extended family and

its life in Li6bana. Angel, T6aas and Francis were the

first to take on the onerous task of educating the Yanqui

with tin ears. Gonzalo taught me that Lebaniegos are more

likely to be the ones moving the pieces, than the pawns.

Daniel, Ana and Teresa lent me another perspective on life

in the valleys. Quino and Lines helped me to see the

continuity in a changing community.

I would also like to acknowledge the help of Profesor

Carmelo Lison-Tolosana of the Departamento de Antropologia

Social, Facultad de Ciencias Politicas y Sociologia,

Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and of Don Fernando

Gomarin Guirado of the Libreria Estudio, Padre Echegaray of


the Museo Etnografico Velarde and local historian Profesor

Tom6s Martinez Vara, in Santander. Their help in choosing a

field site and support during my fieldwork was invaluable.

I am indebted to the members of my committee for the

intellectual stimulation they have given me and the

patience they have shown over the years. Anthony Oliver-

Smith, Robert Lawless and James Amelang would never let me

overlook the philosophical and historical bases to anthro-

pological understanding. Terry McCoy graciously stepped in

to take over Dr. Amelang's position when he could no longer

participate in the committee. Paul Doughty and Allan Burns

emphasised the interconnections within the community and

between the community and the outside world. Allan, my

chair, besides spending many hours on my work, was also

instrumental in seeing that my problem orientation did not

make me lose sight of the people who make up the community.

Each of these people and many others showed me

different facets to the understanding of what it is to be a

Lebaniego. If there is anything of value in this work, it

is largely through their patience and frankness. Its errors

are mine.


Que dura es la vida (How hard is life) were the words

an old woman used over and over again to comfort a friend

of mine as he cried openly from too little sleep, too much

wine and the uncertainty he felt because he could not make

up his mind whether to leave his home or stay there. Que

dura es la vida is a phrase you seldom heard in Li6bana,

Spain, the site of my fieldwork*. Everyone knows that life

is hard there and expects it to be. The woman who comforted

my friend never said things would get easier and neither of

them seemed to expect that they would.

This work is a community study of Liebana, a peasant

community of about 7,000 inhabitants, in the province of

Cantabria (Santander) in northern Spain. The study examines

Lebaniego cultural adaptation to the effects of migration,

agricultural change and market intrusion during the period

1950 to 1983.

*Fieldwork for this study was carried out from February
1983 to January 1984. I gratefully acknowledge the major
support for my fieldwork which came from an exchange pro-
gram between the the Department of Anthropology of the
University of Florida and the Departamento de Antropologia
Social, Facultad de Ciencias Politicas y Sociologia,
Universidad Complutense of Madrid, coupled with the
Institute Iberoamericano de Cooperacicn.

Libbana is situated in a reserve area, the mountains

which stretch across northern Spain and continue on into

the Pyrennes of France. This area is most famous for shel-

tering the Basques, with their unique language and separat-

ist factions, but the Basques, the Galicians, the Asturians

and the Cantabrians, have all developed strong cultural

identities in their geographical isolation and stout

resistance to invaders.

Liebana, completely encircled by mountains, is known

as La antigua provincia de Liebana (the ancient province of

Liebana) and Lebaniegos have considered themselves, and

have been considered by outsiders, to be a discrete

cultural and political unit with their own strongly devel-

oped cultural identity since at least Roman times. While

Basque cultural identity has led to Basque separatism,

Lidbana participated in the Asturian and Cantabrian resist-

ance to the Moors and the formation of the kingdom of

Pelayo, which began the reconquest, effectively tying the

loyalty of Lebaniegos to the Spanish state.

This is not a pueblo study. Li6bana is not a pueblo,

but a small region containing slightly over one hundred

settlements. However, as in the southern county in the

United States (Arensberg and Kimball 1965), the web of

interrelations between outlying population centers and the

county seat/market center make each an integral part of the

other. Lebaniegos recognize this, having no term for

residents of a particular pueblo, only for the people of

the region as a whole. The weekly visits of most Lebaniegos

to the Monday mercado (market) in Potes, the central town

of the region, set the rhythm of life in the valleys. I

found the often-used study of a town or pueblo was

insufficient for understanding life in Li6bana. An under-

standing of life in a particular pueblo is impossible

without an understanding of the part which Potes plays in

that life and vice versa. The mercado marks the gathering

and regathering of what must be considered one community

(Arensberg and Kimball 1965:26), the valleys of Liebana.

Like many other rural communities in Spain, Liebana

suffered tremendous population loss and increasing market

intrusion between 1950 and 1983. Its population declined by

44% during this period. Unlike many of these communities,

Liabana seems to have maintained its cultural identity and

to remain a functioning community despite the profound

change which it has undergone. While much of the reason for

the durability of the community of Liebana can be traced to

the accident of geography, Lebaniego's peasant extended

family survival strategy and identification of the entire

system of three mountain valleys in which they live as one

community have provided a strong and resilient basis for

their very active response to change.

In this dissertation, I examine the mechanisms through

which Lebaniegos have maintained their community and the


pressures for change which the community has undergone. In

order to understand the community today, it is necessary to

understand its history and development. Thus I begin the

dissertation by describing the traditional life of the

community and the evolution of Lebaniego community

identity, then go on to describe the change which has

occurred in Li6bana since 1950 and Lebaniego response to

that change. Chapters II and V attempt to put this change

into theoretical perspective.

In preparing for my fieldwork in Libana, I found the

dominant theme of studies of the peasants of Spain and

Europe to be the inevitable demise their way of life.

Historical-structural economic theories of change, followed

by many theorists and ethnographers, seemed to assume the

insignificance of the individual person, community or group

in the clash of monolithic economic and social forces. I

found the idea of peasants as helpless pawns in the grip of

a capitalistic system difficult to accept and found support

for my view in a growing body of literature on the house-

hold economy, which illustrated the durability of peasants

and other groups on the margins of the market economy.

Nevertheless, the literature for Europe and Spain clearly

showed a rapid deterioration and depopulation occurring in

many peasant communities. Thus I came to Libana expecting

to study a community in the process of being transformed by


outside forces. A community whose people had lost control

of their lives.

The people of Li6bana did not let me maintain this

view for long. They were well aware that population loss

had occurred and that it threatened to destroy their

community. They knew that they had had to respond to many

changes imposed from outside of the valleys. Their

herding/agriculture had changed from production for use to

production for sale under the encouragement of state pro-

grams. They knew that market mechanisms had replaced many

of their previous forms of economic interaction. Yet

Lebaniegos also knew that the community and traditional

family life remained strong and they felt themselves to be,

and appeared to be, very much in control of their own


This Lebaniego response to change seemed much better

described by Chayanov's (1966) theory of peasant economy

and current theories of the household economy than by

historical-structural interpretations. Yet many of the

forces posited by historical-structural theories were

certainly causing change in the valleys and the built in

inequality in exchange relations between Lebaniego pro-

ducers and outside consumers of that production was

certainly present. In Chapters II and V I attempt to show

ways in which these two theoretical viewpoints might be

reconciled with the reality I found in Lidbana.

The community studies method which I followed was

instrumental in highlighting both the effect of outside

forces on Li&ana and Lebaniego participation in the change

which occurred in the valleys. By examining the networks of

relations between Lebaniegos and between Lebaniegos and the

outside world, the tremendous pressures for change and

Lebaniego channeling of that change through community

institutions both became apparent. This dissertation shows

the efficacy of applying community study methods and

theories, which have fallen into disuse, but have never

been adequately replaced, to contemporary problems.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................. iii

PREFACE ............... ......................... v

ABSTRACT ....................................... xiii



Introduction ..... ...................... 1
Research Plan ..... ..... ...... .... .......... 4
The Physical Environment ............... 8
The Social Environment .................. 22
The Yearly Round ...................... 25
The Evolution of Lebaniego Identity .... 34
Social Forms ...... ......... .......... .. 43
Europe and Spain ...................... 44
Cantabria, Las Montafas and Santander 45
Termino and Pueblo .................... 46
Social Class .... .................... 51
Church and Parish ..................... 54
La Familia ........................... 58
The Individual and His/Her Group ..... 61
Generational Cycles ................... 63
Conclusion ........ ....................... 66


The Modernization of Agriculture ....... 69
Migration ............................... 70
Peasants: Pawns or Actors? .............. 73
Peasant Generalists ..................... 78
Structures For Dealing With Change ..... 83


1930-1950: Depression, Democracy,
Civil War and Reconstruction .......... 90
1950-1973: Peace, Prosperity and
Migration ............................ 94
Agricultural Modernization:
Dairying and the Market Economy .... 95
Mechanized Agriculture ................ 99
Silvaculture ......................... 103
Tourism .............................. 105
Migration ............................ 107
Conclusion ............................. 124

BORDERS: 1974 THROUGH 1983 ........... 126

Population Change ....................... 128
Social Change in Remote Pueblos ........ 130
Social Change in More Centrally
Located Pueblos in Li6bana ........... 136
Return Migration ....................... 142
Conclusion ......... ..................... 152

V QUE DURA ES LA VIDA ..................... 154

Theoretical and Ethnological
Perspectives ......................... 154
The Survival of Peasant Relations
of Production in Liebana ............. 159
Entry into
the European Economic Community ...... 166
Li6bana's Future ....................... 173

APPENDIX: SPANISH TEXTS ....................... 177

BIBLIOGRAPHY .. ................................. 179

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .......................... 196


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



David de la Peha Reddy

August, 1986

Chairman: Dr. Allan F. Burns
Major Department: Anthropology

This dissertation is an analysis of cultural adapta-

tion to the effects of migration and agricultural change in

the community of Liebana, a mountain valley system in

northern Spain, between 1950 and 1983. It examines press-

ures and opportunities thrust on Liebana during this period

and the mechanisms through which the people of Liebana have

actively responded to maintain the integrity of their

community and its prospects for continued survival.

Population in Liebana held at about 12,000 for many

years, then declined precipitately from 1950-73 due to

migration. A new plateau of about 7,000 seems to have

become established in the 1980's. The same period witnessed


a shift from a subsistence oriented survival strategy to a

market orientation in the form of dairying. Tourism became

a major industry during the 1970's and now provides the

largest flow of cash into the valleys.

Following community study methods, seven major factors

affecting Lidbana's survival as a community are identified:

migration, terrain, agricultural change, tourism,

Lebaniego's strong positive identification with all of

Liebana, a peasant, extended family survival strategy and

the worldwide recession of 1973-84.

Surprisingly, it was found that, based on a peasant,

extended family survival strategy and a strong cultural

identity, Lebaniegos have been able to deal with depopula-

tion and rapid change, maintaining the integrity of their

community through active participation in the process of





Over the last 30 years much of rural Spain has con-

tributed to a stream of migrants, leaving, whether tempo-

rarily or permanently, for the cities of Spain, Europe and

the Americas. Fueled by agricultural modernization and the

traditional lure of the cities, a similar movement can be

found, to a lesser or greater extent, in much of the devel-

oping world and it echos the draining of rural areas

already experienced by the industrialized countries of the

west. This dissertation is a study of a sending area, the

effects of migration and agricultural modernization on it

and the responses of its people as a community to these


The only way to understand the change experienced by a

community is first to understand the community, to under-

stand the processes of stability and change through which

its members maintain its continuity through the genera-

tions. The best way of understanding the community is

through a community study, placing the community in its

physical, social, and cultural contexts (Arensberg 1961,

1968; Arensberg and Kimball 1965, 1968, 1969; Kimball and

Pearsall 1955; Kimball and Partridge 1979; Burns 1978;

Lison-Tolosana 1966, 1976; Vidich and Bensman 1960; Doughty

1968; Joly 1981). Thus, in my fieldwork, I set out first to

understand the community, only then attempting to examine

further the particular aspects of migration and agri-

cultural modernization.

From an understanding of a particular community, care-

ful generalizations to the classes of communities to which

it belongs are possible. In undertaking my community study

as the basis for investigating particular phenomena in

Spain, I am building on the work of a long tradition in

Spanish ethnography and ethnology (Caro Baroja 1943, 1946,

1963, 1966; Pitt-Rivers 1968, 1971; Lison-Tolosana 1966,

1976; Kenny 1969; Freeman 1968, 1970, 1979; Douglass 1969,

1971, 1975, 1976; P6rez-Dfaz 1966, 1969, 1971, 1976;

Greenwood 1976; Aceves 1971; Aceves and Bailey 1967;

Brandes 1973a, 1973b, 1975a, 1975b, 1976; CAtedra 1976;

Christian 1972; Harding 1975, 1976, 1978, 1984; L6pez

Linage 1978; Barrett 1974). While the method of community

studies will be discussed more fully below and in Chapter

II, the contribution of these works to my understanding of

the community in Spain will be discussed in the context of

relevant areas of life in the community.

Migration is usually the result of a complex interplay

of forces in both the sending and receiving areas.

Voluntary migration, consciously decided on by the

individual and his/her family, but usually far from a

"free" choice, has immediate repercussions for both areas,

in this case, depopulating the countryside of Spain and

sending an eager labor force to the cities. In developing

my research proposal and field strategies, I followed an

historical-structural interpretation of migration which

holds that change at the local level is brought about by

forces in the international economic system, beyond the

control of those affected, a view especially prominent in

the works of Wallerstein (1974, 1983), Balan (1976), Portes

(1978), Sassen-Koob (1980), and others (Fligstein 1983;

Frank 1970; Myrdal 1957; Reddy 1983). An application of

this view to rural migration in Spain can be summarized in

these terms: The primary force behind migration has been

the industrialization/modernization of agriculture. In

areas favorable to industrialized agriculture, peasants

have been moved off their land and rural proletariats

rendered excess by large scale mechanized farming (Perez-

Diaz 1976; Naredo 1971; Martinez-Alier 1974; Mendras 1970;

Franklin 1969; Balan 1978; Barrett 1974; Harding 1984). In

areas unfavorable to industrialized agriculture, tradi-

tional, labor intensive, subsistence strategies have failed

or become increasingly uncompetitive with industrialized

agriculture (Brandes 1975a).

Below I will discuss the way I chose my fieldwork

site, then go on to describe in some detail the physical

setting and the social and cultural patterns forming


traditional life in Li6bana (the site chosen). Although

physically isolated, Liebana has been affected by and has

had some effect on the changing fortunes of its region and

Spain over the last two millenia. To understand what has

occurred in the last few decades, it will be necessary to

understand what the community of Li4bana was like when this

tumultuous period began. In Chapter II I will discuss at

greater length the theoretical and methodological problems

addressed by the dissertation, then in subsequent chapters

I will consider the change undergone by Liebana since 1950

and forces likely to affect the community in the future.

Research Plan

I had not chosen a site for my research when I came to

Spain. Rather I had chosen a configuration of circumstances

which I wished to explore and a general area: Santander

Province. The circumstances I was looking for included a

fairly isolated area, inhospitable to extensive agricul-

ture, containing a community which fulfilled/had fulfilled

most of the needs of the local population and which had

experienced significant migration. Much of the literature

led me to believe that wherever I looked in rural Spain I

would find a social system in the late stages of decline

and smaller central places rapidly losing their functions

to larger cities. I chose Santander Province because its

mountains and narrow coastal plain had to some degree

protected it from industrialized agriculture while it


still retained an essentially agricultural/herding economy

in its rural areas, and because I was most familiar with

the literature on northern Spain.

I had chosen the above set of circumstances in order

to explore the effects, on a fairly complete and bounded

community, of agricultural modernization and migration. By

complete I mean a community capable (or formerly capable)

of reproducing itself, of passing on its culture and social

forms from one generation to the next following Arensberg

and Kimball (1965, 1968, 1969) and others (Doughty 1968;

Lison-Tolosana 1966; Long and Roberts 1978, 1984; Arensberg

1968; and see Chapter II below).

Minimal institutional components of a community meet-

ing the needs of my inquiry included: primary and secondary

schools; local government functions performed and services

available in the community; availability of most forms of

goods and services (foodstuffs, fuel, work implements,

banks, restaurants, hotels, bars, etc.) in the community

and sufficient population to maintain these amenities.

As will become apparent in my description of Liebana,

the definition of community I used is not restricted to the

more common and traditional conception of a community as a

single village, town or city. Rather it follows that of

Arensberg who states

The community is the minimal unit table of organiza-
tion of the personnel who can carry and transmit this
culture. It is the minimal unit realizing the categor-
ies and offices of their social organization. It is
the minimal group capable of re-enacting in the


present and transmitting to the future the cultural
and institutional inventory of their distinctive and
historic tradition. And from it, in it the child
learns, from peers and the street as well as from
parents and teachers, the lore of his people and what
must be learned to become one of them. (Arensberg
1961:253 emphasis his).

One of the many advantages of this formulation of the

community is that it recognizes the existence of dispersed

communities such as the county in the southern United

States (Arensberg and Kimball 1965). Made up of scattered

homesteads or population centers, the southern county and

my fieldwork site, which I will be describing below, are

both united through regular cycles of community-wide inter-

action. Further implications of this definition and the

community studies method will be discussed below and in

Chapter II.

With a great deal of help, (See Acknowledgments) I was

able to narrow possible fieldwork sites in Santander Pro-

vince to three, centered around the towns of Cabez6n de la

Sal, Puente Nansa and Potes. On further investigation of

these towns and their regions, I found that each had been

strongly influenced by migration and modernization. Cabez6n

de la Sal was becoming a regional transport, bulking and

light industrial center as rail, highway and communication

links improved and allowed it to serve a larger hinterland.

Its population has more than doubled since the turn of the

century. Puente Nansa, on the other hand, had never really

been the center for its valley (Christian 1972) and was now

losing some of the functions it did have as improved roads

and transport allowed the consolidation of schools and

services into the developing regional center: Cabez&n de la

Sal. Potes, the center of a culture region known as

Liebana, whose people call themselves and are known as

Lebaniegos1, fell somewhere between these two. Isolation

had allowed it to retain its functions as a central place

while migration from the rest of Li6bana had replaced

migrants from the town. A short, hectic two month tourist

season had replaced agriculture as the area's biggest money

maker. Had Li6bana become a tourist area with a little

agriculture or was it an agricultural area with a little

tourism? I chose to study Potes and Li6bana despite this

worry because I felt that the boundaries of the region

centered on Cabez6n de la Sal were too extensive, while

those of Puente Nansa had been constricting for too long.

Thus I came to Liebana, a small traditionally agricul-

tural/herding region in northern Spain, expecting to study

the effects of migration on a culture in disarray. As I

expected, Li6bana had experienced tremendous population

loss with a decrease from 12,114 in 1950 to 6,791 in 1981,

a 44 percent loss (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica 1982),

and Lebaniego agriculture had been under intense competi-

tive pressure during this time as well. Despite this, I

came away with more of a study of the effects of the

1Lay-bahn-yay-guz in the distinctive local dialect, which
turns a final o into a u.


community on migration and cultural adaptation to change.

The contribution of this dissertation is that it illus-

trates the resilience and continuity of the community, even

under the pressure of heavy migration and rapid change.

Although I found the effects of many of the forces posited

in the historical-structural view, I found that the people

of Liebana have maintained the extended family survival

strategy of the peasant community, adapting it to a chang-

ing economic and social situation, without destroying the

basic patterns of community life. The growing cost of

mechanized agriculture, due to rising fossil fuel costs,

may also have eased the competitive pressure on Li6bana's

labor-intensive herding/agriculture allowing the poss-

ibility of its survival into the future.

The remainder of Chapter I provides an introduction to

the physical and social environment of Liebana and to the

institutions, behavior patterns and ways of dealing with

the physical and social environment traditional to Leban-

iegos and the identities which grew out of them. A clear

understanding of the development of the community will

provide a basis for discussing its responses to the change

experienced in recent years.

The Physical Environment

Li6bana forms the extreme western part of Santander

Province and is located on the southern side of the eastern

massif of the Picos de Europa (See Figure 1-1). The Picos


de Europa form part of the chain of mountains that extends

along the north coast of Spain into the Pyrennes and on up

the Atlantic coast of Europe including large parts of the

British Isles and Ireland. With a usually narrow coastal

plain, this area forms an ecological zone called the

Atlantic Fringe. The mountains of the Atlantic Fringe block

and precipitate the rain and this zone is generally charac-

terized by-high rainfall levels and lush vegetation.

The north coast of Spain is called the "Costa Verde"

(Green Coast) and Santander Province receives 1 to 1.5

meters of rain per year. The coastal plain is narrow and

hil ly, seldom more than 20 kilometers wide, and the moun-

tains rise abruptly behind it. Rainfall levels are general-

ly much higher along the coast and remain high in the

mountain river valleys which open onto the coast and run,

for the most part, directly south from it (See Figure 1-1).

Li&ana consists of the valleys of the river Deva and

its two major tributaries, the Quiviesa and Bul Ilon (See

Figure 1-2). The rivers join in the area of Potes, the

regional center, and flow north to the Cantabrian Sea (Bay

of Biscay) as the river Deva. Completely surrounded by

mountains which average around 2,000 meters above sea

level, access to the valleys is limited to two high passes

and a narrow defile, all of which are frequently closed by

snow in the winter.

Lidbana is shielded by the Picos to the north and this

reduces its average rainfall to .6145 meters, the lowest of



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Canecerais e i'ly oraen........... ....-
id. ae '9 y principales......--.- ..
ferrocarriles yestLacones .................
Pueblos cmestaciones.......... ....Waa
CapsLalidades de parioos judaiciam--..... 4
id. de ayuntamlLntos ...----- g
Otros pubtlos.. ... ...............


Figure 1-1: Map of the Province of Santander, courtesy of
La Direccicn General de Promocicn del Turismo, Gobierno de
Cantabria (The Office of Tourism, Government of Cantabria)



I Md
r-4 0



!'2~~ B..~

Figure 1-3: Potes and The Picos De Europa.

Figure 1-4: La Feria de San Pedro (The Fair of St. Peter),
Potes, 6/29/83.

Now '"- 1J-._J

At \s S E 'i d

--0L1 1,

Figure 1-5: All Souls Day and the blessing of the graves.

Figure 1-6: The family gathers for First Communion.

62 --
k t'" y'> -
*' ^ J

Figure 1-7: Everyone helps
Camacho 's.


out when they butcher a pig at


" WV "
A-0^ _J^

Figure 1-8: Amigos.


any reporting station in Santander Province (Fondo Para la

Investigaci6n Econ6iica y Social de la Confederaci6n

Espahola de Cajas de Ahorro 1972 Tomo 1:54). This is still

heavy rainfall, but it is enough reduced to allow the

growing of wheat in the area, a crop that rots in the field

from too much moisture in most of the Province.

The more than 100 population concentrations of Lidbana

range in altitude from about 245 meters above sea level

(Tama) to 1,108 meters (Caloca). The altitude of a particu-

lar pueblo went far in determining the contents of the

traditional yearly round in that pueblo, with those at high

altitudes tending to be more involved in purely herding

activities while pueblos at lower levels tended to maintain

more of a mix of herding and smal 1 farming. Despite these

differences, the tempo of life throughout the valleys was

largely determined by the seasons; spring bringing the

villagers out of their houses with its quickening pace,

summer with its long steady labor, fall with its harvests

giving way to time for games and fiestas and preparation

for the cold and isolation of winter.

Even the smallest pueblos2 of Li6bana are highly

nucleated, with most buildings butting directly against the

I use the term pueblo for the towns and hamlets of Li6b-
ana, including small geographically separate subsidiary
population concentrations referred to as barrios in several
other studies (Christian 1972; Freeman 1979). I use the
term barrio to refer only to neighborhoods within or close
to larger pueblos. This follows local usage and recognizes
the distance of some pueblos from their municipal center.


next in line. The only exceptions to this rule involve

recent construction for returning migrants or summer visi-

tors who have built a scattering of houses on their own

grounds around Potes. A local butcher who built his family

a new home less than a kilometer from the center of Potes

found out just how strong the desire to live in town can

be. He was forced to rent the dwelling when his wife

refused to live there because she would be too far from her

family and friends. Some school teachers from another pro-

vince were glad to get it.

Despite its long history as a trading center, in

Potes, as in most of the pueblos of Li6bana, the village

was built to be close to prime agricultural land and herd-

ing areas while removing as little land from production as

possible. For Potes this meant building on the south slope

of the valley, which is in the shade of the mountains from

three in the afternoon until nine in the morning during the

winter, to leave the north slope clear for vinyards. Dobar-

ganes, a small pueblo in the t6rmino of Vega de Liebana,

spills down a steep slope to leave more open land for

hierba (hay) and pasturage.

Li&ana covers an area of 55,800 hectares. However, of

that area, approximately 20,543 hectares have a slope of

thirty to fifty percent and 17,250 hectares have a slope of

greater than fifty percent, leaving only 18,007 hectares

with a slope under 30 percent and thus the potential to be

useful for more than grazing or timberland (Colegio Oficial

de Ingenieros Tecnicos Agricolas y Peritos Agricolas de

Santander 1980:25 & 33). Even this does not tell the full

story, however; two-thirds of this relatively flat land is

at an altitude of 700 meters or greater, further reducing

the uses to which it can be put (Colegio Oficial de

Ingenieros Tecnicos Agricolas y Peritos Agricolas de San-

tander 1980:33).

Land in Li6bana, according to its altitude, access-

ibility, slope and local custom, is usually devoted to one

of seven major uses: pasture/hay fields, cornfields,

gardens, monte, orchards, vinyards and tended forest. The

monte is mountain scrub land, owned in common and exploited

for firewood and grazing, but too remote and/or steep for

improvement. Pasture/hay fields are to be found at all

altitudes to take maximum advantage of the growing season

for grasses. Orchards, vinyards and cornfields, sites for

substantial investments of time and effort, are in favored

sheltered areas at lower altitudes. Until the 1950s wheat

was the major crop in these areas. Gardens, small in extent

but important in production, are again found in favored

sheltered areas, but this time close to the home for con-

stant tending. Tended forest "tree farms," most usually are

found in areas of high slope and limited accessibility, but

may appear anywhere, signaling the long-term investment of

a migrant from the valleys.


Garden crops include potatoes, beans and varied vege-

tables, especially cabbages, the most durable winter vege-

table. Corn is grown solely as a feed crop for cattle and

chickens. The wheat of earlier days has given way to the

need for more animal feed and the cheapness of wheat

brought in from the interior. Orchard crops include

cherries, guindas (a sour cherry), apples and pears as well

as the occasional nut tree, which may be anywhere, but is

always individually owned and tended. Vinyards, now rare in

Li6bana, provide grapes for wine and are the only legal

source for the leavings of wine making which are used to

make the local aguardiente orujo, which is probably

Liebana's most famous product.

Animals herded include cattle, sheep, goats and

horses. Traditionally cattle were raised for work animals

and meat and their ability to live outdoors for a good part

of the year with minimal care and no feed other than pas-

ture. Dairy cattle were kept only for the family's own

needs or, in the lower altitudes, to meet the needs of

nonagriculturalists in the larger pueblos. Sheep and goats

were and are kept for their meat and milk, mostly in the

higher pueblos where their owners have access to communal

lands for grazing. Horses for work and meat have also

traditionally been raised in the higher elevations of the

valleys. In addition to the animals herded, most agricul-

tural/herding families have also kept pigs enough to

slaughter two or three a year, preserving the meat for

family needs and cash or barter income. Small flocks of

chickens, maintained for their eggs and meat, also remain


Dairying is now the main pursuit of almost all of the

agriculturalists of Liebana. Three kinds of cattle are

raised in the valleys today: The Tudanca, a small hardy

local breed which replaced Liebana's native cattle,

produces little milk and has meat of inferior quality.

Primarily a draft animal, it is often interbred with the

Suiza or Swiss.; The Swiss or Parda Alpina was brought into

northern Spain in the 1800s. It is superior to the Tudanca

in size, meat quality and milk production and is well

suited to high altitude and cold. However, local informants

feel that it is not so hardy as the Tudanca, so crosses

between the two have become the most popular cattle in

Li6bana today, and the Frisona or Dutch dairy cow which is

adapted to lower altitudes and a milder climate, but which

will produce greater quantities of higher quality milk on a

diet of pasture or hay supplemented with concentrated

feeds. Expensive to purchase and maintain, Frisona cattle

are found only in a few large dairies at the lowest


Lidbana has traditionally been a peasant area and has

been tied into the national economy for centuries. It has

had an overlord of some kind, extracting surpluses and

imposing structure, since at least Roman times. Thus the


needs and desires of the outside world have always had an

effect on the area, requiring that Lebaniegos balance their

subsistence needs with the necessity of producing a sur-

plus. Most of the above described subsistence crops are

durable for storage in subsistence and also were transport-

able to overlords or markets outside Liebana by available

means. In the last forty years production has continued to

respond to outside forces. As roads into the valleys and

transportation improved, dairying and wood production have

increased while wine and wheat production, which can be

more easily and cheaply carried out in other parts of

Spain, have decreased.

The Social Environment

The development of a community requires more than

simple propinquity. In this section I continue to explore

the factors which contributed to the development of a

community which encompasses all of LiAbana. These included

the perceptions of outsiders, especially in government, as

well as those of Lebaniegos as to the limits and political

composition of the area and the commonality of interests to

be found there.

Sparsely populated areas lying between the coast and

the interior of Spain, the mountain valleys of northern

Spain have historically been included into one province or

another, more on the basis of convenience for the ruling

class than that of valley residents. Some valleys were even


carved up for various overlords (Christian 1972). As far as

can be determined, Libana has been treated as one politi-

cal district at least since Roman times, although it has

had to answer to various capitals. Known as la antiaua

provincia de Liabana (the ancient province of Liebana), it

became part of the Province of Santander when the province

was created in 1827.

The three valleys of Liebana are divided on the basis

of geographical changes into 5 large terminos (see below).

A sixth termino, in the typical Spanish political fashion

of balancing the center against the parts, is composed

largely of the town of Potes, the strategic center, govern-

mental center and market center of the valleys.

A termino or municipio (the terms are used interchang-

ably), described by Christian (1972:4) as "a township or

vale," is usually defined by changes in geography rather

than population, with the proviso that it must contain at

least one town. A termino usually consists of a central

town and its rural hinterland, which may be quite extensive

and contain a number of smaller pueblos. This is the case

for all of the terminos of Liebana except Potes. All of the

land belongs to one tErmino or another, much like counties

in the U.S. However, terminos differ from U.S. counties in

that they are usually much smaller and have no judicial

functions and only rudimentary police powers. Most police

powers are reserved to the national police, the Guardia

Civil, who operate without regard to termino boundaries.

T4rminos are grouped into districts (Comarcas), usual-

ly on the basis of geographical unity, with a central court

for all local cases. Many provincial and national

government services such as agricultural extension and

social security are also provided at the Comarcal level

rather than that of the termino. All of Liebana forms one

Comarca, administered from Potes.

In this study, I have included six of the seven t6r-

minos which make up the Comarca of Liebana: Cabez6n de

Liebana, Camaleho, Cillorigo-Castro, Pesagdero, Potes and

Vega de Liebana. These conform to the area of the three

river valleys which meet in the vicinity of Potes (See

Figure 1-2).

Tresviso, the seventh t4rmino of the Comarca, consists

of one town and has a population of 91 (Instituto Nacional

de Estadistica, 1982). It is located in the high valley of

the Rio Urd6n, a tributary of the Deva, which enters the

river approximately 16 kilometers from Potes, near La

Hermida, a t&rmino considered outside of Liebana. Separated

by impassable mountains, Tresvisinos must come through La

Hermida to reach the rest of the Comarca. A Villa (country

seat) in its own right in former days, Tresviso's major

connection with Li6bana is that it was included in the

district by the provincial government. It is now in the

process of being transferred to the jurisdiction of San

Vicente de la Barquera, a coastal town.


Although officially part of Liebana, Lebaniegos are

quick to point out that of course Tresvisinos are very dif-

ferent. Some even told me a story, which they claimed not

to believe, that the Tresvisinos are actually lost Irishmen

(there are apparently a lot of redheads in Tresviso). In

addition, Tresvisinos that I spoke to strongly rejected

labeling as Lebaniegos, in contrast to the strong positive

identification of people from every other part of Liebana.

I have therefore excluded Tresviso from my study.

The six remaining t&rminos form a very neatly bounded

geographic area. It is completely encircled by mountains

and at each of the three natural entrances to the valleys

there is a gap in habitation, forced by the terrain, that

clearly marks the limits of Li6bana. These geographic

limits correspond with the social boundaries perceived by

Lebaniegos and are reinforced by the isolated position of

Li6bana. Liebana is not on the road to anywhere. A vehicle

crossing one of the mountain passes or driving through the

defile into Li6bana is almost surely bound for a destina-

tion within the valleys. It is almost always quicker to

drive around the area rather than through it.

The Yearly Round

For much of recorded history, the vast majority of

Lebaniegos have shared a similar life style and survival

strategy and thus a similar yearly rhythm to life. This

most basic of common interests has been fundamental in the


shaping of the community of Liebana and the people of

Liebana have shaped their response to the radical change of

the last thirty years on the cultural and social systems

traditional to the valleys. The yearly round and the

development of Lebaniego identity are thus described in

some detail below.

Javier L6pez Linage named his 1978 study of a pueblo

in Li6bana "Antropologia de la Ferocidad Cotidiana:

Supervivencia y Trabajo en una Comunidad C6ntabra." (Anth-

ropology of the Daily Ferocity of Life: Survival and Work

in a Cantabrian Community.) and the agricultural/herding

life practiced by most Lebaniegos is indeed very hard. With

little land and fewer reserves, a bad harvest or a cow that

dies of illness can spell disaster. Yet the life which I

will be describing below as typical of Liabana in the first

half of this century must be considered an improvement over

the situation which prevailed into the last half of the

1800s and ended only with the final breakup of the Antiguo

Regimen (the old or ancient order).

The old order was based on feudal senorial rights, in

which nobles who had been of service to the crown were

granted ownership of large tracts of land and often the

administration of the populace living on it, giving them

the right to set and collect fees and taxes, which the

sefores took as a license to steal, checked only by the

poverty and tendency to revolt of their subjects. Their

land was generally let to tenant farmers in sharecropping

or share renting arrangements or worked by day laborers.

Overseen by local agents of the noble, these arrangements

were identical with those of cotton tenancy in the southern

U.S. (See Raper 1936; L6pez Linage 1978).

The old order also granted the church the right to the

diezmo (tithe), which all were required to pay. Tomas

Martinez Vara describes the system of caciquismo bossismm)

in his historical introduction to Estado de las Fabricas,

Comercio, Industria y Agricultura en las Montafas de

Santander (S. XVIII) (The State of Factories, Commerce,

Industry and Agriculture in the Mountains of Santander

(18th Century) by J.M.3

For most of history, the mountain countryman was
a small proprietor, renter of a tiny plot, artesan or
hauler of wheat, wine, firewood, charcoal or fish and
day laborer; the renters, sharecroppers and day
laborers depended on a 'friend' who habitually was an
aristocrat separated from the region, for which he
felt no interest, solely caring about the collection
of its rents, the handling of which he entrusted to
the administrators of his lands and jurisdictions;
(Vara IN J.M. 1979:90. Translation mine. See Appendix
for Spanish text.)

Vara reports an 1860 census finding which showed that

42.1 percent of farmers4 in the mountains of Santander

3The identity of J.M. is not known beyond his initials. He
described himself only as a "man of the Province with some
disposition for observation and, of necessity, a talent for
writing." (1979:Inner jacket). His description, criticism
of and suggested remedies for conditions in the mountains
of Santander was sent unbidden to the Provincial

4Who constitutes a farmer is not made clear. Seemingly only
male heads of household.


were day laborers, 27.9 percent were renters and only 29.9

percent were land owners (Vara in J.M. 1979:89). Those who

owned land usually did not own enough for their families to

live on and were forced to rent more or to work at day

labor as well. Vara and J.M. devote much of their works to

detailing the hunger and misery of the montafeses (the

Cantabrian term for mountaineers) during this period,

placing most of the blame on sehorial rights and on the

diezmo of the church.

Seforial rights were abolished and the diezmo made

voluntary with the end of the old order, lifting a tremen-

dous burden from the backs of the peasants. But this was

far from the end of caciquismo. Local caciques controlled

the apparatus of democracy in each region after the restor-

ation of the Spanish monarchy in 1874. In return for making

sure that the 'right' people were allowed to vote and the

'right' people were elected, caciques were given virtually

unlimited local control of the machinery of the state,

including police, courts and taxation (Brenan 1964).

Although this power faded with the faltering of the central

government after the turn of the century, it persisted

until the beginning of the Dictatorship of Primo de Rivera

in 1923. Though stripped of much of their ability to

directly control the apparatus of government in their own

behalf, through control of land, jobs and loans and the use

of their political influence on behalf of clients,


caciques have remained a powerful force in Liebana to this


Sharecropping and share renting continued into the

1950s, but had begun to fade during the 1940s as Lebaniegos

began to shift their fields from wheat to pasture and hay

fields for dairy cows. This less intensive use allowed

landowners to work more land and sharecropping arrangements

became less attractive to them. The major blow to share-

cropping and share renting came with the resumption of

migration in the 1950s, however. Migration made more land

available for purchase or long term rental. At the same

time cash from dairying and migrant remittances became

available to a broader spectrum of Lebaniegos and many

former sharecroppers or share renters were able to purchase

land. By the mid-1950s few sharecroppers or share renters

remained (L6pez Linage 1978:194-95). By 1972 only 3.4

percent of farm land in Santander was under some form of

share cropping agreement and 9 percent was rented (Fondo

para la Investigacidn Economica y Social de la

Confederaci6n Espafola de Cajas de Ahorro 1972, Tomo

11:37). In Li6bana only 131 hectares were sharecropped in

1972 while 1,512 were rented (Instituto Nacional de

Estadistica 1973c:30-31). This was a very different kind of

renting too, for cash and usually on an extended lease

rather than the share renting at the pleasure of the land-

lord which had gone before. Agricultural change will be

addressed further in Chapters III and IV below.

Up until about 1950 herding and wheat farming deter-

mined the yearly round of activities in the herding/agri-

cultural villages of Li6bana. In spring the men would be

feeding the last of the previous year's hay to the cattle,

and plowing the fields with oxen to sow the wheat and the

other lesser crops which made up their small farming (some

varieties of wheat had already been sown in the autumn, to

lie dormant under the snow and be ready for spring). As the

spring progressed they would move the beef cattle and

unproductive dairy cows to mountain pastures, there to be

watched for a fee by the inhabitants of the nearby high

villages or herded by a representative of each family in

rotation or al lowed to roam on common pasture and checked

often by their owners. At the same time women would be

occupied in the first thinning and weeding of the crops,

hard work to be done by hoe or by hand. Children and old

people would aid in tasks appropriate to their age and

abilities and everyone would be busy, the enforced idleness

and leisurely visiting of the winter replaced by a quick

visit to Potes on market day for a few necessities and a

glass of wine once in a month if you could spare the time.

With summer most of the people of the village would

begin the cutting and storing of hay that would occupy them

for the rest of the summer and extend into early fall, the

men cutting with their scythes and the women and children

following behind with rakes to spread the hay out to dry,


then the whole family storing it in the barn. This was the

period when migrated family members would be enticed home

if possible to aid in the work through the fall. Once the

hay is cut it must be dried and stored quickly so that it

will not be ruined by rain.

Village labor was also roughly coordinated during this

time. The traditional inheritance system of equal shares to

all children and the desire to insure subsistence by

spreading production over a varied area, applied over

centuries, had caused fields to be tiny or merely subdivis-

ions of a larger field, marked off by agreed upon land-

marks. In addition villages frequently held lands in

common, meteing out shares to each household (see "vecinos"

below). Cutting of the hay had to be coordinated to some

extent so that all parts of a field would be finished at

about the same time so cows could be allowed to graze on

the stubble and for the unspoken reason of making sure no

one cheated you out of your rightful share of the hay.

With late summer came the culmination of the produc-

tion process. The last of the hay was gathered in as the

cattle that had spent the summer in high pastures were

brought down, stopping to graze in the stubble of lower

meadows. The ears and stalks of the corn were gathered for

sillage. Gardens and orchards were harvested and their

produce preserved for the winter. Grapes were brought in

and the wine making begun, a process much anticipated since

locally produced wine begins to turn to vinegar in August.

The leavings from the wine making would be used to make

orujo, the potent local aguardiente for which Li6bana is

known throughout Spain. While these were important, a major

part of the family's effort would be bent to bringing in

and processing the wheat crop, their bread for the next

year. The wheat, reaped, like the hay, by the entire fam-

ily, was threshed by oxen on a common village threshing

floor, then winnowed by the women and children before being

taken to an area mill for grinding.

Late summer and early fall also signalled the time for

the fiestas of the patron saints of many of the villages

and all of the terminos; a chance for each to draw back its

migrants with more limited time, to reaffirm its identity,

to provide a celebration to repay the hospitality of those

from other pueblos, and maybe a chance to meet a spouse or

for a prospective spouse to unobtrusively size up your

vil lage and your place in it. Ranging from a simple one day

event consisting of a solemn mass, a romeria (religious

procession) and a verbena (an evening dance held outdoors,

usual ly with a live band), to a five day extravaganza put

on by Potes, fiestas were traditionally organized by the

mozos (young unmarried men and women between about 15 and

30), and this is still true for the smaller villages of

Liebana. However, Potes' fiesta has long been the culmina-

tion of the fiesta season, a reaffirmation of Lebaniego


identity and Potes' mozos must give way to the town


In winter there was little more than maintenance work

to do; feed the animals, milk the cows and try to keep

warm. Al 1 of the visiting migrants had gone back to work.

The men spent much of the day playing mus and tute (card

games) in their village tipicos (usually a combination

bar/restaurant/grocery store) or those of nearby towns -

Potes if the trip was not too difficult. Women worked to-

gether in small courtyard groups of relatives or friends.

The children were in school again after the harvest. In

December and early January would come the celebration and

reaffirmation of the family Christmas and the coming of

the Three Kings.

Despite the emphasis on self-sufficiency, Li6bana

still supported a number of service personnel and outside

professionals, especially in Potes and in the central towns

of the terminos. The service personnel included black-

smiths, carpenters, masons, builders, innkeepers, barkeep-

ers, storekeepers, restaurateurs, barbers, seamstresses,

forest wardens, bakers, butchers, millers, wood cutters and

carters. Most of these were part-time occupations, fre-

quently combined and carried on by a family which also

practiced the normal round of herding/agricultural


Outside professionals included school teachers, doc-

tors, pharmacists, veterinarians, town secretaries and

Guardia Civil (national police). Appointed by the national

government, these professionals are traditionally sent

anywhere except their home area. This professional elite

formed two small isolated groupings within valley society;

that of the Guardia Civil, who traditionally stick to

themselves and that of the rest of the professionals who

also associated with upper class members of local society

and with the local priests, the final members of Liebana's

professional elite. There has been only one monastery left

in Liebana for the last century or two ("hace much

tiempo") and its eight remaining cloistered monks emerge

only to participate in a few religious events.

The Evolution of Lebaniego Identity

The similarity of the annual cycle for most Lebaniegos

created a commonality of interests and feelings, but this

they shared with the mountaineers of most of Santander

Province. Another cycle, the weekly market in Potes, over-

laid, and still overlays, the annual cycle, providing the

forum and the event for a weekly meeting of much of the

population of Li&bana. This is illustrated by a traditional

song, said to be centuries old, from the termino of

PesagSero (See Figure 1-2).

Soy de Potes, soy de Potes,
del Valle de Valdeprado,
del pueblo de Pesagtero
y aqui me tennis cantando.


I am from Potes, I am from Potes,
from the Valley of Valdeprado,
from the pueblo of Pesaguero,
and here you have me singing.

(Quoted by Cicero 1982a:20. Translation mine.)

Lebaniegos relate to the rest of Liebana through

Potes, its center and may even, as in the verse above,

identify themselves as being from Potes when communicating

with outsiders while they are away from home. Potes, whose

name is thought to stem from an earlier Roman name "Pontes"

(bridges), lies in a narrow part.of its valley at the

meeting of the rivers Quiviesa and Deva and just 1 kilome-

ter upstream of the entry of the Bul lon. Its bridges have

for centuries controlled access to the upper valleys of the

Quiviesa and Deva and for centuries those bridges have been

overlooked by a military fortress (Torre), placed there to

enforce the rule of whatever outside power currently held

sway over Li6bana. The most recent Torre, the Torre del

Infantado, was built on the remains of an earlier fortress

in the 14th century. It now serves as the town hall (ayun-

tamineto) of Potes and courthouse for the district of


In defining what constitutes a community, Arensberg

and Kimball find that

The easiest criterion may well be: who come
together and who separate again, characteristically
speaking? When we find the people of our table of
organization assembled or come together at one time
and know the limit of their dispersal at another, only
to meet them regathered with one another at a third
time, we have found the range, the rhythm, the


membership, and the identity of the community we seek.
(Arensberg and Kimball 1965:26)

The existence of Potes, a central focus within the valleys

made inevitable by the necessity that roads follow the

river valleys, has allowed the development of a community

identity in Liebana. This identity flows from the market

function of Potes more than from its role as administrative

center. Always the town with the most businesses, Potes

holds the three major ferias (fairs) (See Figure 1-3) of

the year and a weekly mercado (market) on Mondays that draw

itinerant vendors and cattle buyers from outside the

valleys, providing a selection of goods and prices which

cannot be matched by the small businesses of the valleys

and the major outlet for the livestock (cattle, sheep,

goats, pigs and horses) produced in the valleys. A thousand

dairy cows, most with their new calves, and another thous-

and or so beef cattle were offered for sale in the largest

feria of the year, the Feria de la Cruz (Fair of the

Cross) in Potes in 1984 (Del Rio 1984:20).

The major event of most weeks, Lebaniegos from all

parts of the valleys flock to Potes' mercado on Mondays, to

buy, sell or simply to drink a glass of wine with their

friends. By the time the typical Lebanigo living outside of

Potes is an adult, he/she has been to Potes hundreds, if

not thousands, of times. During those visits they have

developed an acquaintance with, or at least facial


recognition of, thousands of fellow Lebaniegos. As Isidro

Cicero, a local historian states

This is the town of the 2 rivers -Deva and
Quiviesa -, The town of the five bridges, capital of
the district, geographical center, heart, head and
stomach of all the valleys that make up the ancient
province of Liebana.

Potes is the central plaza of Liebana, if you
understand me. What I mean by this is that it is the
meeting place of all these little lebaniego pueblos
that we have encountered spread over the heights. How
many time have I seen two neighbors that live next
door in the same village, if they have to talk of
something especially important say: 'Well, lets talk
about this next Monday in Potes.' Monday and Potes,
are two words that the lebaniegos carry united in
their heads, indivisible, so that to say one is to
think of the other and viceversa. (Cicero 1982a:54.
Emphasis his. Translation mine. See Appendix for
Spanish text.)

This contrasts sharply with the situation described by

Christian (1972) in the Rionansa Valley, just east of

Liabana. He found that, due to the geography of the valley

and its division between several political districts, the

Rionansa valley had never developed a central town or a

feeling of identity with the valley as a whole.

Lebaniego identity has developed over the centuries.

Below I will sketch some of the major events and forces

which I believe contributed to that development.

Liebana was part of the original kingdom of Pelayo,

the king who began the reconquest of Spain from the Moors

in about 722 A.D. The tremendous influx of refugees from

the Moorish conquest, especially clergy, profoundly influ-

enced the development of Li6bana. Considered a reserve

area, Cantabria had been pacified and taxed by the Romans

and more or less converted to Christianity by the Visi-

goths, but its rural areas were never profoundly altered

from their pre-Roman tribal heritage until the defeat of

the Visigoths (Gonzalez Echegaray 1966, 1969, 1977; Freeman

1979). Li4bana then became a major religious center and the

conversion to Christianity was completed5. As Cicero


Li&bana came to be extremely overpopulated then.
It was then thought to have the largest percentage of
theologians, bishops, nobles and monks per square
kilometer of all christianity. As a first step in
restoring order in the territory, they built a moun-
tain of monasteries, full to the bursting, to rehouse
and organize this flood of people.

In all Liebana there appear to have been more
than 20 monasteries. The oldest is documented in
790... (Cicero 1982a:71. Translation mine. See
Appendix for Spanish text.)

These religious refugees brought potent symbols of

Christianity with them, including such things as bones of

several of the apostles and a flagon of Mary's milk. The

monasteries built up around these relics, especially what

is now the Monastery of Santo Toribio, were granted rents

from much of the land and dominated life in Liebana until

the twelfth century when the church's secular power began

5There is evidence that even then pre-christian beliefs
persisted and were being co-opted by the Catholic Church. A
large pre-christian, Cantabrian Sun-Stone was recently
rediscovered behind the altar of the tenth century church
of Santa Maria of Lebefa in the municipio of Cillorigo-
Castro (See Figure 1-2). It has now been built into the
front of the altar for all to see, suggesting that church
priorities have changed over the past 1,000 years in


to decline. By that time the reconquest was far advanced

and Lidbana had once more become a reserve area.

Over the centuries since then, the monasteries and

their relics were removed from Liebana, leaving only the

Monastery of Santo Toribio, housing what is claimed to be

the largest surviving piece of the Lignum Crucis (Christ's

cross). Santo Toribio, started about the beginning of the

ninth century, became the major center for regional relig-

ious devotion and the monastery and the Santa Cruz (holy

cross) major symbols of Lebaniego identity.

Lebaniegos were granted special privileges in recogni-

tion of their role in the reconquest. Acknowledged as

hidalgoss" (untitled nobility) of "sangre pura" (pure

"blood"), they still consider their dialect to be a pre-

cursor to and more "pure" than Castilian, the language of

Spain. Thus Lebaniego history is tied to that of the

nation. They see their ancestors as creators of a unified

country and identify strongly with Spain. This despite the

fact that, whatever they might have been called, the common

people of Liebana were feudal serfs throughout the Middle


Local sefores (titled nobility) gained control of the

valleys as church power waned. Small Torres were built to

control access to each valley and the Torre of the strong-

est family, that of Don Rodrigo de Lara, was located in

Potes. With little outside interference, power came to


reside in the Torres and in Potes, the strategic center of

the valleys.

With the fourteenth century, control of Liebana

passed, through inheritance, outside of the valleys. Much

of Lidbana became part of the immense holdings of the Duque

del Infantado. However, the new Torre, built by the Duque

in Potes, was soon faced by a second, that of Orej6n de la

Lama, a local noble. The gathering strength of local nobles

was a symptom of the growing importance of purely local

concerns in the political life of Lebaniegos and of their

growing regional identification. Political struggles would

continue to follow those of the larger world, but from then

on they were reinterpreted through the prism of Lebaniego

self interest and fought out at the local level for control

of Liebana. For instance, Lebaniegos were strongly divided

during the revolt of the Comuneros (1520-22) and forces

were raised on both sides. They did not march off to war,

but rather to Potes to fight it out around the Torre.

Liebana raised an army of 1,579 men to fight the French

during the War of Independence (1808-14). Again they did

not march off to war, but stayed in their valleys, forced

authorities sympathetic with the French out of power and

fought a guerrilla war against seventeen different French

expeditions into Liebana, this despite the destruction of

several villages and the burning of Potes in reprisal for

guerrilla ambushes (Cicero 1982a:43 & 51).


Traditionally a conservative area, Li6bana has been

slow to follow the radical changes in government philosophy

which Spain has gone through in this century. Deep divis-

ions are still evident from The Civil War. Although Li&bana

remained loyal to the Republic, considerable fighting

occurred in the valleys before Republicans took full con-

trol. It was overrun by the Franquistas in 1937, at which

point local Franco sympathizers took control of the

valleys. Substantial numbers on both sides were killed by

their opponents within Liebana during the war and others

(especially Republicans) suffered imprisonment and loss of

their property.

Again Lebaniegos were preoccupied mainly with control

of their own valleys, looking to the center, Potes, rather

than toward shaping events in the outside world. Perhaps

this is normal for the highly personal wars of Spain, where

the attempt to unify the country, begun with the marriage

of Ferdinand and Isabella, may still not be complete.

Except for the reconquest and the wars of territorial

conquest in the new world, most wars in Spain seem to have

a strong element of civil war. The Civil War, The War of

Spanish Succession, The Carlist Wars, even The War of

Independence had the bitter element of regions, formerly

separate kingdoms, taking up arms against each other

(Brenan 1964; Herr 1974; Fraser 1974; Jackson 1965).

The Civil War is recent enough that many of the chief

actors in events in Li6bana are still alive and their

actions still remembered. While the Franquistas had and

took their chance at vengance for Republican acts against

them, Republicans were largely powerless for the 40 years

of Franco's rule. With the return of democracy, Republicans

are again able to speak their minds, but no opportunity for

revenge or punishment of old wrongs has been afforded them

and bitter feelings remain. These feelings were dealt with

through the Franco period and are still dealt with by the

traditional village behavior toward enemies. The customary

hangouts of the opponent are avoided as much as possible

and when meetings do occur, the person is ignored as much

as possible. The village is a small place in which all must

live so direct confrontation must be avoided at all cost.

Significantly, even 43 years later, few people would

discuss events during the war with me and those who would

did so only in a private setting.

Thus while Lebaniegos have been far from unified in

their views on particular issues, they have been

overwhelmingly in agreement on the arena in which the

contest between those views should be played out; Liebana.

For many this has not been or will not be possible. The boy

who told me he wanted to be a nuclear physicist and live in

Li6bana has some hard choices ahead of him. Thousands of

others have made their choice in the past and moved away

from the valleys, most never to return, and more will

follow. I had no contact with migrants other than within


the valleys and visiting migrants statement of their desire

to return should not be taken as gospel6. However,

informants within the valleys, including a large number of

young people, felt that those who migrated left to improve

their lot within the valleys or for greater opportunities

outside the valleys or in response to a situation they

found themselves in in the valleys, not because they wanted

to get out of Lebaniego society which they would miss and

desire to return to.

Social Forms

Understanding the community requires understanding the

institutions which its citizens recognize and employ in

organizing their lives and the relative valuation or lack

of valuation which is placed on each level of organization

to which they belong. While I have already discussed the

development of Lebaniego identity, Lebaniegos are also

Europeans, Spaniards, Cantabrians, citizens of Santander

Province, Montafeses, dwellers in a certain valley, inhabi-

tants of a particular t6rmino and a village within that

t6rmino, Catholics, parish members, members of an age/sex

cohort and members of a family.

6A1 1 but one visiting migrant that I talked to said they
would come back to live one day. The woman who said she
never wanted to, that she liked the life in Oviedo too
much, is a member of a cohort of unknown size who have no
desire to return and seem seldom to visit.

Europe and Spain

Spanish influence and Spain's position in Europe have

been on the wane since shortly after the Armada was sunk by

the British. Spain and Li6bana have shared in the history

of Europe, adopting major trends, but usual ly at a slower

pace, muffled by the peninsula's isolated position on the

continent. Spain's recent return to democracy and entry

into the European Economic Community have and will continue

to accelerate the pace of change in the country and in

Li6bana. While Spain is rapidly becoming an equal partner

in the European community, Libbana predictably continues to

be a recipient of change rather than its precipitator or

controller; sending its sons and daughters to work at

(mostly) unskilled labor in the industries of Europe, while

trying to maintain the viability of its industries (mostly

dairying) in the face of changes mandated by the EEC. This

has led to some ambivalence toward Europe on the part of

Lebaniegos. They are proud of Spain's recognition by the

club of European democracies, but fearful of change in

their fragile rapproachment with the outside world.

The tremendous number of migrants from the valleys in

the last 35 years and the shift from subsistence crops to

dairying for cash and tourism (See Chapter III below) have

tied Li6bana more firmly than ever before into the social

and economic systems of Spanish and European society.

Lebaniegos have traded their former high degree of self-


sufficiency for a higher living standard made possible by

greater participation in and dependence on the cash econ-

omy. The relative prosperity experienced by Europe in the

post-WWII period has rewarded this strategy, but Lebaniegos

are aware that they are now at the mercy of an economy over

which they have no control.

Improved transportation and communication have also

brought the national and international society into the

streets and living rooms of Lebaniegos. Television is

replete with visions of the good life and visits to and by

migrated relatives are also easier, allowing valley dwell-

ers to see life in the city and invidious comparisons are

almost inevitable.

Cantabria, Las Montafas and Santander

Lebaniego identity as Cantabrians stretches back at

least to the Roman conquest of Spain. Cantabria, the cen-

tral part of the northern coast and mountains of Spain,

included parts of the present province of Asturias (Oviedo)

as well as Santander and extended into the Basque provinces

on the east. The Cantabrians fought a highly successful

guerrilla war against the Romans, requiring over two

centuries for their complete subjugation (Freeman 1979).

Santander Province, officially named after its major city

by Franco, is still referred to as Cantabria and its citi-

zens are known as Cantabrians rather than Santanderinos.


Lebaniego historical identification as Cantabrians is

somewhat reenforced by current identification as Montafeses

or mountain valley dwellers. However, identification with

the original Cantabrians has been weakened by the centuries

to little more than a myth, while identification as

Montaheses has been impeded by the isolation and coastal or

interior orientation of each mountain valley. The very

similarity of the production of the mountain valleys has

given their people little reason to interact and makes them

competitors in the sale of their products and in the pur-

chase of the products they require from those outside the


Identification with the Province of Santander came

quite late for Li6bana, with Santander being little more

than a minor port and fishing village until the 1800s.

Significantly, no new name for the people of the province

has evolved into popular usage to replace Cantabrian since

then. It was only with the major improvements in the road

through the defile to the coast in the latter part of the

1800s that the coastal area and Santander began to be more

important to Libana than Le6n, its previous capital.

Termino and Pueblo

Each termino is governed by an elected mayor (alcalde)

and council. During the Franco years the mayor was appoint-

ed and the council had little power. The mayor and council

collect taxes and fees and provide local government


services for the t6rmino, watched over by the secretario

(town secretary) who is a national government employee. The

ayuntamiento (town hall) of the t6rmino is located in its

largest, most central town and it is there that people go

to vote, register births and deaths, etc. and it is from

that town that the termino usually gets its name.

Generally the t4rmino center has the only significant

concentration of businesses to be found in the t6rmino.

Outlying pueblos seldom have more than a tipico (combina-

tion bar/restaurant/general store) or two.7 Thus dwellers

in outlying pueblos look to their termino center at least

to some extent for both government and commerce and this

town might be expected to be the most important center for

termino residents outside their own pueblo. However, I have

already described the preeminence of Potes within the

valleys. This preeminence has allowed/caused the people of

outlying pueblos to bypass their center in favor of Potes

and identification with the individual termino center

appears not to be strong8.

Individual pueblos handle their internal affairs

through a Junta Vecinal (council of "vecinos" or neighbors,

7Camaleno's large fertile valley, tourism and remoteness
from Potes have fostered general growth along the road to
Fuente D6, the major tourist center in the valleys, but
this is the exception that proves the rule in Liebana.

8Camaleno again forms somewhat of an exception, but even
there the attraction of Potes is strong.


see below) headed by an elected president. Decisions usual-

ly require a consensus. Juntas vecinales decide the dispo-

sition of communal lands, organize communal labor on com-

munity projects, raise money for the community's fiesta,

are the court of first resort in local disputes and gen-

erally act as the will of the community. Juntas also some-

times hire cowherds or shepherds, deciding the contribution

of each vecino or, if it is decided to share out the work

between vecinos, the junta will set up the work rotation.

While the requirement that consensus be reached and the

lack of a formal mechanism to enforce its decisions limits

the junta's power, it carries the weight of public opinion

in a very small world and villagers are usually careful to

meet their obligations.

The president of the Junta Vecinal leads council

discussions and represents the village in its dealings with

higher levels of government, but has little power beyond

that of persuasion. The president of the Junta in Lon (a

small village in the t6rmino of Camalefo. See Figure 1-2)

told an informant of mine that he would arrange for the

Junta to sell him the wood stove out of Lon's disused

school house. I went with him to see the president in Lon.

The neighbor who told us he wasn't home also told us that

several people had spoken against the sale at the last

meeting of the council and the president had no business

promising anything. My friend never got the stove.


Traditionally full vecinos are male heads of household

(whether living alone or not) or widowed female heads of

household with children. Widowed or unmarried women living

alone traditionally were counted as 1/2 and 1/4 vecino

respectively, but these distinctions seem to have blurred a

little in recent years, perhaps due to the wider contacts

of villagers involved in the cash economy or perhaps in

recognition of the gap between women and young adult's

right to vote in the election of the Presidente de la Junta

Vecinal and their lack of a voice on the council.

Traditionally the barrios (neighborhoods) of the

larger towns had a similar council whose leader was

referred to as the "alcalde del barrio" (mayor of the

barrio). Much like the small pueblo, the barrio provided an

official representative with termino authorities and a more

intimate level of formal organization for dwellers in

larger towns. Each barrio traditionally had a population of

100 to 150. Although barrios are still recognized and

there is still some informal organization within the

barrios of Potes, they each construct a float to enter in a

competition during the fiesta, no formal election of barrio

mayor is now conducted. The older barrios of the town have

become too sparsely populated, while the newer barrios,

which include several apartment blocks, lack the central

focus necessary to create a real neighborhood.

Many smaller pueblos have also ceased to hold an

election for president of the Junta Vecinal and no

candidate came forward in 13 of the 58 pueblos which held

elections for the post in 1983 (Luz de Li6bana, No. 266,

May 1983:14-15). While this is symptomatic of the decay of

village organization in some declining pueblos, I believe

that more often it reflects a rejection of the politi-

cizacion of the Junta Vecinal. Candidates for president are

now identified by their political party, injecting national

politics into this very delicate local decision. The presi-

dent must bring people together, not reflect their


There is no privacy within the pueblo or the tradi-

tional barrio. As I mentioned above, they are highly

nucleated and houses often share a common wall. Many open

out onto a common courtyard as wel 1. Males tend to work out

of the stable which generally forms the bottom floor of

their house or to be in the public places, while women will

gather to work in small groups whenever possible. Everyone

has known everyone else since birth and they know their

parents, siblings, finances and all of the stories associ-

ated with them that they would sooner have forgotten as

well. This makes for enduring friendships and enmities.

While friendships are openly proclaimed, feuds are usually

passed over in silence since open fighting puts a tremen-

dous strain on the tight web of relations within the

group. When fights do break out, they are often over things

which have little to do with the original dispute and, if


between males, are publicly excused and covered over

because the man who started it was drunk.

An exception to this rule of propriety is the sin

verguenza (shameless one or ne'er do well) (not to be

confused with the public drunk who knows his role and keeps

to it and is therefore only the butt of jokes). The sin

verguenza is usually a young male who makes no pretense of

conforming to acceptable behavior. While he is given con-

siderable time and instruction to improve his behavior, if

he does not, he will be publicly denounced and humiliated

by his own family and by other members of the community,

especially older women, the keepers of the community's


Social Class

There are three social classes in Liebana: a small

powerful elite, composed primarily of the caciques des-

cribed above; a small service, commercial and professional

class; and the vast majority of Lebaniegos who belong to a

third group of peasants, making their living from the land

or a combination of husbandry and wage labor or petty


The caciques remain the power brokers between

Lebaniegos and the outside world. A majority of the approx-

imately fifteen caciques of Liebana live in Potes. Their

interests now include tourism, construction and banking as

well as the traditional interest in the land which they


share with caciques living in the other terminos of

Liebana. While the prestige of some of the cacique,

especially those in outlying terminos, is based on family

wealth and traditional position, others have gained their

strength from more recent ties with the outside commercial

forces such as Ram and Nestle, which have gained increasing

influence in the valleys. Traditional direct cacique

control of Lebaniego's voting seems to be a thing of the

past, but they are actively involved in the local branches

of the more conservative national political parties in

Liebana or in a local group of independent conservatives

who hold a majority in Potes, running for office or helping

to elect candidates they favor and obviously still very

much a force to be reckoned with.

The small service, commercial and professional class

is also to be found primarily in Potes, with a few

scattered in the businesses and ayuntameintos of other

termino centers. The service and commercial members of this

group gain their prestige from their economic strength,

their ability to hire and fire and to favor their friends.

The professionals are respected first for their education.

Lebaniegos, like most Spaniards, aspire to the ideal of the

caballero (knight), intelligent, educated, sophisticated,

and the doctors, educators and lawyers among them are

highly respected for their education. The doctor's ability

to administer modern medicines, the educator's ability to

train Lebaniego's children for broader opportunities and

the lawyer's ability to represent them to the outside world

or against neighbors are taken as proof of the efficacy of

education in a hostile world.

That a majority of the members of the upper classes

are found in Potes is not surprising. As the center for

government and commerce of the valleys, it is the natural

place for them to be. Potes is the urban interface between

Li6bana and the outside world. Perhaps more surprising is

the report by Lebaniego informants of the inability of

caciques who leave the valleys to maintain their influence,

despite a continuing economic presence, unless they make

very frequent visits to the valleys. Relationships are

still overwhelmingly personal in Liebana. A deal is not a

deal until it has been sealed with a glass of wine and the

personal relationship between those involved has been


The demand for face to face relationships in Li6bana

reflects the egalitarian ethic of relations between males,

which is the ideal for all of Spain. Males are expected to

handle the public sphere of relations for their family

(whether they actually make the decisions or not, see La

Familia below) and to guard its honor. Differences in

wealth and power are accepted and deferred to, but a man,

no matter how humble his circumstances, should expect to be

treated as an equal by other men. Is he not a hidalgo of

sangre pura?

Church and Parish

Catholicism seems to be like the mountains for Leban-

iegos. It permeates life, keeping the days and seasons of

the year with Saint's days, sanctioning community events

through religious participation and performing the rites of

passage marking each individual's progress through life.

However, like the mountains, it is a part of the landscape

and largely taken for granted. Community-wide events,

almost invariably celebrating a religious occasion, only

rarely are primarily religious in nature, and then, like

the festival of the Santuca described below, are more

likely to be concerned with private religious devotion

rather than a formal church ceremony.

Participation in religious activities is largely

through cofradias (brotherhoods or sisterhoods) which per-

form traditional duties, such as carrying the casket in

funerals, maintaining the parish church or a shrine, organ-

izing a procession or fiesta, etc. While some of these

activities center around the parish church, others cut

across parish lines to focus on regional religious

devotions to the larger religious shrines of Li&ana (all

of which are devoted to one aspect or another of Mary and

form part of Spain's Mary cult (see Christian 1972)) or to

the monastery of Santo Toribio.

Patterns of religious behavior similar to that which I

found in Liebana have been widely reported in Spanish


anthropology (Christian 1972; Lison-Tolosana 1966; Freeman

1979; Kenny 1969). Lison-Tolosana (1966:259-284), tracing

religious activities in Belmonte de los Caballeros through

more than three centuries of parish records, found a theo-

cratic society in which ecclesiastical authorities dictated

acceptable and unacceptable behavior, commanding not only

divine punishment but also the civil authority to withhold

services from, to fine and to jail those who broke the

church's rules. Lison-Tolosana notes that, despite the

church's power, attention to dogma and church rules in

Belmonte was consistently found to be inadequate by higher

ecclesiastical authorities: the ubiquitous processions were

most often excuses for picnics and recreation; religious

brotherhoods spent most of their money on meals rather than

masses; farmers skimped on their tithes and first fruits

and heirs were seldom willing to pay for the masses and

devotions called for in the wills of the departed. Yet at

the same time he found ample evidence of an unquestioning

faith in christianity, its god and its promise of an after-

life and a strong personal devotion to informal aspects of

religion, best symbolized by the cult of devotion to Mary

(1966:259-284). The two major religious festivals of the

year, those of the Santuca and the Santa Cruz, illustrate

the conflicting religious sentiments to be found in Spain

and Li6bana.

May second is the day of the Santuca, Nuestra Senora

de la Luz (The Little Saint, Our Lady of the Light), a

small (twenty-two centimeter), centuries-old stone image of

the Virgin. The Santuca, "patrona de Li6bana" ("patron of

Liebana"), resides in a tiny sanctuary at 1,500 meters on

the slopes of Pena Sagra near Aniezo (See Figure 1-2)

throughout the winter. With the coming of Spring, the

people of Aniezo retrieve her from her sanctuary and carry

her in procession the twenty-seven kilometers to Santo

Toribio and back. The people of each pueblo on her route

gather at the edge of their town, along with the town mayor

and priest, its flag and the cross from its church, to

greet the Santuca, ask her blessing for the coming year,

and accompany the procession as it wends its way through

the town, led by fireworks and stopping at each shrine or

chapel to pray. The official representatives of the town

and many of its people leave the procession at the town's

edge, but many more accompany the Santuca to Santo Toribio

where she is greeted outside the Monastery by monks carry-

ing the fragment of the Santa Cruz. A solemn high mass is

held (During the one I saw, the sermon was on the

importance of placing devotion to God above devotion to the

Virgin.), then the procession makes its way back to Aniezo,

dropping off those who accompanied it in their respective

towns. Dances and/or sporting events accompany every other

fiesta of the year. None are associated with the Santuca.

The Fiesta de la Santa Cruz (Fiesta of the Holy Cross)

initiates the last and largest fiesta of the year, that of


Potes, which begins on the fourteenth of September and goes

on for five days, including bull fights, dances, carnival

rides, processions, gigantes and cabezudos ("giants" and

"big heads" who specialize in terrorizing children), bolos

competitions (a bowling game) and a major cattle fair and

market. The fragment of the Santa Cruz is brought down to

Potes from the Monastery where it is greeted and accompan-

ied to the church by fireworks and the official representa-

tives and symbols of Potes and by people from Potes and the

rest of Li6bana. There it is on display through several

high masses in the church of Potes, before returning in

procession to the Monastery, where, it is reputed, the

largest crowd of the year attends high mass at the


Not only do these religious events mark the beginning

and end of the growing season, they also symbolize the

personal and secular sides of religion in Li6bana. The

Santuca is the protectress and benefactress of individual

Lebaniegos and of Li6bana. She brings the light and the

rebirth and hope of Spring. The Santa Cruz is the symbol of

a stern God and his powerful church, now blessing the

fruits of the harvest, but in former times also taking one

fourth as the landlord's share and ten percent of the

remainder in tithes.

In the parish, women handle much of the organization

of church activities and the church forms their major

socially acceptable focus outside the home and its

immediate environs. In every church activity, be it a

procession, mass or funeral, parishoners segregate them-

selves by sex and age into separate groups, with the women,

children and older males participating fully, while the

remainder of the men do just enough to fulfill their relig-

ious obligation.

In the past every pueblo and many barrios had their

own church, unifying population and parish. During the last

40 years of declining population many pueblos have lost

their parish priest and more have to share a priest with

other pueblos. Mass is no longer said in the parish church

or the pueblo's turn comes only once every month or two.

The people, required to attend mass weekly, must go to the

t6rmino center or to Potes. Thus parish membership has

weakened as a form of unique identity for Lebaniegos.

La Familia
(The Family)

The family is the most significant level of organiza-

tion for the people of Liebana. It forms the basic social

and work unit in daily life and the family home is its

center. It is in the context of the family that the

Lebaniegos gain their identity and social status and insure

their livelihood.

The home provides the family's refuge. Here, until

recently, children were born and old people still lay down

to die. The home is the center of the Lebaniego woman's


traditional sphere of influence. Just as her husband should

be responsible for conducting the public affairs of the

family, so the woman runs the family home and has primary

responsibility for the raising of children, care of old

people, handling of family finances, preparation and pres-

ervation of food, etc. Seldom will the male bring his

friends and acquaintances to his home, for they are part of

the public sphere. The home is for family and most visitors

will be members of the extended family, more often than not

females come to visit or work with their female relative.

Men visit in the bars and work together in the barns or


Tradition holds that the woman should be subject to

her husband in all things and publicly this is strictly

adhered to. A Spanish male will generally introduce or

refer to his wife in public solely as mi mujer (my woman)

rather than by her given name. However, as Lison-Tolosana

(1966:144-151) notes, few important steps are taken in

which the wife, as family financial manager, does not have

a pivotal role in decision-making.

The home is also usually the family's processing plant

and storage shed. Cows are brought to the barn in the

bottom of the house for milking and shelter. Food, animal

fodder and work implements are stored there and often there

is a vat for making the family's wine. Above, the woman

will have the equipment for curing ham, making sausage and


preserving vegetables, etc., as well as that necessary for

feeding and maintaining the family.

In the labor-intensive cottage industry which is the

Lebaniego small farm, the inputs of both the male and

female are crucial and complementary. There is too much and

too varied work for one person to keep the farm functioning

alone and some tasks, usually those of the female, are

considered impossible for members of the opposite sex. Even

a couple will find it difficult to maintain more than a

subsistence level unless they can call on others for

assistance during peak demand periods. Each spouse has a

fairly well defined area of work with the male taking major

responsibility for work in the fields and the barn and the

woman taking almost sole responsibility for work around the

household. However, while women are frequently called upon

to help in the fields during sowing and harvest and also

usually assume the care of barnyard animals, males are

considered incompetent in the performance of day to day

household chores. Without the labors of both, farming is

considered impossible and this has been a major force in

the abandonment of some of the smaller, more remote

villages of Liebana. Few young women are now willing to

take on the lifetime of drudgery of the peasant farm,

especially in a remote pueblo. Men who wish to farm, even

if they have what would formerly be considered a large land

holding, find that they can't get a spouse to help run the

family farm and are forced to abandon it or to commute to

work on it from a more centrally located pueblo where their

prospective spouse is willing to live (See also Douglass

1975 and Barrett 1974).

The Individual and His/Her Group

As I mentioned above, work and ritual activities in

Li6bana are generally performed by one sex or the other,

with some intrusion of women into the male sphere. Sexual

segregation of leisure time activities is also strikingly

apparent in Liebana and has been noted for other parts of

Spain by a number of ethnographers (Lison-Tolosana 1966;

Harding 1975;Brandes 1975a; Aceves 1971). This segregation

seems to stem from the traditional teachings of the

Catholic Church which held that mixing of the sexes was to

be avoided as an occasion of sin and to the stereotype of

the Spanish male as a Don Juan who can only be restrained

by the watchful oversight of the community. Thus, much of

the leisure time of Lebaniegos was and is spent in the

company of one's own sex, usually in a core group which

ideally endures through life.

A Cuadril la (core group) is formed by a group of five

or ten males in their early teens who go everywhere toge-

ther and act, and are expected to act in a wild, irrespons-

ible manner from time to time. A less formally constituted

comparable group of female teenagers is also formed at

about this age, but is much more restricted and supervised

in its activity. The males, as they pass through their teen

years, spend less and less of their leisure time at home,

going to bars and cafes, dances and fiestas, foreshadowing

their adult behavior where, as one man said: "You only go

home to eat and sleep." The young women, expected to par-

ticipate more in the running of the household as they grow

older, are also foreshadowing their traditional future

roles, accompanying each other on errands and getting toge-

ther to work and to gossip outside a convenient doorway

whenever possible.

From the Cuadrilla, teens gain their first recognition

as individuals outside the family. Nicknamed by the group

and placed within its pecking order, they learn the beha-

vior appropriate to their adult sex-roles and males are

supposed to get the wildness, believed to be in every male,

out of their system so they can grow into responsible

adults (Also see Lison-Tolosana 1966; and Wylie 1977).

With young adulthood and the completion of military

service for males, mixed sex activities become more common,

but each sex participates as a group, the mozos and mozas

(young adult unmarried males and females) meeting at

fiestas and dances and in the street but seldom as couples.

Formerly a man and woman seen too much together were

assumed to be considering marriage. While this is no longer

strictly true, few young people care to take the gossip

which accompanies being identified as a couple. The major-

ity of leisure time is still spent with one's Cuadrilla.


During the period of formal courtship and marriage,

participation in the Cuadrilla diminishes. But soon, with

the establishment of households by its members, the Cuad-

rilla, now generally referred to as a Tertulia (club or

circle) and often shrunken by this time to four or five by

arguments and migration, will reform and become the focus

of the quieter leisure time activities appropriate to a

married man or woman. For men this consists of making the

rounds of their favorite bars before lunch (the main meal

of the day) and supper and in getting together to play

cards or other games after supper and on Sundays. Women's

Tertulia's frequently expand with marriage to include older

relatives, but otherwise remain much the same, meeting in

the homes or dooryards of their members for talk and work.

If a couple happens to go out to a cafe together, they will

usually separate and sit with their same sex friends when

they arrive.

Generational Cycles

The composition of any family is dynamic, varying over

time with the maturing of the generations. The ideal for

the traditional Lebaniego family farm has been the three

generational family of older parents, a son who will

inherit the farm and his spouse and their children.

Unmarried siblings of the parents or heir may also be

present. A pattern like this assures adequate labor to

fully utilize the farm throughout most of the generational


cycle and provides the maximum labor at the time when the

need is greatest; when the children are young adults and

ready to move out or to take over supervision of the farm

from their parents (See also my discussion of Arensberg's

work in Ireland in Chapter II.).

Traditional patterns of equal inheritance among all

siblings make the realization of this ideal a complex

negotiation. Family farms are seldom large enough to allow

their division into two viable farms, so siblings must be

bought out or persuaded to rent their share by the farmer

heir. Often other heirs are more than willing to be bought

out or aided in migration to the city or in the establish-

ment of a new household in return for their share, but

sometimes bitter disputes can occur. In recent times

increasing numbers of farmers are finding that none of

their children are interested in farming and as they retire

their farm may be sold or fall into disuse.

Children were formerly a major labor source on the

Lebaniego family farm. First involved mainly in the woman's

work area, they were gradually trained into the appropriate

roles of their sex, becoming full time workers at about

fourteen, the age when education ceased to be compulsory.

With post-war prosperity and increasing emphasis on educa-

tion, parents began encouraging their children to stay in

school longer rather than forcing them to quit to help with

farm tasks. At the beginning of the seventies schools in

Liebana were consolidated with most students going to Potes

(Five remote pueblos, consistently snow bound in winter,

have retained their elementary schools.) While a bus takes

children along the route to Fuente De to school (and home

for lunch!) and back each day, many children from the other

valleys spend the week at school in Potes. Thus children

have been even more withdrawn from household production.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, many parents now

have no desire to train their children for what they con-

sider to be a harsh, unrewarding life when there are better

opportunities available.

Whether the family farm is successfully passed between

generations or not, the dispersal of the family's young

adults is far from a severing of family ties. Those still

in the area will cooperate in insuring each other's success

and migrants will be encouraged to maintain their ties

through visits for harvests and fiestas. In a world where

crops may fail and steady work is rare, the extended family

is each persons safety net, to be abandoned at your own


The extended family survival strategy, centered around

the peasant farm and functioning within the peasant commun-

ity, formed the basis of traditional Lebaniego life. In

this context, migration, local wage labor, non-agricultural

businesses, informal labor exchanges, and etc. are merely

components in the extended family's survival strategy

(Kenny 1969; Douglass 1975; Aceves 1971; Arensberg 1968;


Lison-Tolosana 1966; Chayanov 1966; Thorner 1966). If one

area of family endeavour fails or needs assistance, another

area may be there to help out. This appears to have been

the pattern in Liebana and many other peasant areas for



Liebana, isolated geographically, has developed a

strong positive community identity, centering around Potes,

over the centuries. Symbols of identity include Li6bana's

distinctive dialect, the Monastery and fragment of the

Santa Cruz of Santo Toribio, the Santuca and the other

local images of the Virgin, the Torre in Potes, unique

local products and customs such as orujo, the fiestas of

the various pueblos and terminos, the ferias and mercado of

Potes and overall a sense of being part of an historical

continuity, both as Lebaniegos and as Cantabrians, the

people who began the reconquest of Spain from the Moors and

before that fought the Romans so well. This sense of com-

munity and continuity pervades life in Liebana without

causing much in the way of reverence for things past. The

people of the past were just like them, no more, no less.

Lebaniegos have dealt with a harsh physical and social

environment through a peasant extended family survival

strategy emphasising, but never confined to, herding and

small farming. A tributary area giving up its surpluses of

materials and humanity, Liebana has nonetheless


participated in the conflicts and changes of the larger

world, reshaping them to the world of the valleys.

I will argue in the course of this dissertation, that

the people of Li4bana have managed to maintain their

peasant extended family survival strategy, despite substan-

tial incorporation into the national economy and heavy

migration, and that this strategy shows every sign of being

able to continue, despite the pressure to which it remains



The period of 1950 to 1983 was a time of tremendous

economic growth and radical change in Europe and Spain. It

also marks a return to relative normalcy after a 20 year

period of depression, war and reconstruction. In this

Chapter I will discuss the major forces which began to be

felt in Li6bana at the outset of this period and continue

to exert their influence on the valleys. These include

increasing involvement in the market economy, agricultural

modernization, competition from mechanized agriculture and

heavy population loss through migration. I will also dis-

cuss major theoretical viewpoints which have emerged to

interpret these forces and their effect on peasant popula-

tions in the context of Li6bana and finally consider some

of the forms and structures through which the households

and community of Li&ana deal with change.

The major portion of this post-war European and

Spanish economic expansion occurred during the period 1950

to 1973. In the following chapters I will describe events

in Li6bana, first during that period, then during the

period 1974 through 1983, a time of worsening economic



The Modernization of Agriculture

The modernization of agriculture, like the moderniza-

tion of Spanish industry, was slow and sporadic in the

years before the Civil War. Major changes began with the

fifties and were, at first, concentrated in the extensive

agriculture of the meseta (central plain) and the south.

The Spanish government was actively involved in the pro-

cess, attempting to withdraw the population of the multi-

tude of tiny villages, erected in order to be close to the

fields, into designated major rural towns. With one tractor

able to do the work of forty men, all of those people cer-

tainly weren't needed and their villages often got in the

way of the tractors (P6rez Diaz 1971, 1976; Naredo 1971;

Aceves 1971; Barrett 1974; Brandes 1975a; Harding 1976,

1984; Martinez-Alier 1974; Greenwood 1976; Anes 1970; Male-

fakis 1970). Population loss in some areas reached five

percent a year, with most peasants bypassing the large

rural towns in favor of the cities of Spain and Europe

(P4rez Diaz 1976; Naredo 1971).

Far from an isolated phenomenon, all of Southern

Europe was in the throes of a similar revolution to a

lesser or greater extent at this time. Investigators of

this change include Cole and Wolf (1974) who described a

peasantry being lured off the land by industry growing up

in nearby cites, while the grim findings of others are

summed up in the titles of their works such as: Franklin's

The European Peasantry_ The Final Phase; Lopreato's

Peasants No More; and Mendras' The Vanishing Peasant.

Keeler (1979) chronicled the rapid decline of small farming

in France, which was being overseen and encouraged by the

French government. Further sources include: Baxevanis

(1972), Papademetriou (1985) and Halpern and Kerewsky

Halpern (1972). The small farmers of the U.S. began to be

eliminated in the 1920s (Raper 1936, 1943; Goldschmidt

1947; Fligstein 1983; Fulmer 1950; Johnson, Embree and

Alexander 1935; Myrdal 1962; Webb 1937; Reddy 1983) and the

process continues today in the 'third world' (Guillet 1979;

Gudeman 1978; Balan 1976, 1978; Soiffer and Howe 1982;

Taussig 1980; Long and Roberts 1984) where, linked with

labor migration and a recognition of long-standing patterns

of unequal exchange between peripheral areas and western

industrial societies, its analysis led to the development

of theories of dependency and "the development of under-

development," which will be discussed below.


Virtually every recent anthropological study of Spain

has addressed the causes of rural population loss, usually

in the context of agricultural modernization (P6rez-Diaz

1966, 1969, 1971, 1976; Naredo 1971; Aceves 1971; Aceves

and Bailey 1967; Barrett 1974; Brandes 1975a; Anes 1970;

Douglass 1971, 1975, 1976; Christian 1972; Freeman 1979;

Kenny 1969, 1972, 1976; Greenwood 1976; Buechler and Buech-

ler 1975, 1981, 1984; Harding 1976, 1984; Gregory 1976;

Iszaevich 1975; Martinez Mari 1966; Malefakis 1970; Reddy

1984). Agricultural modernization and the accompanying

migration of 'surplus' agriculturalists affected each of

the very different regions of Spain according to their

topography, climate and crops grown and the crop's amen-

ability to mechanized agriculture (Naredo 1971). Perez-Diaz

(1966) and Naredo (1971) chronicled the extreme rapidity of

agricultural industrialization on the dry farming of the

central plains, leading to the near complete displacement

of peasant populations. Harding (1976, 1984), in the hill

country of Aragon, described peasants busily transforming

themselves into capitalist farmers. Brandes (1975a), in the

rugged hills of southwestern Castile, depicted the decaying

marketability of the crops of an area unable to modernize

because of its terrain.

Migration and the flow of return migrants have also

been major topics for studies in all of southern Europe and

in much of the developing world (Halpern and Kerewsky

Halpern 1972; Mendras 1970; Baxevanis 1972; Franklin 1969;

Cole and Wolf 1974; Rhoades 1977, 1978a, 1978b; Bernard and

Comitas 1978; Lopreato 1967; King 1978a, 1978b; King and

Strachan 1980; Da Vanzo 1976; Lebon and Falchi 1980; Kosack

and Castles 1973; Bovenkerk 1974; Choldin 1973; Bohning

1976; Cheney 1979; Balan 1976, 1978; Allen 1976;

Papademetriou 1985; Ferreira de Paiva 1976; Entzinger 1985;


Dutoit and Safa 1975; Grafton 1982; Kayser 1977; Kudat

1976; Mangalam 1968; Mayer 1976; Miller 1982; Wood 1981).

Almost all of the European studies of peasant sending

areas assume the ultimate destruction of the peasant way of

life through the forces of depopulation, agricultural

modernization and capitalist market penetration and

certainly peasants in areas favorable to mechanized agri-

culture have been eliminated in the "developed" world. Yet

peasants have been very durable, surviving wars, plagues,

famines, floods, pestilences, despots, the green revolution

and now the Common Market, adapting to the realities of

each, while maintaining their basic extended family sub-

sistence survival strategy. The elimination of peasant

relations of production in areas favorable to mechanized

agriculture does not necessarily make the elimination of

peasants in other, different areas inevitable. I will

argue, below and in the following chapters that peasant

relations of production have persisted in Liebana, despite

heavy population loss, competition from industrialized

agriculture and substantial penetration by the market


This brings me to the central set of theoretical

questions addressed by this work: If peasant relations of

production have survived in Lidbana, how has this occurred

when peasant communities have faced wholesale elimination

over the last 30 years in Spain? What are the community

forms and structures that have allowed Li6bana to meet

changing conditions? Are these forms and structures still

viable today as they have been in the past or is Li6bana

merely a backwater, late in being affected, that will fail

with the passing of the older generation? Below I will

present a general definition of peasants and discuss the

major theoretical viewpoints in the dialogue on relations

between peasantries and the dominant economy, then define

what I mean by peasants and peasant relations of production

within the context of Liebana. Based on this discussion, it

will be possible to consider household and community forms

and structures, developed over the centuries, to deal with

changing conditions, the most important for this study

being migration and market penetration. In Chapter V I will

attempt to answer the theoretical questions raised here.

Peasants: Pawns or Actors?

Eric Wolf (1966:2-4) defines peasants as "rural culti-

vators whose surpluses are transferred to a dominant group

of rulers that uses the surpluses both to underwrite its

own standard of living and to distribute the remainder to

groups in society." He further notes that the peasant

"does not operate an enterprise in the economic sense; he

runs a household, not a business concern." Wolf points out

that the peasant's dilemma is to balance the need of

reproducing the household; feeding, clothing, raising,

marrying and burying its members, against the demands of

the outside world (1966:12-15). Quoting Chayanov, he finds

that this need to reproduce the family outweighs considera-

tions of the level of remuneration the peasant family

receives for its labor. If household needs have not been

met, then labor must be intensified, whatever the level of

return, or household consumption must be curtailed in order

to maintain the household's commitments to the outside

world which, due to the peasant's subordinate position,

cannot be ignored (1966:14-15).

The viability of peasant family farming within a

capitalist national economy has been the subject of contro-

versy since at least the turn of the century. Following

Marx (1867), many theorists have viewed the persistence of

the peasant from a capitalist perspective (Lenin 1977;

Bernstein 1979; Roseberry 1978; Wallerstein 1983; Fligstein

1983; Smith 1984; Schiel 1984). In this 'world economy'

view peasant areas have persisted because they are a cheap

and efficient source of labor for capitalism. Peasants

produce and raise a surplus of children who are forced to

migrate in search of work and peasants are willing to work

at seasonal or part-time jobs for low pay, maintaining

themselves when they are not needed without cost to the

capitalist. Thus the peasant state is encouraged and

prolonged by capital.

Within the above view, there was an initial

assumption, encouraged by the decimation of the peasantries

of Europe, that with increasing capitalist penetration in


the form of mechanized agriculture and the market economy,

most peasants would be forced off the land and the remain-

der would be transformed (or would transform themselves

(Wallerstein 1983)) into a rural proletariat. More recent

studies have rejected the inevitability of peasant prole-

tarianization, noting stable patterns of persistence and,

in some cases, growth among peasant and marginal groups

within capitalist societies (Frank 1979; Smith 1984; Schiel


A second school of theorists arose which viewed the

peasant family enterprise as a discrete economic system

which can only be understood through investigation of its

own internal dynamics rather than through its relations

with capitalism or any other dominant political-economic

system. A.V. Chayanov (1966, Orig. 1925) provided an early

interpretation of 'the peasant family economy" in which an

indivisible family labor product [consisting of] the
increase in value of material goods which the family
has acquired by its work during the year, is the
only possible category of income for a peasant or
artisan labor family unit, for there is no way of
decomposing it analytically or objectively. The
amount of labor product is mainly determined by the
size and composition of the working family, the number
of its members capable of work, then by the productiv-
ity of the labor unit, and--this is especially
important--by the degree of labor effort--the degree
of self-exploitation through which the working members
effect a certain quantity of labor units in the course
of the year the degree of self-exploitation is
determined by a peculiar equilibrium between family
demand satisfaction and the drudgery of labor itself.
(Chayanov 1966:5-6)

This second view has been greatly broadened in recent years

through empirical studies of areas in which peasant

relations of production have persisted despite capitalist

market penetration (Long 1984; Long and Roberts 1978, 1984;

Glavanis 1984; Friedmann 1980; Melhuus 1984; Skar 1984).

Attempting to reproduce the family and its life rather than

make a profit or even a particular wage level, peasants in

these studies were found to substitute noncapitalist rela-

tions of production; informal labor exchanges, sharing and

borrowing of tools, utensils, money, land and animals,

gifts of labor and food, etc. to those in need, for

capitalist inputs in commodity production.

Acknowledging the complexity of interactions between

capitalist and noncapitalist patterns of organization and

the frequent failure of noncapitalist forms in the face of

market intrusion, Long states

Depending upon the circumstances, local struc-
tures and commitments may inhibit or undermine the
continuity of farming or household units, or may pro-
vide the basis for a restructuring of economic life
leading to satisfactory accommodation with the wider
system. Non-capitalist relations of production can,
therefore, only be 'functional' for capitalism, or
meet the demands of the wider commercial economy, if
their forms of labour organization, and the sets of
social relationships and normative frameworks upon
which they depend, can effectively meet their own
internal reproductive needs. Peasant households or
family farms are thus not simply reproduced by the
workings of the wider structure but also depend upon
the way existing cultural rules and social relation-
ships affect access to and utilization of essential
resources. (Long 1984:2)

The major difference between these two views is in

perspective. In the first view, peasants are seen from the

perspective of capital. They are pawns, placed into and


prolonged in a subject position by capitalist interests. In

the second peasants are actors, following a coherent, if

unstated, strategy to preserve their families and way of

life and demonstrably succeeding, at least in certain

areas, despite market penetration. These two perspectives

are largely reconcilable. Peasants are organized and con-

trolled by the dominant political-economic system, but the

form of that organization and control has been shaped

toward forcing them to produce a surplus, both of commod-

ities and of cheap labor, and then to give it up. The

strategies employed to produce that surplus, the relations

of production between peasants, are left largely to the

peasants themselves. Indeed the willingness and ability of

peasants to fend for themselves when not needed, is part of

what makes them a bargain on the labor market.

As I discussed in the first two sections of this

chapter (The Modernization of Agriculture and Migration),

the rapid destruction of peasant communities on the plains

of Europe led most investigators of peasantries in Europe

to assume the inevitable proletarianization of peasant

groups. Market penetration and the resultant mechanization

of agriculture wiped out small farmers in areas amenable to

mechanization in the U.S. and peasantries on the plains of

Europe. However, peasantries have been slow to disappear in

marginal areas of Europe and in much of the 'third world'

(Frank 1967, 1979) and nonwage and 'informal sector' pro-

duction form a growing part of the world economy (Smith,

Wallerstein and Evers 1984; Smith 1984; Portes and Walton

1981; Stack 1975). While many theorists have recognized

these facts and are moving away from the idea that peasants

will inevitably be proletarianized, there have been few

applications to the situation of marginal groups in Europe.

I highlight the above points because, although

capitalist market penetration and agricultural moderniza-

tion have caused radical change in Li6bana since 1950, I

believe that peasant relations of production have persisted

there, allowing the survival of the community and of Leban-

iego identity. In the next section, I will discuss my

interpretation of relations of production in Li6bana and

the place of that interpretation in the literature on


Peasant Generalists

I have claimed that the people of Liebana follow a

peasant extended family subsistence survival strategy. By

this I am not referring to particular forms of production

such as subsistence farming, herding, dairying and etc.,

although they are central to the survival strategy

currently practiced by most Lebaniegos. I am referring to

particular relations of production in which the unit of

production and consumption is the household, labor costs

are not known, considered or knowable and the objective is

the survival of the household as a social unit, the

survival of its kin group and the community, in that order.

This follows Chayanov (1966), Wolf (1966), Shanin (1971),

and Worsley (1984), but slights some other major points

made in their definitions of peasantries. These will be

discussed below.

Although it is difficult to speak of a peasant without

using the term "farmer", or in Liebana herder/farmer, peas-

ants are seldom just farmers and/or herders. The peasant

survival strategy is that of a generalist, attempting to

meet as many of the household's needs as possible without

resorting to outside means or help. The household needs are

many and varied and can be met in a variety of ways. Fuel

for cooking and heating can be provided by wood you cut

yourself on the mountainside or by butane you buy. Food can

be grown, bartered for or purchased. The typical family

following a peasant extended family survival strategy in

Liabana will work to find the mix of answers to their needs

from all possible sources that best fits at any particular

time, flexibly changing to meet necessity or opportunity,

but trying never to place too much of the likelihood of

their survival on one strategy, since all contain the

possibility of failure.

As Wolf (1966) and others (Shanin 1971; Wallerstein

1974) have shown, part of the definition of peasant's is

that they are forced by the dominant society to give up

their surplus in the form of rents. These rents, once paid

in kind with a portion of the peasant's production,


gradually became payable in money with the growth of the

market economy (Wallerstein 1974; Wolf 1982), forcing the

peasant class to deal in the market. Thus money, like any

other commodity, became a necessity for the peasant family.

As part of the same process, the peasant's traditional

relationship with the landlord disintegrated. Peasants were

no longer tied to the land and the landlord was no longer

required to keep the peasants on it. He could rent land for

cash, sell it or work it with wage laborers. As I noted in

Chapter I, all of these strategies were in use in Li6bana

by the 1860s and the largest group of farmers were classi-

fied as day laborers2 while another large group rented

their land. Less than a third were owners, only a portion

of whom owned sufficient land to support their households

without renting additional land or finding outside sources

of income. A majority of Lebaniegos were thus at least

partially proletarianized, at least partially dependent on

wage labor for their livelihood.

1In Liebana there were mortgages for those buying land,
rents for renters and taxes and the diezmo (tithe) for

2The availability of village and termino common lands to
all vecinos allowed even those without land to be herd-
ers/farmers, to cut their own wood for fuel and to hunt and
fish. There are still agricultural enterprises without land
in Li6bana. Thus definition as a day laborer does not
necessarily mean total reliance on wages and fully prole-
tarianized rural workers were probably rare in Li&bana.


Wage labor has therefore been a part of the Lebaniego

peasant family's survival strategy for centuries. Like the

proletarian worker, the peasants of Li&ana could not dic-

tate the value of their production, nor refuse to partici-

pate in the market economy. Unlike the proletarian worker,

who had only his labor to offer, most did have some discre-

tion as to how to meet the cash rent payments required of

them. They could sel 1 the product of their work on the land

and/or they could earn money through local or migratory

wage labor of family members.

As with any other necessity, the peasant families of

Lidbana set out to fill their need for cash without regard

to labor cost, selling their production and their labor in

the best mix available to insure the survival of the fam-

ily. Attempting to get the best deal possible, but, good

deal or bad, doing whatever was necessary to insure that

survival, they intensified their labor (on their own farms

or for wages) and/or cut their consumption when pressed and

eased that pressure when possible (Chayanov 1966; Wolf


The wage labor available to most Lebaniegos fit, and

still fits, the semi-proletarian peasant situation

described by Wal lerstein (1983). Pay was low and work was

usually seasonal, temporary or part-time, seldom covering

al 1 of the costs of the reproduction of the household. Such

work does not inspire great dependence on wages if the

worker has any choice in the matter. Rather, it was and is

viewed as an opportunity to improve the family's security,

since the more sources of livelihood there are available to

the family, the less dependent they will need to be on any


The above violates Wolf's (1966:2-4) and Shanin's

(1971:14-15) definition of what constitutes a peasant,

allowing for a greater wage labor component in household

income. However, as Daniel Thorner notes:

We are sure to deceive ourselves if we think of
peasant economies as oriented exclusively towards
their own subsistence and term "capitalist" any orien-
tation towards the "market." It is more reasonable to
start by assuming that, for many centuries, peasant
economies have had both orientations." (Thorner IN
Wallerstein 1974:18)

Even Shanin allows that (1971:15-16): "The definition of a

'general type' leads to a further delineation of analytic-

ally marginal groups which share with the 'hard core' of

peasants most, but not all, of their characteristics."

(emphasis his). Within these 'analytically marginal groups'

he includes pastoralists, "agricultural laborers lacking a

fully fledged farm [and] a rural craftsman holding little

or no land" (Shanin 1971:16).

In Chapters III and IV the increasing market penetra-

tion and the accompanying modernization of agriculture

(dairying) which has occurred in Liebana since 1950 and

Lebaniego responses will be examined. I will argue that

Lebaniego survival strategies have not substantially

altered in the last thirty-three years despite these


forces. Although the mix of answers to their needs that

they find best has shifted toward a greater reliance on

wage labor for many, the objective of that labor is still

the meeting of household needs with little regard to labor

cost. Wage labor is still viewed as one more component in

the household survival strategy and even families whose

livelihood is primarily dependent on wage labor still

attempt to meet as many of the family's needs as possible

outside of the market economy.

Migration, resulting largely from market penetration

and agricultural modernization, currently presents the

greatest threat of destruction for the community of

Liebana. Above I have examined theoretical perspectives on

the effects of market penetration on peasant relations of

production against the historical context in Li6bana. I

will now turn to a consideration of household and community

mechanisms built up over the centuries in Li6bana to deal

with the effects of population loss and changing work


Structures For Dealing With Change

Arensberg's work in Ireland (1968, orig. 1937) and

that of a number of others (Chayanov 1966; Douglass 1975;

Lison-Tolosana 1966) has illustrated the cyclical nature of

the peasant household enterprise, waxing and waning in the

size of its work force with the changing of the seasons and

the maturing of each successive generation. Following a


kinship-based subsistence strategy rather than a capitalist

model, work on a peasant farm3 can be expanded/intensified

to take in all available family labor or simplified and

contracted to deal with labor shortages natural to the

generational cycle of renewal, or brought about by labor

migration or disaster.

This flexibility of the peasant farm is made possible

by its simple level of organization and the fact that it is

embedded in the extended family. While it is owned by one

nuclear family/person within the extended family at any one

time, it is a resource to all and can thus claim the

labor/assets of the extended family by right of kinship.

In the above context, migration, participation in the

market economy, local wage labor, non-agricultural

businesses, informal labor exchanges, and etc. are merely

components in the extended family's survival strategy,

whose cornerstone is normally the farming enterprise, the

home where scattered family members gather. If one of the

component nuclear families in the extended family fails or

needs assistance, others will help out, as long as they do

not have to help out too often.

3As I stated above, it is difficult to avoid the term
'farm' when talking about the peasant household enterprise,
but neither in Ireland, nor in Liebana has this enterprise
ever been restricted to just the tilling of the soil. Thus
I will use the term, but it should be interpreted in its
broadest sense of the entire spectrum of activities,
including such things as herding and wood cutting, engaged
in by the household to draw sustenance from the land.

In the same way, the peasant community, an aggregation

of extended families, maintains a skeleton structure of

organization capable of expanding or contracting to meet

the needs of the times, and it maintains, through fiestas,

traditional realtionships with other towns and overlords

and continuing attempts to hold the alliegance of migrants

etc.--the widest possible network of relations with the

outside world in order to optimize survival chances of the


For both of these entities; the extended peasant fam-

ily and the peasant community, migration is therefore not a

loss, but an investment (Arensberg 1968; Douglass 1975;

Christian 1972; Freeman 1979; Buechler and Buechler 1984,

1981, 1975; J.M. Buechler 1975; Brandes 1975a; Aceves

1971). It also acts as a safety valve, draining off excess

population over the carrying capacity of the environment

and socioeconomic system while allowing the traditional

large family and providing the child's work input on the

farm (Arensberg 1968). In addition migrants constitute a

reserve population for both the family and the community.

By having more children than the family income can maintain

as adults, the family insures an heir. By producing more

inhabitants than it can maintain, the community's survival

is enhanced, since these natives may be retained or enticed

home in the event of need. At the same time these emmisar-

ies to the outside world provide friends in what is per-

ceived as a hostile environment, acting as intermediaries

with the powerful, and finding jobs and homes for future

migrants, while their remittances and blood-relationship-

motivated aid in a crisis provides an important safety

net based on income independent from conditions at home.

Thus migration is viewed positively in the peasant

community unless and until it begins breaking down the

social structure of the family or the community. When

migration becomes a necessity for a young man because he

can't find a wife to help run the family farm; when

migrants feel that there is nothing/no one to come home

for; when the community decides not to put on the fiesta

this year because no one seems to care; then migration has

damaged the social fabric.

I will now turn to a description of the change exper-

ienced by Lebaniegos since 1950 and their response to that

change. In the final Chapter I will attempt to place that

change in theoretical perspective.