El Camino De Santiago: País Llionés Llibre

Spain is infamous for its regionalisms. Each autonomous community (and even within each autonomous community) has its own cuisine, way of life, values, reputation, and often, linguistic background.

As an Argentine friend in Ibiza put it directly, “These people all hate each other.” You might think that seems bit exaggerated, but once you start discussing topics of independence, the “laziness” of Andalusia and the supposed coldness of the Basque, you get a sense that to some, none of these people really mesh together well.

Spain's autonomous regions. Taken from https://misslauraashley.wordpress.com/spain/.
Spain’s autonomous regions. Taken from https://misslauraashley.wordpress.com/spain/.
Spanish is the official language, but six other regions – Catalonia, Valencian Community, Balearic Islands, Galicia, and Basque Country – have other official languages. You may have heard the most recent movement in Catalonia for independence or the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), the Basque separatist movement known for its terror tactics.

What you may not have heard about on the Anglo-Saxon media (or Spanish media for that matter) was the separatist movement of León, a province in northern Spain that forms part of the autonomous Community of Castilla y León. Not only does Spain have independence movements of autonomous communities, but intra-autonomous community movements.

Walking through this province, we began to see several signs with phrases such as “País Llionés Llibre” or “León without Castilla.”

The French route of the Camino de Santiago passes through many autonomous regions in Spain: Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y León, and Galicia. León was the only place that from the paths or highways that pilgrims walk on, vandalism, or protest via graffiti in favor of separatist movements could be seen.

camino de santiago french route
A map of the French route of the Camino de Santiago. My friend Kimberly and I did the segment from Burgos to Santiago de Compostela. Taken from http://walkthecamino.com/camino-de-santiago-routes
These signs came as a surprise. I had never heard of a separatist movement in León. In fact, it had never occurred to me that a province within an autonomous community might want to be independent.

I commented that I had seen graffiti for independence to another pilgrim from Madrid. He simply scuffed and responded, “I can’t believe this, it’s ridiculous. What do these people want, borders from the 1700s?”

(It is to be noted that AGORA, one of the organizations in León in favor of independence claims that Madrid unfairly centralizes and dominates politics)

Still intrigued, when I returned to the U.S., I did some light investigating, and found a few interesting points about the independence movement of León.

Digging for this information wasn’t simple, but it wasn’t entirely difficult. Unsurprisingly, the only English-language information I found were on Wikipedia (the ever helpful), and most newspaper articles were published locally in the region. Youtube had some informative videos, and great news! You can also purchase your very own leftist/anarchist/anti-capitalist/anti-U.S. T-shirt in support of a separatist movement (you pick the region!) courtesy of LaTostadora.com (some of the shirts are hilarious and clever. But the irony of consumerism… Like people who wear Che Guevara shirts).

And can’t fail to mention Twitter, wonderful Twitter. It was a buzz with separatist articles, a wealth of information and a candy store for an amateur investigator. I saw hashtags-  #LeonNoEsCastilla and  #Llionnunyecastiella – and apparently those who support León independence have a soft spot for Andalusian political strife as evidenced by the hashtag #GranadaNoEsAndalucia (Granada is not Andalusia).

Independence flag of Leon.
Independence flag of Leon.
“Bandera del País Leonés” by Oren neu dag (talk) – self madeBased on http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_bK8xy_m0LkM/SbABjo-q8oI/AAAAAAAAANQ/r2yknYJX3is/s400/182301356%5B1%5D.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bandera_del_Pa%C3%ADs_Leon%C3%A9s.svg#/media/File:Bandera_del_Pa%C3%ADs_Leon%C3%A9s.svg
Here are a few take-aways from what I learned:

  • Who: Separatists from provinces of Leon, Zamora, and Salamanca
  • What: Separatists are fighting for an independent autonomous region for Leon, Zamora, and Salamanca (separate from Castilla y León, hence the photos below “León Solo”)
  • What organizations are involved? AGORA Pais Lliones and Leoneisist Youth, formerly known as Conceyu Xoven, the  youth wing of the Leonese People’s Union.
  • What political parties support independence? Leonese People’s Union (UPL), Grupo Autonomico Leones, Union of the Salamancan People, Regionalist Party of the Leonese Country. Podemos and Ciudadanos (at least in the last election). Local parties in Castilla y León such as Ganemos and En Comun are of “little certainty” but could potential support the cause.
  • What are the goals of the movement? Besides of course, independence, important topics include:
    • Linguistic recognition (claims that Castilla y León have not upheld the requirements set forth by the Council of Europe of protection of minority languages. Read more about the Leonese language in Spanish here).
    • Worker’s rights and topics of professional training, unemployment and cutbacks.
    • Environment: AGORA reports that “Capitalism produces the using up of natural resources and a progressive process towards the destruction of the planet.”
  • What has the movement achieved?
    • Towns in the Cabrera, a comarca of Leon were able to incorporate bilingual signs, preserving their linguistic heritage (unfortunately, those signs were vandalized soon after they were put up).

Below, see some of the graffiti I photographed while walking the Camino de Santiago. If you walked the camino, did you see anything intriguing? Do you have more information on the separatist movement? Tweet at me @yasminesoyyo!

pais lliones llibre
Someone crossed out “Castilla” and wrote “Leon Solo” (Only Leon).

“Pais Lliones Llibre”

Someone decided to draw a penis next to this independence graffiti.
Someone decided to draw a penis next to this independence graffiti. Leon city.

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15 thoughts on “El Camino De Santiago: País Llionés Llibre

  1. It is curious you have not mentinoned any of the historical points of the Kingdom of Leon and also no mention at all that castilla y Leon has only37 years as a comunity. Before they were always 2 kingdoms very diferent.
    Apart from that the only problem here is about money, as usual

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    1. Hi Carlos! Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to comment. Thank you so much for the very important information, and my sincere apologies I did not mention this in the blog post. It is very important to note.

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      1. Hi Allison,

        First thing you should do on your research is get the background of the land you’re talking about to see why are we asking what we’re asking. If you want more info on León, you can google Kingdon of León and get a lot of info, but mainly you should check this one:
        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cortes_of_León

        I think you should a bit more research on León to get your facts straight cause it seems you got the impression we are vandals and nothing more and we’ve just gone insane and started demanding crazy things.

        As for the people you talked to in Madrid, well first of all, we’re not talking the 18th borders but 1983 and since then it’s been the worst time in León’s hundreds of years of history. Though it’s very typicall for a Spanird to critisize without knowing what they’re talking about, if you talk to people over 40, they’ll tell you they studied León at school and won’t be as surprised. 🙂

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      2. Dear Raul,
        Thank you also for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to do this.
        I am sorry you were offended by what I wrote. I did not intend for this to be the authority on the movement, I was just impressed by what I saw and wanted to learn more, and perhaps other Camino de Santiago pilgrims would have questions as well. But, you are right, it is important to do lots of research. And that’s why I am lucky to have readers like you who can give more information, because I of course don’t know it all!
        I did not mean to write this post with any judgement, rather, I wanted it to be informative, as I said earlier, if other people see the graffiti (which is clearly a good way to publicize your issue to people who are unfamiliar with it!). I also mentioned the man from Madrid’s comments because it demonstrates how perhaps someone in central Madrid feels about that – and how interesting it was that part of what AGORA says it that Madrid unfairly dominates (I was trying to be fair, but in fact, that section was in favor of Leon!).
        And I promise, I do not think the Leonese movement is one of vandals!! I am a huge fan of graffiti and street art, and I understand that it is part of every social movement!
        Again, Raul, thank you for your comments. I hope you’ll understand that I do not intend to try to be an expert on this topic, rather it made me curious. If you would like, can I invite you to be a guest author on this blog and write a little bit more about the movement?
        Thank you and please let me know what you think.

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    1. If we talk about dimensions of the “conflict” (???) we should also consider the relative size of it so we get the whole picture. Number of voters who consider this a “conflict”, being a conflict a situation of social or political unrest that demands prioritary action against the staus quo by a significant part of the population. Then we may also document this trend in the last 30 years. And to finalize the picture, we may also document the public debt figures of this and most other comunidades autonomas, so we can reevaluate the anachronism of such a “conflict” in the present economic and political context of Spain.
      Once you reach this point, and because I know that you are a wise guy, I trust that you may not consider it a “conflict” any longer, but more an ideal request by a few, based on historical reasons but not very objective with the current situation.
      Un saludo, paisano

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      1. Dear paisano/Enrique,
        Thank you so much for reading the post and taking the time to give your opinion.
        I think you bring a very important criticism to this issue. It is important to keep all of these points in mind as I consider it.
        Again, thank you. Best of luck to you.
        Allison

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