Si mon nom saber voleu, Joan Rovira trobareu. This inscription, which in Spanish means “if you want to know my name, you will find Joan Rovira”, presides over the stone lintel of the entrance door of Can Paperines, a ramshackle farmhouse in Sant Gregori, in Girona’s Valle del Llémena. “How horny this Rovira must be!”, Says Marta Lloret as she enters the venue. The new owners of the property, Erica Van Rafelghem and Jordi Roca, guide him. This couple has just fulfilled their dream: to buy an old farm – specifically, from 1793 – to turn it into a home. The problem is that, to this day, it falls apart.
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This is not the first nor will it be the last country house in a dilapidated state that Marta Lloret visits. She is a heritage technician in a private company, Antequem, with which she is dedicated to the cataloging of all types of buildings. But in his spare time he is also The masies hunter, a alter ego on social networks (25,000 followers in Instagram and on Twitter) with which he is dedicated to portraying and, above all, disseminating the heritage value of these very particular houses in the Mediterranean area and especially in inland Catalonia: the farmhouses. The country houses that structured and gave continuity to generations of families for centuries around land and livestock.
Today Lloret is in luck on his visit to Sant Gregori. He is witnessing live the enthusiasm with which Erica and Jordi explain their plans to restore the house, which currently has no roof, hardly any floor, and of course basic supplies. Can Paperines spent about ten years selling. Before it was decades without inhabiting, it even burned while it was a warehouse for a nearby factory.
To masies hunter This couple contacted her on Instagram, seeing the debate that she had raised with her critical comments with the few public aid that exist to preserve this architectural heritage. And they quickly agreed to see each other and share their experience.
Now they discuss with the architect what they will try to preserve from the old construction. “It is a dilemma because I would leave everything behind, but at the same time you need a minimum of comfort,” says Erica, who gives as an example – a classic, says Lloret – the scant light that enters through the windows, once thought to have better insulation . Be that as it may, they will have time to decide, the couple says, because they have given themselves nine years of leeway to rehabilitate her little by little: there is a lot of work to do and money to save. They have even named the project: The 9 year project.
Thousands of farmhouses and the risk of their new uses
Until the middle of the 19th century, farmhouses, with their uses for housing and agricultural exploitation, were omnipresent in the Catalan territory. According to an analysis from the 1860 gazetteer, prepared by Albert Esteve and Miquel Valls, there were 19,465, if farmhouses, farmhouses, farmhouses, hamlets and other similar names are added. Today most may still be standing, but without the same utility. A few are still dedicated to the primary sector; others are homes. And many have been converted into restaurants, rural houses, camp houses, chalets and second homes …
“In the Empordà area, as in Mallorca, everything is chalets. And above all foreigners. In the Osona region, or in the Moianès region, there are still people who exploit the land or, at least, have it subletted. And then there are the regions of Anoia, La Segarra … There are many houses and very important abandoned ones “. Marta Lloret seems to have the Catalan map of the farmhouses in her head. There are many visits a year, more than one a day.
In his explorations, either for work or pure curiosity, he has come to find watchtowers absorbed by later constructions. You often find medieval elements such as arches, lintels … A few years ago, the Teià (Barcelona) City Council commissioned them to carry out the historical documentation of Cal Llibreter, a stately 19th century house that was for sale at that time. After diving into the archives of the Crown of Aragon, they discovered that the small masovería that stood next to the house in question was already referenced in the 16th century.
“The problem with the farmhouses is that most of them are not protected. Only the most emblematic ones are, and depending on the municipality, ”Lloret laments. They are cataloged, but normatively only elements of the façade are usually protected. “It is the country of façade”, Laments this instagramer and tweeter specialized in rural heritage. Many of his “treasures”, he says, are inside. “I can’t understand it. Maybe a few years we will give up on the mistake we are making ”, he adds.
Among the reasons behind the abandonment of these farms, the most important is the change in economic activity. With the industrial revolution and the phylloxera crisis, many were abandoned. It is not the same to live in a farmhouse like Erica and Jordi’s, ten minutes by car from Girona, than to do it in the middle of the mountain and after driving on rural roads. But then there are more current problems. “The most common is that there are inheritance problems. Their division is usually the subject of dispute between the children and, while they fight, the house falls apart, ”says Lloret. To this is added, in addition, a real estate market with exorbitant prices, according to buyers like this couple from Sant Gregori.
That is why Marta Lloret opened her Instagram accounts a few years ago. For her, the only solution to conserve this architectural heritage is not to protect it as much as possible, which usually brings many owners upside down, but to encourage a return to the activity that made them necessary. “No value is given to livestock, to agriculture, and it is our origin. Here everything is only focused on the third sector ”, he comments. And he closes: “Then we will all want to eat from kilometer zero!”.