Wednesday, March 22

The (not so) disputed vote of Mr. Cayo

In times of electoral campaign and with the rural environment in fashion, we are seeing all kinds of politicians with urban presence and manners, whose parties have hardly cared about the rural environment, approaching to take the typical photo with the tractor, the sheep or the cows in a green landscape that speaks more of “weekend” than of getting up early to attend to the cattle. Already in 1978, Miguel Delibes warned us in his great novel “El disputadovoto del Señor Cayo” of this kind of characters who only go to town when hunting votes and for the next four years, If I’ve seen you I don’t remember. The novel, whose translation to the big screen was guilty of reflecting a rural world that is too decadent and stereotyped, is set in the time of the first elections of democracy and tells how a candidate for deputy and his assistants visit a small town where only the Mr. Cayo, his mute wife, and a neighbor who does not speak to Cayo. The enthusiasm of the visitors to explain how a political change could bring great things for the future of the country contrasts with the skepticism of Mr. Cayo who does not see how his self-sufficient life will be affected and in which he has never received any help from part of the public authorities.

At the same time, the novel reflects the true dignity of the inhabitants of the rural environment; Although inferior in regulated training, Mr. Cayo constantly gives lessons on basic issues of all kinds to the urbanites who came to campaign. In a fragment of the novel, Víctor, the candidate for deputy, speaks with a party collaborator and tells him: Imagine, for a moment, that one day the lucky Americans hit a bomb like that one with neutrons that kills, but doesn’t destroy, right? Well, it’s a hypothesis, a bomb that would kill every god except Mr. Cayo and me, do you realize? It’s an absurd hypothesis, I know, but it works, Dani. Well, if that happened, I would have to run to Cureña, kneel before Mr. Cayo and beg him to feed me, do you understand?: Mr. Cayo could live without Víctor, but Víctor could not live without Mr. Cayo. So, for what reasons do I ask a guy like that for his vote, Dani, do you want to tell me?

Throughout the story, the candidate for deputy has a progressive horse fall in which he is realizing how little, in reality, his proposal for a country and that of his party has to offer, to the citizens of rural areas. Thus, at another time he exclaims: That man doesn’t need us. With what right do we intend to tear them from the middle of it to put them where we all are? Of course that is a question that I would like many of our politicians to answer. No political proposal should be presented as a “defender of the rural environment” if it does not offer honest and realistic policies so that whoever so wishes can stay and live in rural areas.

Delibes was and still is the quintessential writer of Castilla y León and, why not, of all of Empty Spain. No one like him has been able to reflect our nature, our landscapes and our ways of life. But also our claims and our desires as citizens of rural areas. He put words to what many of us feel when we see the emptying of our towns. When one reads his novels, he immediately imagines the landscape, the houses, the characters as if it were his own town. How many of our towns, if we do nothing to avoid it, will end up being like Cureña, Mr. Cayo’s town, in a few years?

However, Mr Cayo would know who to vote for today. More than four decades of Spanish democracy have had to pass so that a ballot that defends the rural world can be introduced in the polls. The decision of Empty Spain to attend the elections is a ray of hope for all citizens of rural areas, who were once disenchanted with politics. Cureña, which does not actually have that name, but is an uninhabited town in the province of Burgos called Cortiguera, has already run out of people. But there is hope for many other peoples who see how their people have understood that “politics”, as Cayo said, is the only thing that can save the extreme situation in which the Spanish rural environment finds itself. Landscapes, people, trades and ways of life that Delibes described so beautifully in his literary work and whose sacrifice we must not allow under any circumstances.