Os Peares is a mess. A monumental mess, an administrative gibberish such that it seems to have come from the pages of Franz Kafka himself and has earned it the title of “the most complex town in Spain”, as an official website of the Xunta de Galicia has come to define it. And although the title does not quite fit because Os Peares is not properly a municipality, at least if we get picky, no one can argue with the second: the place is complex. Delusionally complex.
Let’s make the proper introductions.
In the Galician countryside, barely half an hour by car from Ourense, there is a group of houses grouped into several nuclei with an enviable backdrop: river, mountain, green everywhere and even a picturesque bridge for three that saves the waters in those that narrow Miño and Sil. Bucolic. If you ask any of its neighbors they will tell you that the place is called Os Peares. It is when you scratch a little more and find out which municipality it belongs to or even which province you are in when things get complicated. And it gets complicated because there is no single correct answer.
“This is not an easy place”
Although Os Peares is not extensive, much less populous, the land it occupies is all an administrative puzzle made up of four municipalities, two provinces, three counties and as many judicial districts. There is nothing.
The place extends at the same time through the towns of Carballedo, Pantón, Nogueira de Ramuín and A Peroxa. The first two from the province of Lugo and the rest from the province of Ourense. In such “organizational chaos”, as defined by the writer Henrique Alvarellos in his book ‘Galicia en cen prodixios’, 500 people lived not so many years ago. In 2019 elDiario.es lowered the number to less than 200.
Elaborate? Well, things can get a little more complicated. As frequently occurs in rural Galicia and other Spanish latitudes, Os Peares is not a homogeneous group and continues. It is distributed by multiple cores: A Granxa, O Coitelo, O Mesón, O Torrón and a parish also called Os Peares which, strictly speaking, is located in the town of A Peroxa. The fact that the largest place has taken the name of the smallest does not help to identify it.
The border dance thing could remain that, a simple administrative curiosity, if it weren’t for the fact that at least in the past it has come to complicate life for its neighbors. In 1985, a reporter from El País drove there through winding roads to speak precisely with them and find out what it was like to live in a “broken” place, fragmented between four municipalities, two provinces and even three judicial districts. Curiosities and a sense of humor aside, which demonstrated it, and a lot, the Lugreños left testimonies worthy of Kafka.
What from the outside was administrative gibberish for them meant a real nuisance that complicated procedures as simple as going to the doctor.
“I, who belong to Lugo, if I needed health care I would have to travel 100 kilometers, when Ourense is only 18,” explained one of the residents before recounting the case of one of his neighbors, pregnant, who, when she felt how she was at about to give birth, she chose to take refuge in the house of another woman from Os Peares. Not that her home was better or more comfortable. No way. If she was a better option than his, it is because her foundations were in “Os Peares Ourense”.
He wasn’t the only nuisance.
School buses that leave almost empty, at the same time and from the same point, because they transport students who go to schools in different towns, problems to dictate a will because there is no way to find witnesses from the same village… “Here, next to my house, people who belonged to another parish have died, but I took care of them because they were not going to travel eight kilometers to look for a priest,” the priest from Os Peares told the reporter.
Still in 2019, elDiario.es recounted how his neighbors were summoned to choose mayor in local elections… only not one, of course. Depending on their neighborhood, they had to vote for councilor for four different town halls.
To make their day-to-day life easier and grant certain administrative entity At Os Peares at the end of the 1990s, a local consortium was promoted that integrates the four municipalities through which it is distributed. Its history, yes, has not been an oil raft. Some time after its launch, in 2010, the residents criticized the fact that it had not been called for a year and denounced the “inefficiency and disinterest” of its manager and even with the consortium underway, they have demanded a single administration. In 2019 the entity was studying the improvement of roads and services.
Are there more reasons to be amazed by Os Peares?
Yes. From his administrative scramble, crossover of powers, cocktail of provinces, towns and regions, one of the main politicians in Spain has emerged —irony of public affairs: Alberto Núñez Feijóo, senator, former president of the Xunta, leader of the PP and candidate to evict Pedro Sánchez from La Moncloa on 23J.
He left his lands as a teenager to study at a boarding school in León and over the years he himself has not hesitated to identify himself as a “boy two Peares”. There, however, he is known in another way, much more descriptive, precise and probably effective: “Eladia’s grandson”.
“We all agree that life and politics have to know very well where you are coming from to know how to interpret where you are and tell where you want to go. I always presumed to be from Os Peares,” he proclaimed in 2016 surrounded by the four mayors who share the management of the place, then in the hands of the PP.
“It took me from this town to realize the absolute absence of the value of borders,” he harangued, among neighbors and members of his party. A blind love, from a deep-rooted native, that did not prevent him from agreeing with the general opinion.
“As you can see, this place it’s not an easy place“.
Cover image: Counting Stars (Fickr)
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