León wants to be an autonomous community, to be independent of Castile

by Lorraine Williamson

León wants to be independent. It no longer wants to be a Spanish province but to become an autonomous community, separate from Castile. This desire is as old as the Statute of the autonomy of Castile and León.

As a result, there is a political party that “defends the interests of the León Region and the constitutional right to political autonomy for León, Zamora and Salamanca”: Unión del Pueblo Leonés (UPL).

It is precisely this party that has tabled a motion in the Diputación – where the municipal councils of the province are represented – to ask the Junta de Castilla y León to start the procedures for the creation of its own autonomous community for the “Region of León, protected by Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution”, which recognises the right to autonomy of the regions.

Symbolic mood León on Wednesday voted in favour of asking the government to make it an autonomous community. Although the vote was symbolic, it indicated León’s will to be independent, to free itself from the yoke of Castile. The Provincial Council of León voted on Wednesday to ask the government to start the process for this. The PSOE and Unión del Pueblo Leonés (UPL) voted in favour.

The Partido Popular, which voted against, presented an alternative motion urging governments to invest more in the province. The alternative motion was defeated with votes against from the UPL and PSOE, who criticised their opponents for attributing territorial problems “to all administrations except the one that has governed the community for 37 years”.

Arguments for independent León

The proponents of independence, the Leónistas, put forward sociological and economic arguments. On the one hand, the Secretary General of UPL, Luis Mariano Santos, explains that the community of Castilla y León was “imposed” without asking the people of León. “There is no form of identity, it is forced to bring together something that does not really exist, simply because we are neighbours, just like the Galicians and the Asturians or the Cantabrians and the Basques,” he added.

The Leónistas are not asking to leave Spain, it is not ‘Lexit’. However, they want to create their own autonomy based on Article 143 of the Spanish Constitution. Among the population, there is a majority opinion on the independence of León. “In fact, it’s hard to find anyone who is against it. Now we have to take this motion to Madrid and see what happens this time,” said de Leónistas.

Leon, no longer the largest province of the autonomous community

Mariano Santos indicates that Valladolid and “some parts of Castile” have grown and evolved, but the area around León has not: “The latest forecasts say that the community will gain population, but León will lose about 18,000 inhabitants in the next 15 years. León was the largest province, with more than 500,000 inhabitants, when the community began: now there are 450,000,” he adds. A bloodletting that, according to the party, also extends to labour force participation: “León has the worst labour force participation rate and Zamora the third worst.”

Historical ties with Asturias

The motion says nothing about the pretensions to include Asturias in the hypothetical autonomy of León, but the ties that unite the two regions are historic. The Archbishop of Oviedo recalled this last March during his Easter Week proclamation. With a text in poetic prose, provided with rhythm and musicality to “win” the ears of those present, Archbishop Sanz began by mentioning the shared history between Asturias and León, “a missed opportunity to form an Asturian kingdom despite all the adventures we share”.

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