The Challenge of Preserving Rural Industries and Traditions in Ultra-peripheral Europe: Evidence from the Canary Islands

Abel Duarte Alonso, Lynnaire Sheridan, Pascal Scherrer


Demographic, economic, environmental, and political changes shape many
rural areas and their communities across Europe. As a result, some
fundamental aspects of these communities, including traditions, culture, social
fabric, and their very raison d’être, are being tested and threatened by what
seem to be irreversible events. Ultraperipheral European regions, including the
Canary Islands, are not an exception; in fact, because of their physical
isolation from the mainland and other barriers, these regions may be more
susceptible to changes. While these dimensions are very important and need to
be addressed, to date very few studies have attempted to do so with regard to
European ultraperipheral areas. Using face-to-face interviews among operators
of Canary Island wineries, food confectioners, and handcraft artisans, this
study seeks to understand how small rural businesses involved in traditional
industries in this region cope with contemporary changes. The findings indicate
that while generally participants vie to continue their involvement with
traditional industries that have characterized the archipelago for centuries, lack
of succession and marginal financial viability instill a strong sense of
uncertainty about their future. These findings may have several implications
for policy makers and local authorities, particularly in the design of strategies
to assist small businesses located in ultraperipheral regions.
Key words: Canary Islands, rural communities, rural industries, traditions,
small businesses, ultraperiphery

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.