The New Locals:
from Chile to Palamós

🕔 4 mins (total)

From Santiago de Chile in Chile to Palamós in Catalunya, Spain

Maria Jesus Gómez Skarmeta, from Santiago de Chile and a vet by trade, came to La Costa Brava in 2012 and has made it her home ever since.

Where are you originally from?

I am originally from Santiago de Chile, but I am half Spanish through my father, who was from Murcia.

How long have you been living on the Costa Brava?

Almost eight and a half years now.

Why did you leave your country?

After gaining my basic veterinary degree in Santiago I remained to work there for a few years before eventually coming to study my masters in the University of Murcia as it was a lot more affordable to do so here in Spain than in Chile. I chose Murcia in particular as my brother was already living there. I never went back to live in Chile but stayed in Murcia to live and work, before eventually moving to Palamós.

What made you move specifically to Palamós?

I moved here with my partner to take over the running of a bar in Sant Antoni de Calonge. Neither of us had work at the time due to the recession so we figured we’d give it a go! It was an Irish pub on the seafront called O’Higgins, which was very appropriate as the Libertadores of Chile was the son of an Irish immigrant called Bernardo O’Higgins – so it was also a Chilean bar!

What do you work at?

I am a vet by profession so running the bar was something completely new. After three years we gave up the bar as the season here is too short and it was impossible to afford operating the bar during the rest of the year. I am now back working as a vet again, in two clinics; one in Figueres and the other in Pals.

What do you like most about living on the Costa Brava?

Just about everything. I love living right on the Mediterranean but also having the mountains not far away. The countryside around here is amazing too and it’s great to have cities like Barcelona and Girona close by as well.

Favourite way to spend a day off?

Spending the day doing something in the local countryside, like walking a part of the Camino de Ronda or visiting one or two of the local medieval villages or one of the other seaside towns, and then finishing off with a few pintxos and cervezas in town. Or maybe just going for lunch somewhere on the seafront combined with some time on the beach, swimming and snorkelling. There’s so much to choose from!

Some of Maria Jesus’s highlights about life in the Empordà

Do you have one particular favourite place?

Not really. There are so many beautiful places around here it’s hard to choose just one.

What’s your favourite food here?

Again it’s hard to pick one thing in particular, but I love pretty much anything that comes from the sea, especially mariscos.

What do you like most about Catalan culture?

I admire how Catalans are proud of their language and their identity. Being half-Spanish I wouldn’t necessarily be for Catalan independence, but I do think their identity and culture should be more recognized.

Are your friends here mostly Catalan or foreign?

Through working in the bar and then as a vet I have become friendly with a lot of people here, a complete mix of Catalans and people from lots of other countries.

How often do you travel home, or is this your home now?

I don’t travel back to Chile very often as I only have one brother there, and he travels to Spain every second year. The rest of my family is in Spain. The last time I was in Chile was in 2014. My other ”home” is Murcia, in the southeast of Spain, where I have friends and family. I usually travel down there once or twice a year. But I feel at home here now, on the Costa Brava.

Do you think you’ll ever return to live in your country?

It’s probably very unlikely that I’ll ever live in Chile again; but who knows, I may end up living somewhere else too… For now though, I’m very happy to stay living where I am in Palamós, with my cats – oh yeah, and my partner!

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