Saturday, October 05, 2019

The Empty Villages of Spain

The authorities are worried, as more and more people move to the cities and away from their moribund villages in the quinto pino (the sticks). Small villages are losing their inhabitants and even drying up completely, ending as news items along the lines of ‘Entire Spanish village for sale’ in the newspapers.
Depriving them of services certainly doesn’t help – no bank, no pharmacy, no school, no town cop and even – Yarggh – no bar.
There have been some protests recently, as the villagers march on Madrid (waving their pitchforks).
But the politicians, keenly aware of the small (and evidently decreasing) number of votes in play, are not all that interested. The campaign ‘Teruel Existe’ notwithstanding (Teruel is a small and bitterly cold province, merrily ignored and avoided by all and sundry), the province has lost fifty per cent of its population in the past 100 years.
Alcontar (Almería) lost almost 10% of its population in 2018.
In Almería, over sixty of the 102 municipalities claim  a population loss: municipalities where the young have moved to The City to find jobs, romance and a decent tapa.
Those old houses in the pueblos are kept, as often as not, by the now-displaced owners who visit once a year (in their fancy cars) and they may still appear on the local padrón (to vote for their cousin Paco, of course). In short, the real numbers are even worse than the statisticians admit.
So, what to do?
Property is cheap enough in them thar hills, and as long as the ecologists or jackasses in the regional government don’t mind about foreigners moving in, providing jobs, money and a hankering for tinned beans in the local shop, there is a small gain to be made for the pueblo. A campaign perhaps? After all, the kids aren’t coming back, so we will need new (or rather, old) settlers to replace them. Imagine that, a Spanish promotion aimed at foreigners, but not at tourists!
Other settlers might be those poor refugees, washed up on Spanish soil. Go and till that land!
Sometimes, one of those peaceful villages could make an excellent old people’s home: a community benevolently run by the social services, with proper treatment for those who could benefit from country life under supervision.
The Government could step in, of course, and say – no town under two thousand without a bank, a chemist, a bus-service and a school!
And maybe, as some villages hopelessly die, amalgamate them into nearby municipalities. We don’t need on paper 102 communities in Almería if ninety would be enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are you disparaging the stale peanut or, if lucky, an olive that accompanied a small, warm bottle of Alhambra at Pedro Cano's house of delights? Could the quality of the tapas served today be worse than they were fifty years ago?