If you were to look at Spain from up high at night, you’d see this, the night lights massed and glowing in the center of the peninsula, which is Madrid. The darkest areas are where Spain’s rural villages have emptied out as anyone who can leave moves to the cities for work. (photo by NASA)
Small towns are left to the elderly and a handful of farmers. There are few children, and many houses have been abandoned. These photos are from Galisteo, a small town in Extremadura, population 2001.
This house is stone, in the center of town, one story with a low roof that is caving in. One shuttered window was open, and I took these photos from outside in the street. From the debris, a table still set with a cloth, flowers, and bowls, clothes still hanging in the closet, wedding photos fallen to the floor, it looks like the house was abandoned, but not cleared out of personal effects. Perhaps the owners died, and the heirs still have the property but have never used it.
Galisteo with its Moorish fortification walls is a bit of tourist draw, with school groups coming by to climb its walls and admire the view over the countryside. But other small towns have much less. You can buy an entire Spanish village for a few hundred thousand euros.
This article from NPR explains more.
“Everyone else left, too, or they’ve died, and the local school closed,” Fernandez says. “There aren’t enough children anymore.”
Galicia’s birth rate is 1.1 offspring per fertile woman — one of the lowest rates in all of Europe. The region is on track to lose a third of its population in the next 35 years.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, says Avelino Luis de Francisco Martinez, the mayor of Cortegada, a rural town in southern Galicia. An abandoned hamlet that’s part of his town isn’t for sale. He’s giving it away.
“For free! Someone just has to promise to renovate the 12 ruined houses,” he says. “They’re beautiful — bucolic! Next to a river and an 18th century royal procession path.”
The challenge? “We just need to find someone to live here in this century,” he says.
Give me a few years, I’ll figure it out.