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Depopulation In Spain

omar504

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,2017,2018
I was interested to hear a news item here in OZ about areas of Spain declining in population leading to sizeable protests. This strikes a chord with me as it always surprises me how deserted some villages are...I'm not talking about the CF but Mozarabe,Levante,Lana etc....where some villages seem to have virtually no one living in them, especially young people. Perhaps this is a timely reminder that those on caminos..mainly the CF...contribute to the local economy.
Depopulation, an acute problem in Spain's rural areas
The municipality of Molina de Aragón in the Guadalajara province (northwestern Spain) has a population density inferior to Siberia's. With 1.63 inhabitants per kilometre, it is the area that suffers the most from depopulation in a country with 16 provinces that feature among the least densely populated in Europe.

The rural population of Spain increased between 2000 and 2010, but since then it has declined to approximately 9,17 million people, according to Statista.
The issue is so acutely reflected on the map that 53% of the territory is inhabited by only 5% of the population, according to a study by the Research Centre on Depopulation and Development of Rural Areas (CEDDAR).

The affected territories are usually “economically depressed areas that are going backwards or are less dynamic in contrast to other parts of the country,” the report said.

Although the protest movement is apolitical, the rural vote will be key in the national elections on April 28.
The term “empty Spain” was coined by the author Sergio del Molino in an essay where he defines it as Spain’s interior — an absolutely depopulated area that heavily contrasts with the urban areas.

Molina says that this reality is a particularity of Spain compared to its European neighbours that are heavily populated. “In Spain, you can travel multiple kilometres without seen anything else but fields.”

“There is a lack of public services and little attention from the administration, there is also an important digital divide,” said Juan Manuel Polentinos Castellanos from the Confederation of Rural Development Centres (COCEDER).

"There are many problems that policies are not solving but rather deepening, hence the revolt of this 'empty Spain' that seeks to revitalise rural areas with opportunities and allow people who want to live there to do so in the same conditions (as in big cities)," he told Euronews.






The issue is so acutely reflected on the map that 53% of the territory is inhabited by only 5% of the population, according to a study by the Research Centre on Depopulation and Development of Rural Areas
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
In much of Spain, the young head to wherever there are jobs, usually in or near cities. This happens in most developed countries. Rural life is very hard, lonely, and not usually profitable.

My experience has been that, in many of these depopulated villages, a family member still owns the family home. They may return to the local church for funerals, weddings and special local feast days. But, that aside, these towns and cities are dying slowly.

This said, I suspect, if you widen your scope, you will find this phenomenon in most of western Europe, outside large towns and cities. Even in the US it is happening in more remote, rural areas. People are drawn to where the jobs are.

It would be nice if the national, or regional / provincial / state governments in these European countries came up with a scheme to make these properties available to 'outsiders' like us, without having to jump through all the long-stay visa hoops.

Those of us who may have independent means, or who be on pension, might bring some life back into the towns. Then again, we might not...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes/Burgos/SdeC 77; Frances 12,15,17; Finisterre 17; Lourdes/Aragones18; Logrono-Leon 19.
It would be nice if the national, or regional / provincial / state governments in these European countries came up with a scheme to make these properties available to 'outsiders' like us, without having to jump through all the long-stay visa hoops.

Those of us who may have independent means, or who be on pension, might bring some life back into the towns. Then again, we might not...
Some of us would sure like to try!
 

islandwalker

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Del Estrecho, Ruta Fray Leopoldo,
Vía Serrano

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
There are people from Europe and Spain who prefer live in remote villages in precary conditions.5 years ago I was walking in Asturias in a very mountainous area15 kms from Berducedo when I got to a supposedly abandoned village and I found living there a very young family from Andalucia with two little children living with no electricity and no road (they had to walk 2 kms to the road where they had their car). In the same municipality (Allande) there is another German/Dutch family that is living there for many years.
 

Glenshiro

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy - León, Camino Frances (2012 - 2019)
My experience has been that, in many of these depopulated villages, a family member still owns the family home.
I found this syndrome through much of southwest France on the Puy route. Almost every village had at least one large, decrepit house which was obviously uninhabited. Its owners dead, their children, (long since grown up and moved away for work to Toulouse, Bordeaux or further afield) unable or unwilling to sell it, the buildings were slowly being reclaimed by nature. They were often cheek by jowl with similar properties in pristine condition which had been bought as country retreats by the newly wealthy and restored.

Rural depopulation is particularly apparent in departements such as Gers, whose main industry, apart from farming (now largely mechanised) is the production of Armagnac. I was told that a whole factory can be run by 6 people, in 3, 2-person, round-the-clock shifts. Walking in these parts of France can be a very solitary activity!
 

Montana Jayne

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2015 - Camino Frances
? Camino Ingles
Demographic winter where the birth rate is low. I believe in Spain as a whole it is 1.3 and 2.2 is necessary to sustain population. In rural areas depopulation just sticks out like a sore thrumb.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
As @islandwalker says, those maps are really interesting. And it confirms what I thought when I walked the Camino Olvidado a few years ago. It seemed to me that there was just as much depopulation going on in the northeastern areas of Spain as in the other rural areas we walk through, even though it is a pretty prosperous region. What I found was a slight variation on @Glenshiro’s experience. I found three kinds of houses — the ones that were empty and falling down, the ones that were inhabited and liveable but not very high standard, and the really spectacular renovations that were boarded up and awaiting the month of August when their owners would return to their pueblos of origin. It seemed it would be more fair if categories two and three were switched. :)
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
In France and I suspect Spain, as well, the older abandoned properties are a result of draconian estate laws that requires a prospective seller/buyer to notify every family memberof their intentions to sell the property, including the obscure relatives of the young upstairs maid who may have given birth to a child sired by titular head of the family many years ago.
If you have ever wondered about the abandoned chateau south of Biarritz sitting on a prominent hilltop. It has been left vacant since then end of WWII following the Nazi's seizure it for their headquarters and deportation of the Jewish family who had owned it for many years. Its ownership is tied up in court due to the many vagaries of what became of the family.
Paddy O'Gara has written several newspaper columns about the demise of the small towns and their glorious local churches. Spain is losing a valuable heritage with the unintentional neglect of its many churches, hermitages, monasteries and convents. A perfect examples of this is Becerril de Campos north of Palencia. The village had a population of 2700 in 1900, two years ago only 769 residents. The are some magnificent structures in this village but because the church is struggling to maintain priests in every remote village, they now send clergy from the larger towns like Palencia and Sahagun to perform masses only once a week.
 
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t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Vis, Paddy... I think I read his final column in the Toledo Blade a month or so ago. I suspect he has gone into proper and full-time retirement.

Pity, I so enjoyed his perspective.

I wish him and Rebekah well.
 

Rj7797

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017
I believe I read that in some Midwest states in the U.S. towns were offering college graduates and young professionals all kinds of benefit pacakges to move there because of similar problems.
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
I believe I read that in some Midwest states in the U.S. towns were offering college graduates and young professionals all kinds of benefit pacakges to move there because of similar problems.
One good thing in the US is that in most states the capital is not the most populated city. That contributes in a certain way to spread the population.
This doesn't happen in Spain.
 

Montana Jayne

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2015 - Camino Frances
? Camino Ingles
In France and I suspect Spain, as well, the older abandoned properties are a result of draconian estate laws that requires a prospective seller/buyer to notify every family memberof their intentions to sell the property, including the obscure relatives of the young upstairs maid who may have given birth to a child sired by titular head of the family many years ago.
If you have ever wondered about the abandoned chateau south of Biarritz sitting on a prominent hilltop. It has been left vacant since then end of WWII following the Nazi's seizure it for their headquarters and deportation of the Jewish family who had owned it for many years. Its ownership is tied up in court due to the many vagaries of what became of the family.
Paddy O'Gara has written several newspaper columns about the demise of the small towns and their glorious local churches. Spain is losing a valuable heritage with the unintentional neglect of its many churches, hermitages, monasteries and convents. A perfect examples of this is Becerril de Campos north of Palencia. The village had a population of 2700 in 1900, two years ago only 769 residents. The are some magnificent structures in this village but because the church is struggling to maintain priests in every remote village, they now send clergy from the larger towns like Palencia and Sahagun to perform masses only once a week.
Thanks. Excellent information.
 

Irish Bernie

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis 2013-2014-2015,16 and June 2017,May 2018,Sept 2018.
Our dream is to rent a place in Fisterra in a few years,n spend our days there in peace :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Another remarkable side to this Forum. Whilst my Spanish is not really satisfactory I recall reading about a young couple who due to the 2008-10 Financial Crisis left Spain for Germany. The male had a master degree in Engineering and his partner was (1) learning German and doing a number of courses in the IT world. These were the people that I thought Spain could ill afford to loose as it was (I believed) unlikely that this couple and many others like them would return to allow Spain to benefit from the education they were given.
As I said a great theme. Cheers
 

jbear

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP to SdC march-may 2015
The town that my grandfather’s family hail from are examples of this phenomenon. It is no surprise, if you visit the pueblo there is nothing, other than family history, to keep a person of any age there. It has become a place to visit, not a place to live.
 

Isaac Kim

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2017)
Camino de Finisterre (2017)
Just came across an interesting article (from December of 2018) regarding rural depopulation: Forbes.com Article Link on Rural Depopulation

The article states, " ... In Spain, the situation has become particularly extreme in some regions such as Castilla y León and Aragón. “Although in the first decade of the 21st century these provinces gained population in the context of the strong influx of immigrants, since the crisis in 2008, figures in recent years have shown negative growth,” says a report of the Centre for Studies on Depopulation and Development of Rural Areas (CEDDAR). "


I'm sure many peregrinos have noticed that the majority of the villages they have trekked through are populated by seniors or the aging population (unless those villages are near a major hub/city, in which case the age range shifts down a bit).

I can see how it may, although the Camino has become the bread and butter for quite a few of the rural villages, affect the Camino in the long run; if the trend continues, and more folks flood to the cities, more villages become empty, less Albergues, more km's to cover for peregrinos, etc... Sounds like a slippery slope, but for the sake of the argument, why not? :D

Nothing serious or life threatening, but I thought it would be interesting to gather what other peregrinos think of this situation?


Buen Camino, Peregrinos!
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
There is another recent thread on the same subject with quite few comments.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I can see how it may, although the Camino has become the bread and butter for quite a few of the rural villages, affect the Camino in the long run; if the trend continues, and more folks flood to the cities, more villages become empty, less Albergues, more km's to cover for peregrinos, etc... Sounds like a slippery slope, but for the sake of the argument, why not? :D
Although the depopulation issue is very worrying I think that the very thin strip which makes up the Camino Frances is likely to defy that trend at least in part for the foreseeable future. I walked the Camino Frances for the first time in 1990 and again most recently in 2016. Very far from declining over that period - the villages were obviously booming in comparison to the early days of the Camino revival. In 1990 many villages had lost their bars and shops and many buildings were completely abandoned. There were stages of 30km and more without anywhere selling food or drink and even water could be in short supply. The place which always comes to my mind is Foncebadon: the last village before the Cruz de Ferro. In 1990 there was one resident - an elderly woman - and all buildings except her house were abandoned and falling down. Now I believe Gronze lists six albergues or hostals in that one village and there are beds for over 100 pilgrims. Many villages which had lost their bars and tiendas now support several - at least for part of the year. The economic situation of the villages directly on the Camino Frances seems to have been very positive but I suspect that those positive effects do not extend to all of the villagers or very far from the route itself.
 

Isaac Kim

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2017)
Camino de Finisterre (2017)
There is another recent thread on the same subject with quite few comments.
Oh shoot! I should have looked it up in more detail prior to posting this thread... Sorry for the duplicate thread, and thank you for letting me know! :D

If an admin/moderator sees this, please close the thread... I'm sorry!! I pulled a dingus!
 
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natefaith

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria-Santiago (2009)
León-Ponferrada (2014)
Camino Inglés (2017)
Oh shoot! I should have looked it up in more detail prior to posting this thread... Sorry for the duplicate thread, and thank you for letting me know! :D

If an admin/moderator sees this, please close the thread... I'm sorry!! I pulled a dingus!
Hi Isaac and welcome to the Forum. This happens sometimes, so no worries! :)

This thread is closed now. Others who are interested in this topic can check out: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/depopulation-in-spain.61130/#post-725667
 

RENSHAW

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2003 CF Roncesvalles to Santiago
2/4 weeks every year on CF reaching Burgos or Leon. Hospitalero San Anton June 2016.
In 2003 I passed through Castrojeriz and there were many derelict buildings , now most of them have been renovated and some are holiday homes. 10 years ago I passed through Moralles and Corporalles on an alternative route to Granon. Most of the towns were in ruins but today I have seen a revival and there is a provision for seasonal employment. Foncebadon was unoccupied with abandoned dogs , now a winter ski resort.
Fortunately these town still live on and on the Camino we have seen a remarkable change since I walked through the Pyrenees foothills in 2003 and there were elderly folk working as peasants in the fields as they did for hundreds of years. Although it may only seasonal , I see a return of folks to the countryside and seasons expanding to annual occupancy.
 
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