Urbanization and the Disappearing Spanish Village

Urbanization and the Disappearing Spanish Village

Spain's countryside is dotted with small villages that are being sold after their owners abandoned them due to a massive demographic shift. For the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who made the reversal of rural depopulation a key policy issue when he came to power last year, such efforts can help stem rural desertification before it tips into crisis territory. Sanchez, who faces a general election in April, will on Friday discuss with his cabinet measures to reverse the trend.


Many foreigners and enterprising Spaniards are starting to be seen as part of the solution as they buy some of the properties, taking advantage of bargain prices. Aldeas Abandonadas, an estate agency specializing in such sales, last year sold about 40 villages, with foreign buyers accounting for 90% of the transactions. The company recently got a boost after Gwyneth Paltrow flagged one of its villages on her website as a good Christmas present.

While urbanization is emptying rural areas across large swathes of Europe, the trend is dramatic in Spain. About 53% of Spain has a population density of fewer than 12.5 inhabitants per square mile which is among the worst rates in western Europe. 

Whether it's a desire to preserve Spain's cultural history or because technology now makes it possible to work from anywhere, people are starting to trickle back, hopefully for good. 

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