Are you interested in buying a charming Spanish village? Well, you might be in luck as there are at least 400 such villages in Galicia (North-West Spain) that Mark Adkinson, founder of the Galician Country Homes real estate firm, has identified that “could possibly be on the market if the ownership rights were determined”. In fact Adkinson is probably under counting – Spain’s National Statistics Institute estimated that there were around 3,000 abandoned villages in Spain and that over half of them were within Galicia.
Why is there such a concentration in this one area of Spain? According to the Christian Science Monitor, there are so many abandoned villages in Galicia simply because the area “is dying”. The Galician statistics institute warned recently that the region could lose a third of its population (1 million residents) by 2050: there are not large numbers of immigrants coming to the area and the total fertility rate is 1 child per woman, much lower than Spain’s (already low) total fertility rate of 1.27 births per woman. Across parts of Europe (see here for a visual representation of which parts they are) depopulation is changing the physical landscape: maternity wards and schools are closed as surplus to requirements while churches are turned into art venues and leisure centers. In Galicia, this physical transformation is taking the form of hundreds of abandoned villages.
Thus, one is able, if one is so inclined, to buy up a charming rustic retreat, like the hamlet formerly known as O Penso:
“A cluster of picture-pretty stone homes lies at the bottom of a verdant valley here in northern Galicia, where the only sound comes from wind rustling fig and peach trees…. the hamlet is now for sale, and includes a bread-making hearth, several barns, and stone and wood horreos, the raised granaries typical in this part of the country.”
Of course, buying a whole village might be too pricey for many of us. Luckily there is another option. The mayor in rural Cortegada (southern Galicia, near the border with Portugal) is offering an abandoned village for free: all you need to do is restore the 12 vacant homes and “bring value back to the community”. Come on all you do-it-yourself types, this is a perfect opportunity for you! Idyllic rural Spain, free housing, a handyman’s dream! Just don’t expect too much company…Galician villages have run dry of that.