The abandoned village of O Penso, in northern Spain, includes four homes and several barns, as well as 100 acres of property. It is on the market for 210,000 euros.
The Christian Science Monitor
Lugo, Spain: Town leaders and entrepreneurs in Spain’s northwestern Galicia region want to repopulate hundreds of empty hamlets hard hit by long-term decline.
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.
Called O Penso when residents lived here – the very last of whom left about a decade ago – 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.
It has already stirred the dreams of potential buyers, including one American entrepreneur interested in turning it into a language school.
“This is as near as paradise as I can think of,” says Mark Adkinson, who founded the Galician Country Homes real estate firm and has recently begun marketing abandoned villages.
It would be the stuff of dreams were it not also the symptom of a problem clouding Galicia’s future: The area is essentially dying. The Galician statistics institute warned recently that this region of northwest Spain could lose 1 million residents in the next 35 years, or roughly a third of its population.
All of Europe is rapidly aging, as women choose to have fewer children, or none at all, and immigration – despite the shrill news about a flood of migrants into Europe – has failed to reach the corners of the Continent where populations are the oldest.
Demography is quick becoming the key policy challenge of Europe’s leaders, as countries scramble to figure out how to keep labour systems running and pensions paid.
But it is also having a profound impact on the physical landscape of Europe, from maternity wards and schools closing their doors, to churches being turned into art venues and leisure centres.
Here in this corner of the Iberian Peninsula, the business of selling abandoned villages has even become something of a policy tool. One mayor is trying to give away an abandoned village in his district for free, so long as “buyers” promise to restore it and add back value – ideally drawing young people while they do so.
If Galicia cannot turn back its demographic trends, says Xoaquin Fernandez Leiceaga, a former lawmaker and professor of economics at the University of Santiago de Compostela, parts of it could quickly turn into wildland.
“Already villages of Galicia are being overrun by weeds and bushes,” he says.
400 villages to sell?
The real estate of abandoned villages and rural properties is a passion as well as a job. But Gomez Picos says he’s gratified to play his part in repopulation: “I feel fabulous, bringing people back into Galicia, taking people back to the land.”
If he is able to sell O Penso, at least he’ll make one person happy: Gomez Picos, who lives right up the dirt road.
“When I was younger, I’d walk around to see my cows and say ‘hello, good day,’ the whole way there,” he says. “Now there is no one to greet. No one.”
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