For would-be kings and queens looking for their kingdoms there are now some 400 complete villages in northern Spain that are up for sale due to a rapidly declining population. The villages, some of which are being offered for fee, represent a new trend in emigration, identity loss and an increasing preference by European women not to give birth.
The majority of the villages are in Galicia, northern Spain, and have been home to thousands of villagers for hundreds of years until economic hardships sent a majority of the residents away.
In villages such as O Penso, only weeds and overgrown grass rule the once popular fields. The last occupants of the village left a decade ago. The village, which includes barns, bread making hearths and stone horreos, is typical of those up for sale.
Mark Adkison, who founded the Galician Country Homes real estate firm, specializes in selling abandoned villages in the region. “This is as near as paradise as I can think of,” he said. He has began marketing the villages, attracting wide interest from American investors.
In the remaining populated areas, local Galician authorities are now sponsoring television adverts urging women to give birth. Others, like Mayor Avelino Luis de Francisco of Cortegada, are giving away abandoned villages for free.
Francisco said, “They can do with it whatever they want, as long as it brings back value to the community.”
In Europe, the areas that spread across the Iberian peninsula including Northern Portugal and Asturias are facing a similar problem. Reports by the European Commission’s Eurostat indicate that while fertility rates in the European Union stand at 1.55 births a woman, hardest hit nations have much lower rates including Spain’s 1.27, Portugal’s 1.2 and Greece’s 1.3.
In Galicia, rates are at a paltry one birth per woman.
Most of Galicia is now overrun by weeds and according to analysts, if things do not change, the lands would turn into wildlands.
The loss of population has been credited to an increasing trend by the youth to move into the capital cities, losing out on land that has been inherited from generation to generation. Authorities are now worried that the trend will not only wipe out once bubbling villages but also the historic identities of thousands of Northern Spain’s youth.