MADRID – After the success of the citizens’ movement Teruel Existe, similar movements in other empty provinces want to put more pressure on current politics. According to those movements more needs to be done to prevent the decline of the countryside.
160 movements from 30 different Spanish provinces have united on the ‘España Vaciada‘ platform (in Spanish). There they express their dismay at the empty promises and laxity of the traditional political parties. The same parties have also taken all the electable seats in the small provinces.
Teruel Existe is a great example
The Teruel Existe movement was founded in 1999 and fought for 20 years to win three seats in the parliament. In the 2019 elections, Teruel Existe won two seats in the Senate and leader Tomas Guitarte had one seat in the House of Representatives. Not without success, because an agreement was signed to improve the infrastructure. Even a ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Problems was set up. Since then, the depopulation problem of the province of Teruel has been on the map for good.
No political ideology, but solving a concrete problem
Now there is more and more protest from citizen movements in the other empty provinces and the urge to gain influence in national politics is growing. According to Guitarte, it is about time for this, because the situation in the countryside threatens to become irreversible. Just as Podemos and Ciudadanos arose not from the pursuit of an idea, but from dissatisfaction with today’s society, this ‘rural 15-M movement’ also wants political intervention to solve a concrete problem. This is therefore not a question of conservative or progressive ideals, but of exposing an important social and social issue. If the citizen movements won’t manage to generate sufficient attention and action, they will disappear from the political landscape again.
Restore what was
According to the platform, it is expressly not about España vacía (empty Spain). Instead, it is about España vaciada’ (emptied Spain): what once was must be restored. This does not only concern the empty villages, but also the sparsely populated cities in Spain. According to the Spanish Institute of Statistics and Cartography, it is not inconceivable 100,000 inhabitants will have left the province of Jaén by 2040. If so, this would make Jaén comparable to the emptiest provinces of Spain, Soria, and Teruel.
Director Belén Barreiro of research agency 40dB thinks that España vaciada could be succesful in the short run. There is a great demand for attention to the depopulation problem. And, furthermore, with the disappearance of the two-party system in Spanish politics new possibilities arise. However, Barreiro sees, in the longer term, further digitization is already widening the gap between urban and rural areas.
In any case, it is clear that the political arena needs more voices besides Teruel Existe to stand up for Empty Spain. Until now, the recriminations between the traditional parties PSOE and the PP have stood in the way of any serious action to solve the problem.
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