Spain’s ‘solo’ villages: When one is a lonely number

by Lorraine Williamson
solo Spain

You’ve heard of ‘Empty Spain’, but here’s a step further: Spain’s ‘Solo’ Villages. Data crunching the continuous register by population unit, the National Institute of Statistics (INE) reveals a startling statistic: of Spain’s population centres, 1,943 host just a single resident.  

Before you start picturing solitary, tumbleweed-blown ghost towns, this doesn’t just mean traditional villages. These ‘population centres’ might be ‘dispersed areas’, including industrial parks, campgrounds, and more. Filtering out overlaps, the exact figure stands at about 1,800. 

The devil is in the detail, and there’s a gender tilt: 63% (1,134) of these lone residents are men, while women represent only 37% (666). As for regions leading the solo parade: Lugo has a whopping 560 single-inhabitant spots, trailed by A Coruña (353) and Asturias (337). On the flip side? Vizcaya and Cádiz (1 each), Sevilla (2), and Zamora (3) have the fewest. 

Also read: How a Spanish village died with the departure of its last two residents

Lonely villager 

For a more human touch, let’s zoom into Asturias’s tiny hamlet, Biamón. Mariano Hortal stands alone here, having returned to the family home upon early retirement. He’s the last one left, as other houses crumbled due to family disputes and inheritance issues. Hortal’s plea, shared with Agronegocios, is clear: establish laws that push property owners or heirs to restore, sell, or donate if they can’t or won’t maintain them. 

Related: Empty Spain movement is growing and wants more political influence 

Cogesa Expats

His solitary life has its quirks: a drive of over 30 km for basic supplies, satellite-driven internet and TV, but no phone signal in the Beyos gorge. Yet, 70-year-old Hortal isn’t too fazed. As he says, he manages pretty well with Whatsapp. 

Investments in telecommunications are essential 

Hortal’s 20+ years in Biamón have come with a wish: for the administration to invest in telecommunications. He believes it’s pivotal to entice the younger generation to rural life. 

Carlos Gómez Bahillo, a Sociology and Public Policy professor at the University of Zaragoza, weighs in on rural Spain’s plight. The digital disconnect and lack of job opportunities are the chief reasons behind the rural exodus. He warns without real, innovative policies that capitalise on local growth potential and wealth, it’s impossible to establish a permanent population. Unless professions are tied to local resources. 

‘Solo Spain’ is but a prelude to ‘Empty Spain’ – a looming demographic challenge. To offer a sense of scale: of Spain’s 8,131 municipalities, over 3,400 risk depopulation. That’s 42% of the land, based on the Bank of Spain’s recent data. 

Related: Hemp cultivation as a solution for empty Spain 

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