A GROUP of young settlers who have repopulated an abandoned village in Castile-La Mancha face a total of 24 years imprisonment and fines amounting to €26,779 after the Spanish government vowed to demolish it.
In 2012 two small groups of squatters discovered the ancient hamlet of Fraguas with hopes of self-sustenance, self-governance and economic self-management. By 2016 the population expanded, and rebuilt the dilapidated houses, created self-sustaining vegetable gardens and installed eco-friendly power in the form of solar panels.
However, the government have decided to prosecute the inhabitants and move to demolish what they have built in a historical echo of the rural exodus of 1968, imposed on the people of Fraguas under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Following the eviction, Franco proceeded to blow up what remained of the commune, leaving nothing but rubble and stone behind.
Jaime Merino, 24, one of Fraguas´ settlers, said “They always say they´re going to take steps to tackle depopulation and find ways to get people back into rural areas, but this is an example of that.
“That’s the paradox: it´s Guadalajara´s department of agriculture, the environment and rural development that wants to demolish the village.”
Alberto Rojo, regional representative for the Guadalajara government said “of course we agree that there needs to be repopulation initiative in the province – and let’s hope there will be many – but only in the right kind of places”. Rojo then added that Fraguas is within a protected natural park and therefore must be safeguarded from forest fires.
However, the settlers are not alone. A petition on the Change.org website calling for an end to the rural unrest has amassed over 64,000 signatures, as Merino and his fellow settlers hope the case will be dropped before it goes to the High Court.
“Maybe we´ll become the first village in Spanish history to be demolished three times” said Merino. “That wouldn’t surprise me in this country.”