HIGH above the Andalucian countryside, the fortress town of Zahara de la Sierra has suddenly become one of Spain’s secret Fortresses.
On March 14, Zahara cut itself off from the outside world as a dangerous coronavirus spread its tentacles across Spain. The mayor, 40-year-old Santiago Galván, decided to block all but one of the town’s five entrances.
Since then, the country has recorded more than 100,000 cases and 10,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.
In Zahara, however, there has not been a single recorded case of Covid-19 among its 1,400 inhabitants. “It has been more than two weeks, and I think that’s a good sign,” said Galván.
The mayor’s drastic steps have the full support of the townspeople, and especially the elderly. Nearly a quarter of Zahara’s inhabitants are older than 65; there are more than 30 residents in an old people’s home. Towns and villages nearby have seen infections and several coronavirus fatalities.
Zahara’s white houses and narrow streets cling to the steep hillside, looking up at medieval fortifications and down towards a reservoir and rolling olive groves. An hour from Sevilla by car, it’s a popular destination for visitors from around the world.
Galván says that in the first few days, they had to turn away French and German tourists who were unaware of the local government’s measures.