There’s an interesting change happening in Spain. They are calling it “rurbanismo” which is a term they’ve invented to describe the reversal of the long term movement of populations from the countryside into cities. It seems the Spanish are starting to move out of the cities and into the countryside in significant numbers.
Many have made the move for lifestyle reasons, and the ability to work remotely using new telecoms and internet technologies has contributed to that. But the economic crisis is forcing others to the same the move. There are old abandoned houses and hamlets scattered throughout Spain and although its tricky to track down the legal ownership of these properties, entrepreneurs are buying up clusters of houses and whole hamlets to create new communities.
One example is around Villanueva where a community of artists has developed from people who have restored farm buildings used to dry tobacco and peppers in the old days, and even bringing back to life the village’s dance hall which is now being used by a new circus theatre company.
Interest in organic farming and renewable energy production is contributing to this growth in rurbanismo, and some interesting innovative economies are developing, including an increased use of barter and the creation of “time banks” where hours of labour can be exchanged for goods and services.
This mix of entrepreneurship, innovation in local economic structure, value-driven movement towards living in small communities, growing organic food and using renewable energy resources to be at least partially self-sufficient feels a very human level, creative response to the current economic and social crises.
There are echoes here, too, of the “eco-villages” movement in Russia as popularised in the Ringing Cedars books.