Land grab in Spain’s ‘oldest’ village

LAND PLOTS in a small Spanish village 100 miles east of Madrid are being sold on the cheap in a bid to attract more residents.

Olmeda de la Cuesta, with a total of 35 residents, is known as Spain’s ‘oldest’ village, and with an average age of 75, the villagers are determined to save their village from dying out.

The mayor, José Luis Regacho, who at 47 is one of Olmeda’s more sprightly residents, launched on Thursday the second land sale campaign in two years in a bid to raise the population.

Eight plots of land are being offered up to buyers at bargain-basement prices. The smallest plot, at 60 sq metres, is going for €200, whilst the largest, at 205 sq metres, is hoping to fetch €1,300.

The only stipulation is that buyers must construct either a house or a business on the land within the next two and a half years. Regacho’s aim is ensure that his beloved village doesn’t disappear.

Olmeda, once 500-strong, has seen a dramatic fall in population. There are now only 15 permanent residents, while another 20 make appearances at the weekends or during the holidays. Even Mayor Regacho balances his time between living in the village and the city of Cuenca.

Although the school was shut 40 years ago, Olmeda still has a church and a bar to offer visitors. If you need to see the doctor, the medical centre is open once a week.

This is the second time that the village has sold off land to buyers. Last year, six people bought plots, and this year the land is going at an even cheaper rate. Regacho says that buyers from the US, Russia, Mexico and Argentina have already expressed interest.

The mayor remains optimistic. Even a couple more inhabitants would make the world of difference to such a small village. Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “It would be perfect for people who want a quiet place to relax or to get away from daily life. Or a writer who wants a quiet place to work or an artisan who wants a place to make and store products.

“Eight lots might not be a lot, but for such a small village, it’s tremendous. In Madrid, 1,000 people is nothing, but in a village of 35, it’s overwhelming. Everything is relative.”

Olmeda de la Cuesta is by no means a unique case, all over Spain, traditional villages are seeing their populations dwindle as the younger residents move to the big cities or even abroad looking for work.

If Olmeda is anything to go by, however, these villages will not be disappearing without a fight.

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