The Spanish “Book village” that made it in to the New York Times

The Spanish "Book village" that made it in to the New York Times Credit: Twitter @ayto_uruena

A Spanish village has made it into The New York Times for a rather interesting reason… Its books.

“Despite its beauty, Urueña, like many other villages in inland Spain, has in recent decades encountered an ageing and dwindling population, with the result that the number of inhabitants now hovers around 100. There is no butcher or baker, both having retired in recent months, and the local school has only nine students. However, in the last decade one business has been booming in the village: books. There are 11 bookstores,” explains the New York Times article by Raphael Minder.

Urueña a small town in the province of Valladolid, is one of the most visited tourist attractions of Castilla y León due to its beautiful historical sites that include an 11th century castle and a medieval wall. However, it is most well-known for being the first “Book Village” in Spain, inspired by other similar projects in Europe, such as Hay-on-Wye in Wales and Redu in Belgium, as reported by 20minutos.

Francisco Rodríguez, mayor of Urueña, points out that when he was born there was no bookshop, and that the inhabitants were mainly concerned with agriculture and livestock farming rather than books. However, everything changed in 2007, when the provincial authorities invested 3 million euros to restore and convert buildings in the village into bookshops and build an exhibition and conference centre. They offered a symbolic monthly rent of 10 euros to people interested in running the bookshops that today attract thousands of tourists. “This change is a bit strange, but we are proud that Urueña has become a cultural centre. This makes us different and special compared to other towns around us”, the mayor explained to ‘The New York Times’.

And despite the progressive rural exodus, the passion for books brings Urueña many benefits from the amount of tourists it brings in: according to data from the Urueña Tourist Office compiled by the US newspaper, in 2021 there were 19,000 visitors, a remarkable figure considering that it was a year marked by the pandemic. The town also receives around 70,000 euros a year in public money to organise cultural events such as calligraphy classes, plays and conferences.

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Written by

Joshua Manning

Originally from the UK, Joshua is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]


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