Ms. Barcenilla is part of a movement within Spain that has swelled to such proportions that some sociologists have dubbed it “rurbanismo,” a term invented to describe the reverse migration from city to country that has stemmed a generations-old trend that has long been the usual pattern in most advanced industrial economies. The movement has steadily built, but it has been accelerated by Spain’s economic crisis, breathing new life and entrepreneurship into some nearly abandoned areas.Spain's Economy Sends City Residents Back To the Country (New York Times)
“Rurbanismo started before the crisis, once the Internet took off and made it possible to work anywhere, but what the crisis is doing is making the model more attractive,” said Carles Feixa, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Lleida. The movement is difficult to quantify, he said, partly since many of the new migrants do not bother changing their official residence. But it is clear, he said, that Spain’s cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants have recently stopped growing while villages of fewer than 1,000 are no longer shrinking.
Some of these new migrants are returning to the villages where they grew up or where earlier generations of their family lived, sometimes taking over property that had been left empty or used only for vacations. Economic necessity is certainly not the only reason Spaniards are moving to the country. Around Villanueva, for instance, a community of artists has sprouted, from graphic designers to musicians and sculptors. Some have restored farm buildings in which tobacco and peppers used to dry.
Meanwhile, some entrepreneurs are buying up clusters of houses or entire abandoned hamlets. Three years ago, Luis Álvarez started buying houses in a hamlet in the Gredos mountain range that overlooks Villanueva, using money inherited from his family’s shoe business. The houses had been abandoned for about 60 years, forcing him to undertake some detective-style investigations to identify descendants of former owners.
For one of the dozen houses that he has so far acquired, Mr. Álvarez had to track down 15 people scattered across Spain, France and Argentina with a possible claim on the unwanted property. “It took me almost two years to follow this family trail and finalize a purchase contract,” he said. Mr. Álvarez said his main goal was to turn the hamlet into a community of people “who share a healthy life philosophy.” He also expects the venture to prove profitable, refusing to disclose the exact location in case other buyers are attracted before he can lock in the last remaining houses there.
The Rodríguezes fell behind in their payments trying to help their daughters, who both lost their jobs and have three children between them. Their daughters had come to live with them after being evicted themselves. “I could not let my children and my grandchildren starve,” said Mrs. López, who used to work as a cleaner in a home for the elderly.Spain Evictions Create an Austerity Homeless Crisis (New York Times)
No one tracks the number of squatters. But Rafael Martín Sanz, the president of a real estate management company, says squatting has become so common that some real estate companies are reluctant to put signs on the outsides of buildings indicating that an apartment is available. “The joke is that half the people touring apartments that are on the market are actually just picking out which apartment they want to squat in,” he said.
Most of the evictions take place quietly, with embarrassed families dropping the keys off at the banks. But in some working-class neighborhoods, there are weekly clashes with the police and bank officials, as housing advocates and volunteers try to resist the evictions. In Madrid’s Carabanchel neighborhood, a crowd protesting outside a basement apartment recently shouted “shame on you” to a cluster of bank and court officials who had come to evict Edward Hernández and his family. But Mr. Hernández’s lawyer, Rafael Mayoral, sized up the picture and predicted he would be able to negotiate a postponement. The crowd of supporters, he said, outnumbered the police officers.