The little community of Pitarque at the foot of a mountain in Aragon in eastern Spain has endured for more than 1,300 years, but if depopulation continues at the present pace, it will be abandoned by 2046, its people warn.
The shutdown of the local school at the conclusion of the school year last month, as two of its only four students moved away with their parents, may have been the tipping point in the community of 69 persons, which was built by Muslim invaders in the 8th century and formerly had over 1,000 residents.
Many are retired, and around half spend the frigid winter months in Pitarque, which is located 340 kilometers (211 miles) east of Madrid, above a little valley in the Arugged mountain range and where the local road stops.
Depopulation is a big issue in Spain, where the 47-million-strong population is 80 percent urban and occupies just 13 percent of the terrain, compared to France’s 68 percent and Germany’s 60 percent.
Villages at danger of depopulation account for 42 percent of the total, compared to the European Union average of 10 percent. Teruel, which contains Pitarque, is one of the least inhabited provinces in the EU.
The Spanish government has offered 4.3 billion euros in EU money to expand public service coverage in order to combat depopulation, but residents are concerned that it may be too late for Pitarque.