The Rural Exodus In Spain

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The Rural Exodus in Spain

Since the mid -nineteenth century the population in Spain has been increasing more or less sustained, but its distribution has generated great imbalances between some areas and others. In front of cities that extend with increasingly extensive peripheries such as Madrid or Barcelona, other areas such as Soruel, Teruel or the Northern Andaluza Sierra have all the features of a demographic winter: low population density, high percentage of elders in front of the shortageof children, loss of services (schools that close, closing of bank branches …) and even abandonment of entire peoples.

The cause is the rural exodus that took place between 1900 and 1975. It is a migration between rural and urban areas with a definitive or long duration character. The emigrants came from backward areas of Galicia, the Eastern Peninsular and Andalusia interior, where primary activities and vegetative growth predominated was high. They went first to the industrial areas of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Madrid, and later also to the tourist areas of Levante, Baleares and Canarias, looking for work, higher income, better sanitary, cultural and leisure level, and greater freedom.

The rural exodus depopulated rural Spain, but its development was not uniform. Before 1936 it was due to the high birth rate of the families of the peasants and the beginning of the mechanization of the field. The civil war interrupted this process and the first Francoismo tried to promote the permanence of the rural population in their places of its origin. It was considered that the peasants raised less problems to the regime than the workers, and that the cities were focuses of immorality and leftist ideologies. The Surcos film shows this simplistic vision and tries to alert the rural population of the alleged dangers of urban life.

The truth is that between 1950 and 1975 the rural exodus resumed and reached its highest volume, reaching up to half a million migrants in some years. The bad economic management of Spain according to the principles of autarchy was the determining cause.

In these years, the industrial boom promoted by development plans, which generated jobs in industrial cities, and the “boom” of tourism in the Mediterranean and insular coast that also created a labor offer in tourism services and in thebuilding. Thus, the immigration areas formed two axes: that of the Mediterranean (from Gerona to Alicante, and the Balearic Islands) and that of the Ebro (from Tarragona to the Basque Country through Zaragoza and Navarra). They joined Madrid, in the center of the peninsula.

The economic crisis of 1973 meant the end of emigration to the most developed countries of Western Europe (Germany, France, Switzerland …) and also sharply cut the rural exodus. But at this point, Spain is already a country with a predominantly urban population and the mentality of its inhabitants have completely changed,

Interior migrations have had several repercussions, in the demographic level being responsible for imbalances in the population. On the economic level, it ruins the issuing regions, because when the youngest and most trained people go, productivity and performance descend. In social plane: there were assimilation problems when emigrants from a rural community of traditional values, to a great urban and competitive society passed. And also in the environmental aspect that traditional ecosystems were deteriorated in the areas of emigrants, especially mountain.

At present it is urgent to stop the rural exodus and reverse its effects. The measures that should be taken would have to be oriented to favor self-employment and support entrepreneurs, either through loans, training or with housing acquisition. Another keys would be digital infrastructure, since band access is necessary to be able to develop any productive and employment activity. Another option would also be to exploit the agri -food industry, since it generates many jobs, and rural tourism that causes historical places, buildings and monuments to be rehabilitated.

In sum, the rural exodus is one of the most important phenomena in our history, responsible for the current physiognomy of our country, but it is also a phenomenon that causes many of its demographic, economic and social problems and it is necessary to look for alternatives and solutions. 

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