The town of Aladrén only has 50 registered people. Thirty walk its streets at all times of the year. Of course, there are 200 people who meet in its corners and places in summer. This town of Campo de Cariñena, in the province of Zaragoza, is located in a mainly agricultural natural environment, has a church, a bar as a synonym for “heart and meeting point” and a hermitage only accessible on foot. Even so, it can tell its story, talk about its values, show the cohesion of its people and shout that repopulation, as its mayor Marta Blanco explains, “is possible.”
“The people here are humble, hard-working, welcoming, friendly and affable. It is a very cohesive community that is capable of leaving problems out in order to be well and feel at home,” says Blanco, who only has good words for this town of which she has always felt “deeply rooted” being her mother’s and living in it for more than eight years.
For her, who admits to sharing this vision with the other people who live in these houses, the charm of the town is “having managed to maintain that feeling and sensations that come to mind when you think of a town, with its children playing in the street. , its people taking the fresh air in hammocks, its clotheslines in the streets … those of a lifetime “.
Aladrén used to live by and for agriculture and livestock. Now, although it no longer has those 400 people who registered and the people who dedicate themselves to it do so as a hobby, they make a living from crafts and those other people who, despite working in Zaragoza or the surrounding area, keep their habitual residence in this municipality.
“The townspeople love their town very much, even though there are people who do not come every weekend of the year. We have worked a lot in this sense of belonging, carrying out activities that make people want to come, whatever the moment,” confesses Marta Blanco.
From the City Council, the first thing she did was an analysis of the causes of depopulation in the town and she asked herself questions about what she would like to see if she went there again and doubted whether to stay. to live or go to Zaragoza which, from his point of view, sometimes contains less practicality and economic effectiveness to carry out according to what activities.
For this reason, the institution has tried to “democratize spaces” so that all people can access them for free and without the need to ask for permits or justify the uses. Among these adaptations, there is a gym, a rehabilitated and adapted toy library in the old bread oven, a complete sports court, ping pong tables, a fronton that can be transformed into a terrace, a stereo with which to make mobile records and an open picnic area for celebrations.
But all these additions are not the only ones that have led its inhabitants to frequent the area again. The Ababol Festival, which has been running for four editions, is a blow to the table about depopulation and the need to recognize the people in their “fair value” with artistic works that vindicate their heritage and memory.
“The Festival was born with the idea of giving visibility to this problem because it is an issue that I consider to be of vital importance. For me it is unsustainable that we all live in megacities. Politically it is a subject with which it is easy to fill one’s mouth, but later it is not It does nothing in a practical way. This town also had no artistic heritage, so it was necessary to get down to work so that people could come here, “explains Blanco, whose mission was also to turn it into a tourist attraction that was not overcrowded by the lack of infrastructure to sustain it.
This festival also has a pedagogical background and it is that in all its editions round tables are held that not only talk about art, but also about topics related to depopulation, repopulation, the importance of the territory in climate change, possible solutions or the success stories of other sites that help to “be aware that it is possible to reverse the emptiness”.
“Older people do not see that it is possible, but they are really experiencing it. They have lost hope, but because they are not aware of what is happening and have lived with the idea that being from a town means being less. We have to change that imaginary collective because now being from the village is much more than that. Now we choose to live in the village because it is synonymous with quality of life, “he adds.
The mayor affirms that progress has been made on repopulation issues, despite continuing to be “necessary” to remember that there is rural exodus, depopulation or climate change. And he affirms that achieving repopulation “will not be possible if the territory is not rebalanced and empty areas continue to be left.” “When I came eight years ago the only non-retired person in the town was the pastor. On the other hand, now, we are 19 non-retired people and, among them, three children. This is a great advance,” he says.
This town is not only repopulating its streets, but it also got the recognition of “Best town in Aragon” in 2017 thanks to the creation of a video with original music and song that revealed what Aladrén was for its inhabitants and recalled a poem of the town in the voice of the children who now inhabit it. This feat, which was carried out in the record time of 15 days, was a “very emotional” moment because “it demonstrated the desire that people had for their town to be recognized” and the union that all its inhabitants have was reflected. , as was also the case in the past when they had to make a human chain to fix the roof of the hermitage or put out a fire.
In the end, Aladrén is clear: “If young people stop coming, there will be no continuity and therefore it is vitally important to take care of that sense of belonging with new activities and practical adaptations because repopulation is possible and you just have to know how to see it and start it “.