In La Higuera you can breathe peace and tranquility, there is no noise, only the sounds of nature that surrounds this small village of Arcos de las Salinas. In recent decades, the voices of some neighbors have been added to this symphony, in a place where silence came to reign. In the first half of the last century, La Higuera had almost fifty residents, up to 14 children went to the Arcos school, but the exodus to the cities made it run out of people in the 80s. Today, five people reside here continuously.
A family with eight children saves a school in the province of Teruel from closing
One of them is Fermín Esteban, the oldest neighbor, but also the main person responsible for ensuring that this small village did not disappear and still has life in its streets. Esteban first arrived at La Higuera accompanied by his wife, Adela Pinazo, who was born and raised there. The couple resided in Sagunto, but trips to the Teruel farmhouse were frequent. “We went up many weekends and whenever we had vacations, because until the 1980s three families still lived there and one of them brought us the land,” explains Fermín.
When the last residents left to live in Arcos de las Salinas, Fermín and Adela wanted to prevent La Higuera from being abandoned. To do this, they bought and prepared up to six houses, cultivated the fields, together with relatives they arranged an access road to the village and even brought water to the houses with the help of hoses.
Currently, Fermín resides here for most of the year, while Adela goes to spend the winter in Sagunto. “I have here my fields with truffle holm oaks and my orchard, I live here all the time, I only go a few days to see my family,” he explains and adds that the quality of life that La Higuera has “does not change it for anything.”
His efforts served to make others want to know La Higuera, it was the case of Pere López, who arrived 21 years ago attracted by the advertisement that Fermín and his family put in a newspaper. López, who describes himself as a “lover of the mountains”, had been looking for a home in a place like La Higuera for some time, so he did not hesitate and moved with his partner at the time. “At first it was hard, coming to live in a place like this has many good things, but also its drawbacks, yes, right now I would not leave here,” he explains.
He acknowledges that his neighbors, including his landlord, Fermín, made everything easier and were very helpful. “I remember that when I came we did not even have a telephone line, we were isolated and Fermín made an arrangement for us so that we could share his, which worked over the air,” he says amused. López currently works in a fish farm in La Escaleruela, another small village in the neighboring town of Sarrión.
In addition, for just over a year, La Higuera has had three other non-seasonal inhabitants, a young woman who lives with her daughter and her partner. If to these are added the neighbors who have second homes or the descendants who come to spend the summer and the festivities, the farmhouse can exceed one hundred people at specific times.
Much to do
Although La Higuera has received a good facelift in the last twenty years, the neighbors assure that there is still much to do. The main problem is the road that gives access to the village that is in poor condition, so they ask that it be prepared by the Administration and cleaned when it snows. What has been fixed has been the path that connects Arcos de las Salinas with La Higuera, thanks to an action by the City Council and funds from the Teruel Provincial Council.
There is also no power line, the Arcos de las Salinas city council brought the installation up to 500 meters from the village, but the cost that residents should bear to bring it to their homes “is not profitable,” they say. That is why the houses in this farmhouse incorporate solar panels that supply them with the necessary electricity.
The mayor of Arcos de las Salinas, José Luis Alvir, points out that from the town they try to do their bit to keep La Higuera alive. Among other actions, a water tank was built for the neighbors and recently they have also placed solar street lamps and benches that help to give it a more careful appearance.
However, both from the town hall of Arcos and from La Higuera agree that the future of the village and also of the town passes through job opportunities, that is why they have their sights set on Galactica, the Center for the Diffusion and Practice of Astronomy that It is located in the vicinity of the Javalambre Astrophysical Observatory and which will soon begin its journey. “I estimate that it will give at least 10 direct jobs,” says Alvir.
At the moment, both Arcos de las Salinas and La Higuera maintain, and have even increased their population. In Arcos they have reached 117 registered residents, and a large part of its population is young, but they are very clear that, without employment, this rise is just a mirage.