Soria has become this weekend in the epicenter against depopulation in Spain. Nothing farther from the rural exhibitions to use. Entrepreneurs and towns have gathered at the II National Fair for Repopulation. In a country where 90% of citizens are concentrated in 30% of the territory, the initiative has tried to connect people from urban environments with interest in developing projects in rural areas. "And also generate a bit of pride. That people see that they are not alone, that there are many experiences and innovative proposals, "says Joaquín Alcalde, director of El Hueco, one of the four organizing associations (along with Tierras Sorianas del Cid, Asopiva and Fundación Oxygen).
"It is being a success, it has again exceeded our expectations", says Mayor. "We still do not know the exact number of attendees, but certainly exceeds last year, in the first edition," he continues, when more than 3,000 people visited the fair, to which EL PAÍS has been invited by the organization. On this occasion, some fifty exhibitors from 15 Spanish provinces and one Portuguese organization offer visitors examples of social innovation projects successfully developed in different territories. Among them, a company that provides supplies to those who live in small towns in the province of Soria that have difficulties in sourcing (La Exclusiva); local action groups or a company that brings the Internet to areas with network problems (Akiwifi). It is not a tourism fair, nor of agricultural or livestock products. It is a repopulation fair. Among the attendees, entrepreneurs, experts, academics, mayors, associations and some family with children.
"We have transcended the borders of Soria," continues Mayor. "In the 1950s and 1960s, people left rural areas because they could not support their families. He went to the cities. As a civil society, we have done nothing to reverse that process. We have always expected the Administration to do it. With the crisis has jumped that spark. Some people think that maybe it's time to go back, "he adds.
"Either we are able to activate people from the territory or we are going badly. We have to do self-criticism from the rural environment, "says Javier Martín, manager of Tierras Sorianas del Cid, a local action group. "It has generated a look or very negative or very idealized about the people. And neither of them is true. They have provoked or rejected or frustrated. " He adds: "But there is a change in the message: we are launching an SOS, but not from victimhood, but from a medium that is alive. This is the change of a fair like this. "
The program has included round tables, presentations of projects in rural areas and a contest for entrepreneurs. "The demographic challenge is of such magnitude that it requires the joint work of the Government, autonomous communities, local entities and civil society," Meritxell Batet, minister of Territorial Policy and Public Administration, said on Friday during the inauguration of the fair. in a statement issued after the act. The Executive has committed to present a national strategy in 2019 (an assignment of the conference of presidents in 2017) and has appointed a commissioner to address the demographic challenge, Isaura Leal (replacing Edelmira Barreira, who held the position with Mariano Rajoy) .
"Part of the problem comes from the fact that in the past no spatial planning has been carried out," Ignacio Molina, director of the commissioner, explained in one of the round tables. "We can not renounce the strategy, we have to develop it already, with actions already, but thinking in the medium or long term," he pointed out. Luis Antonio Sáez, director of the chair of depopulation of the University of Zaragoza, has clarified in his speech that "the good organization of the villages happens to have a very powerful county capital." And Mercedes Molina, Professor of Human Geography at the Complutense University of Madrid, has pointed out that depopulation "is not a demographic problem, but a crisis of territory."
The diagnosis is shared by many of the speakers: an aging Spain, masculinized, in which young people can not find alternatives, in which it is necessary to develop leisure and cultural proposals. Teresa López, president of the Federation of Associations of Rural Women (Fademur), is committed to fighting the view that who stays in the town is because they have no other way out, to apply the gender perspective and to "lower the regulations to reality rural and listen to women. " Estrella R, audiovisual producer, joins the demand for village life and the "right of all citizens to a culture of quality". Virginia Hernández, mayor of San Pelayo, a town of about 50 inhabitants located in Valladolid, refers to the bureaucratic obstacles she faces and the lack of opportunities for young women. But he concludes: "It's time to reclaim us. We have to be aware that without women the survival of our peoples is impossible ".