The founders of Teruel Existe have an air to the protagonists of a western twilight. Just 20 years ago they made visible the effects of depopulation and institutional forgetting. Since then the platform has lost momentum, they have aged, they have won some battles, but they know that they are losing the war, because the rural decline continues. Teruel it lost 117,500 inhabitants in one century and 12,000 in the last decade. In spite of this, the first activists of empty Spain have returned to the fight, channeling the anger of a province that fears, like a good part of the interior of the country, to be heading for the disappearance. In January they protested the lack of medical specialists and this Sunday they have summoned in Madrid, with thirty other entities, a demonstration under the slogan: "The revolt of Spain emptied".
The first thing that surprises when meeting with the most active members of Teruel Existe, apart from the fact that almost all of them are men, is to verify that of the seven, six are now retired. The founders admit that one of one of their failures has been not having succeeded in giving the generational relief. But self-criticism, José Polo, the only one who continues to work in education, and also presides over the Federation of Neighborhood Associations, shoots: "You know why, ask me where my daughter is, in Germany, ask all of us today here where their children are, in Barcelona, in Madrid, in England, in Canada … all dispersed The young people who appear, being almost children, in the photos of the first demonstrations and who had to be the relay are mostly out We have lost the generation that had to continue the resistance movement, and it is not just our own problem, but all of Spain that has been emptied. "
Teruel Existe was founded in 1999, but it did not come from nowhere. The great trauma of the period 1960-1980, when the province lost 64,283 inhabitants, 32% of those who had, and the freedom that followed the death of Franco generated the first mobilizations. "At the end of the seventies there was a total abandonment of the province and an absence of measures to change the course of the depopulation," says Antonio Catalán, a former official of the Aragon Provincial Council. Twenty years later, Teruel Existe was born of the union of several platforms created to demand concrete improvements in health, education and infrastructures.
Manuel Gimeno, who was a doctor and transplant coordinator at the Obispo Polanco Hospital in Teruel, remembers how the platform came about due to emergency transport. "A boy had an accident in Cella's term. The transferred to the hospital was made in infamous conditions and upon arrival had a cardiac arrest. The family accepted the donation and that night a helicopter arrived, a Super Puma from Madrid. And I said to myself: 'To transport a wounded person in a borderline situation there is no adequate system, but to transport the organs of that person there is a helicopter with a night flight system. This can not be".
In 1900 the province of Teruel had 246,001 inhabitants. In 2018, 135,562, 45% less. Its population density is the lowest in Spain: nine inhabitants per square kilometer.
Those over 65 represented 6% of the total in 1900. Today they are 24%. Those under 16 accounted for 36% of the population and now, 14%.
Teruel has 236 municipalities. 67 have lost all their inhabitants since 1900 and another 78 have a density of less than four people per square kilometer.
The provincial capital has gained population. It has gone from 12,745 inhabitants in 1900 to 35,691, largely by absorbing the residents who left their villages as they ran out of services.
Teruel There is a report of "precariousness" in terms of health services, education and the supply of basic products in a large part of the province. Even the capital regularly experiences a lack of doctors in certain specialties. The citizen platform also denounces the lack of public transport and highways (there is only one), as well as technological communications in numerous municipalities, from the Internet to telephone coverage.
Teruel Existe took his protests to Zaragoza, Madrid and Brussels. He made himself heard in every act of the Government in the province – "the former minister Francisco Álvarez Cascos must still have nightmares with us," says Gimeno. On November 29, 2000, he called a strike that was a success and to which trade unions, businessmen and even the Church joined, which after 10 did not officiate masses. And in the following years he achieved several goals. A helicopter of sanitary emergencies. A hospital acute psychiatric unit. Keep your only railway. And accelerate the opening of the A-23 highway, the only one in the province.
The train that a tractor overtakes
The members of the platform, however, point out that their rail connection with Zaragoza and Valencia is still working, but that the train is going so slowly that the videos in which a tractor passes it have become famous. The hospital regularly suffers from lack of personnel in several specialties. The State continues to withdraw with the closure of barracks the Civil Guard or the headquarters of the Bank of Spain. And the population continues to dwindle.
"We have been fighting for 20 years, but we have achieved very little. And the feeling is full of food: that politicians do not do anything, no matter who orders, "says Pilar Goded. Teruel, adds the woman, who until a few months ago was head of nursing at the Obispo Polanco Hospital, is changing from being a province of officials to being a province of retired officials.
The people of Teruel, says Domingo Aula, a former Treasury executive, have the feeling of arriving several decades late at things. "When roads were made here, in other places they already had roads. When the roads were made, in other places they had highways. Of the train and the high speed it is not necessary to speak. We have never been in the same conditions to compete as others, "he says. "We need a lot of infrastructure, but the most urgent ones now are the technological ones", continues Beloved Goded, former Fire Department. "The province has little broadband, in many areas there is not even mobile coverage, and so companies can not work. In addition, the Internet should already be a gateway for health care and education in many villages where it is difficult to take staff. "
The lung of southern Europe
Miguel Ángel Fortea shows a map of the population density of the province by municipal terms. Among the few areas that are not a wasteland is Teruel capital, which has gained population in the last century by absorbing older people who left their towns of origin as the towns were left without services. The other exception is the areas linked to the last redoubts of mining and the only thermal power station, of the three fueled by coal that Teruel arrived, which is still functioning, that of the town of Andorra. "But this is also over. The closure of the plant has already started and in 2020 it will stop, "says Fortea, professor of Retired Sciences.
"Teruel and its bordering provinces are the lungs of southern Europe because of their forest mass and their low level of emissions, and even then we are punished." We have a thermal power station and they have to close it because it pollutes. Man, if we are the ones that generate the most oxygen, when the mines closed we did not have a reconversion like the blast furnaces in Bilbao and Sagunto, and now with the closure of the power plant, we are not given an alternative either, "adds Fortea, the founders of Teruel Existe.