Lately I’ve been reading about the problem of depopulation in Saxony and, more specifically, in rural areas of East Germany. In a globalized world where important events and opportunities for growth are happening almost exclusively in big cities such as Berlin, I can see why most people dream of life in a big city. Sill, the knowledge that my home is not the only one suffering from depopulation is cold comfort.
I grew up in a small village called Melgar de Tera, north of Zamora in Spain. The village currently has a population of a couple hundred people, and maybe half of them don’t even live there year-round (sadly, I am one of those people). Although nowadays the emptiness in our home is palpable, it wasn’t always like this.
While I was growing up, I would run around town, always saying hi to everyone I crossed paths with. Even while in a crazy bike race where I’d end up full of scrapes, but ready to do it again.
My friends and I would venture onto the hill that overlooks the town and patiently wait to see a deer or a fox roaming about. Anything we wanted to do, we did, always unsupervised and with the tranquility that being home brings you. Because we knew that our home was not only the house in which our families lived, but the whole town. Because we always took care of each other, we were all one big family regardless of whether or not we shared the same blood. It was the kind of freedom only a small town like Melgar can give you.
I always thought that I would raise my children in Melgar, and that they would enjoy the same freedom and carefreeness that I did. It never occurred to me that when I finally decide to have kids, there will be no Melgar left for them to love.
My home is dying. People tell me it sounds too harsh when I put it like that: dying. But it’s true.
Older generations are dying, and young people are forced to leave since there is no work for them. Like Melgar, the whole province of Zamora is bleeding people, driven away by the lack of opportunities. Last year, the few people who remain traveled to Madrid to protest this state of affairs. As usual, nothing changed. There is little we can do. Not even the government can force companies to move to Zamora, to create jobs and save the rural areas from extinction.
Although Zamora has been the worst hit, other regions of the country are suffering from the same illness that is depopulation. A political party named Teruel Existe has risen with the promise of dealing with this issue, getting one seat in Congress. As is usually the case, no one expects that they can change anything.
With such a sad future ahead, those of us who still care feel hopeless.
I left Melgar when I turned 18, and since then, the town has been my refuge. I always come back to it when I need to breathe. If it were a viable option, I would move back there tomorrow and help keep it alive. But I too am vulnerable to the allure and opportunities that larger cities have to offer. I know in my heart that Melgar is the place where I want to grow old. I just hope I get the chance to do so.
By Kenzie Rose