La Carrera Vicente Martín is an annual running race for young and old in La Zarza de Pumareda.
La Zarza is a village in western Spain 12 km from the Portuguese border in the province of Salamanca. It is located in the Unesco-protected natural park Las Arribes del Duero. It is home to 139 people. From 1910 to 1960, it was stable between 500-700. In the province of Salamanca, 425,000 people lived in 1960 and 326,000 now. Few to no young people live in the village, there is no school and there is 1 shop for daily groceries. There are 8 businesses such as livestock owners, farmers and a food shop. The managers and owners are all over 45 years old. There are no successors for their businesses. About 40 per cent of the houses are permanently occupied. The village is surrounded by farmland and on the edges of the village are vegetable gardens, some of which are still in use. The village is crossed by a provincial road and one can reach the village on three different asphalt roads. The farmlands are connected by a tangle of unpaved paths.
In recent years, several initiatives have emerged under the leadership of an enigmatic mayor who wants to put the village and “la comarca” back on the map.
In Spain, during the summer, many families go from urban areas to the countryside where their families originally come from. In La Zarza, the population then increases fivefold temporarily. 10 and 11 August is the festival of the patron saint San Lorenzo. For a week, there are all kinds of activities for young and old. People come “home” to their village and “tierra”, as it were.
To get tourism going beyond August, they have built 2 inns and some rent out their family homes. Tourism is seen as a source of income and perhaps the village’s right to exist when economic activities cease in a few years’ time; after all, there are no successors to the current businesses. La Zarza is just one example; the whole comarca, or even the entire interior of Spain is struggling with “despoblación”.
Since March 2020, a wake-up call has sounded for many in the Western world. Recently, a common question is: What next? How can we set up a (parallel) society? A society where we can just trade and make a living, so to speak, more or less independent of governments and the corporations. In La Zarza de Pumareda, there is a centuries-old “cultural infrastructure” in the form of traditions, building land, houses and space. What is missing are the people.