A Spanish town that was mistakenly abandoned

Abandoned villages in Spain Abandoned villages in Spain

The Spanish government forcibly removed a historic village in the 1960s so that it could be submerged beneath the reservoir’s waters. But that never happened.

Granadilla, a medieval fortress town, is now a deserted ruin. Guests can explore the fortified streets, climb to the top of the castle, and peer into empty rooms. No one resides there, though. Not since they evicted everybody in the ’60s.

To keep an eye on the ancient trade and travel route known as the Ruta de la Plata, the Muslims who founded Granadilla in the 9th century chose a location that proved to be ideal.

Government changed hands several times over the centuries, but the town’s ancient walls remain largely intact, making it one of the few Spanish fortress villages. The population that resided in this area until the 1960s, however, is not.

In the 1950s, during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, Spain began a massive project to build dams in an effort to boost the economy during the country’s isolation. In 1955, authorities decided that Granadilla had to be evacuated because it was located in the floodplain and the Gabriel y Galán reservoir on the Alagón River was the largest of these efforts.

From 1959 to 1969, all one thousand villagers were forcibly evicted, with many being moved to nearby colonization settlements. As the sea level rose beginning in 1963, the village became a peninsula with only one entrance remaining accessible. The water level only reached that point, however; the town itself was never submerged. However, the locals were forbidden to return to their homes.

It was a flood that never happened.

Many locals still harbor anger and trauma from the ordeal. President of the Association Sons of Granadilla Eugenio Jiménez called it “a travesty.” “They drove us out, saying the dam would flood the town even though that couldn’t happen given that the settlement is situated above the water level. However, that was during a dictatorship, so we had no freedoms. I’ve been fighting for Granadilla’s revival with the former children’s association since the country was a democracy, but so far no government has paid any attention to us.”

Former resident Purificación Jiménez also reflected on those trying times. When asked what she remembered most about the villagers’ reactions to departures, she said, “I remember that everyone came out to the entrance of the village to say goodbye and cry.”

Villagers have not been allowed to return to their homes since Franco’s decree on flooding remains in effect. Even so, day-trippers are welcome and frequently seen. Since its designation as a Historic-Artistic Site in 1980, the entire town has functioned as a free, publicly accessible museum (overseen by the Autonomous National Parks Agency). As for the residents, they and their descendants meet up twice a year back in town, on All Saints’ Day (1 November) and the Day of the Assumption of Mary (15 August).

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