ghost towns one

Ghost Towns, one



mixed required minimum
region challenge maximum
lucky grade (2) square (3)
remote province pick up (2)
survive attention countryside
per exception square km
profit lumber inhabitant
half initiative occupation (2)
law strategic advantage
fund point (3) patient (2)
eligible attention go away (2)
afraid disturb immediate
nurse little bit appreciate
air harvest populated
fuel (2) fertilizer practically
pupil amount invitation (2)
retire care (2) organic (2)
ensure area (3) pre-school




Video: Ghost Towns, one



The minimum number of pupils required to keep a school open in Spain is five. And that’s how many Joaquina Reus welcomes every morning. It’s a mixed group: some are in first grade, others in fifth.

Joanquina has worked in schools of more than a thousand students — but she prefers this village, Guadalavia, despite the challenge of working with two age groups.

Joaquina Reus, Village Teacher: “Besides working with the children, I have a much closer relationship with their parents; that makes everything a lot nicer.

When I started here sixteen years ago, there were twenty-five students — all three classrooms were in use. But now, we need only one.”

Joaquina’s pupils are lucky: they live close to the school. But in this region, that’s more of the exception. A bus picks up students from remote villages and brings them to school — fifty kilometers away.

Driving time is an hour each way.

The province of Quenqua is one of the least populated areas in Europe. In the countryside, there are ten inhabitants per square kilometer.

People here used to work in the lumber business or as farmers. But there’s no profit in either occupation anymore, so more than half the villagers have left.

Professor Francisco Burillo of the University of Zaragoza wants new initiatives to stop more people from leaving the villages.

Francisco Burillo, University of Zaragoza: “The international community needs to develop a strategic plan to use the history and culture of the region to the people’s advantage.

The land can be used for organic farming and ecotourism.”

But unlike other EU countries, Spain has no regional development plans. Funds are spent on more immediate needs.

Dr. Xavier Orte works in one of the regional health centers. His family, whom he sees only on weekends, lives in Zaragoza, almost two hundred kilometers away.

He still drives about a thousand kilometers a week to villages and see his patients.

Everyone is this area gets good medical care . . . but there’s a problem.

Javier Orte, Physician: “Older people don’t realize when they need medical attention. Sometimes they call because a problem that goes away by the time I get there. And at night, they’re afraid to call, because they don’t want to disturb me.”

Nurse Juan Carlos Soriao, who goes on house-calls with Dr. Orte, is usually the first point of contact for the patients.

Juan Carlos Soriao: “I’m the mailman, the nurse, the social worker. I’m a little bit of everything, really.”

The villagers of Montes Universales in the Quenqua Province appreciate the attention. Two families live in the village of Torrin. The nearest village is fifteen-kilometers away.

Carlos, the Domingo’s twenty-three year-old son, works on the farm with his parents.

He doesn’t want to go away: the air is clean. It’s peaceful. They have everything they need, including medical care.

But he understands why so many others have left.

Carlos Domingo, Farmer: “Lots of schools have closed. There’s no work, no culture. Farming isn’t profitable anymore. The harvests are the same as fifty years ago. But the prices of fuel and fertilizer have gone up.

There are no stores here. It’s practically an invitation to leave.”

But Joaquina Reus wants to stay. She only has five years until retirement. Her school is in danger of closing when the older pupils leave. That’s already happened in two neighboring villages.

Joaquina Reus, Village Teacher: “If they close the school, I’ll go to the neighboring village, Diegos. They have the same amount of students. Or I could go to Tamacacia. But I won’t go to Tejuel or any other big school.

The village school is my life.”

But maybe it won’t come to that: Joaquina said three children were born in the village last year. According to Spanish law, they are eligible for pre-school at three years of age.

And that ensures the survival of the school in Guadalavie.


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1. Schools have to have at least twenty-one students to be in operation. True or false?

2. Does Joaquina Reus like living in a big city and working in a big school?

3. All children and teens in Quenqua Province attend their local, village school. Is this right or wrong?

4. Have villages always had few people? What was it like in the past? What does the professor propose?

5. Does every village have a clinic with a doctor and nurse? How do many receive medical treatment?

6. What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a village?

7. Is there some hope or optimism in the report?


A. I live in a village. Yes or no? Do you know anyone who lives in a village? Do you have a country home that you visit on weekends or holidays?

B. Has there been a demographic trend in your country? What sort of demographic trends has taken place?

C. Do you and your friends prefer living in the country or city? Why do you prefer living in the _______ ?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. What are some solutions to rural depopulation?

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