Three abandoned villages are slowly turning to rubbles in the Aragonian Pyrenees, a few hours’ drive from Barcelona. What remains is a silent reminder of a long and tragic story that to this day has not been concluded.
The sight is at once morbid and strikingly photogenic. Houses here were built in pure Pyrenean architecture, with thick stonewalls and what used to be large tiled roofs. From the outlook, each village could have hosted over a hundred inhabitants and was complete with streets, plazas, churches, water fountains etc.. Today most of the masonry remains but the wooden roofs and floors have all collapsed.
The deserted streets are overgrown with trees and bramble and wandering through them brings up heavy feelings of anguish. All is quite and peaceful, but everything in sight is a reminder that life here came to a brutal halt many years back. The sense of mystery is overwhelming. I found bits of the story a little further down the road. After seeing two more abandoned agglomerations (Lavelilla and Jánovas), I came upon a few pages of text and photos that someone had put up on an announcement board.
According to this person, a hydroelectric company chose this valley (the Ara) to build a dam in 1917, and the local inhabitants were evacuated by force between 1960 and 1985. In all, the land and buildings of over twenty villages were confiscated and its people coerced into leaving.
Tragically, the hydroelectric project was never rolled out. Its impact on the environment was under evaluation for years until finally being declared an environmental disaster in 2001 and abandoned.
The surviving inhabitants have associated and launched multiple legal actions, but to this day they still have not been permitted to return.