The Spanish Village That Was Saved by COVID

Around the world, "Zoom towns" are flourishing thanks to an influx of new — if temporary — residents

Spanish Pyrenees
Spanish Pyrenees
Steve Cadman via Wikimedia Commons

COVID-19 occasioned widespread emigrations from cities all over the world, with those who could afford to often escaping urban life in favor of the seclusion that small towns offer. At the time, it was deemed a death sentence for those cities, but their loss was, in a select few cases, just what that those countryside burgs and villes needed to survive.

This sentiment, according to a new report by The New York Times, has been especially true for Gósol, a small village in the Spanish Pyrenees, near Andorra. You may recognize the name as relating to Picasso and a few of his works — which now reside at The Met — as he enjoyed a brief stint in the village in the early 1900s and for the bulk of his “Rose Period.” That said, the association has done little by way of attracting outsiders. Prior to the pandemic, circa 2015, Gósol boasted a population of little more than 100, continually struggling to retain residents let alone attract new ones, despite the mayor’s public pleading with Spaniards to consider putting roots down there. He feared the local school would close and the town would cease to exist.

But the tides began to turn with the onset of the pandemic as many Barcelonians began to look outward, largely in part because of the economic crisis that Spain had fallen into — a byproduct of COVID-19. Slowly people began migrating to Gósol in pursuit of a quieter life.

“It was the rare silver lining of a troubled time: About 20 or 30 newcomers to a dwindling town of 140 souls, where even the tiny school on the town plaza got a second chance after parents started enrolling their children there,” Nicholas Casey wrote.

It’s helped bring the tired town of Gósol back from the brink of extinction, albeit potentially temporarily, saving the school in the process and leaving locals feeling optimistic about the future in spite of the pandemic.

Gósol is a microcosm of a much larger trend. Reports of people trading in their city digs for small-town living began emerging as early as last April, when it first became clear that the pandemic would not be over in a mere matter of weeks. It’s given rise to what researchers out of the University of Utah have deemed, “Zoom Towns” — or, ”Places that have experienced a flood of remote workers fleeing cities to seek a quieter, often greener existence, and ‘commuting’ to work electronically,” according to Forbes — a bill which Gósol certainly fits.

Experts and some new residents alike remain skeptical as to whether or not the moves will be permanent, but for the time being, Gósol will live to see another day — a small win in an otherwise harrowing year, but a win nevertheless.


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