There is a place in Spain with an area twice the size of Belgium, with a population density similar to Lapland or the Scottish Highlands, only 6,99 inhabitants/km². It is the Spanish Lapland.
This is how the Serranía Celtibérica is known, embracing territories belonging to 10 Spanish provinces (Teruel, Guadalajara, Cuenca, Soria, Zaragoza, Burgos, La Rioja, Segovia, Castellón and Valencia), and representing 13% of the total area of Spain.
The heart or «ground zero» of this territory are the Montes Universales. Includes territories of Sierra de Albarracín, in Teruel, Serranía de Cuenca, and Alto Tajo in Guadalajara, with an area similar to the island of Mallorca. Usually, there lives less than one person per each square kilometre (0,98 inhabit/km²). Zones with less than 10 inhabit/km² are considered «demographic deserts».
Along our route we will pedal through the Montes Universales, and also through Sierra de Javalambre and Sierra de Gúdar, with similar population densities.
Figures like these are not even reached in the less populated areas of Finish Lapland. However, while the population is practically stable there, in «Spanish Lapland» it collapses irremediably every year. Something normal, knowing that it has half of young people and twice as many people over 65 have our friends in the north.
To understand the reasons that have led to this territory to such an agony we can refer to the term «Demothanasia»:
Process that both political actions, direct or indirect, and omission of them, is causing the slow and silent disappearance of the population of a territory that migrates and leaves the area without generational relief and with everything that it means, such as disappearance of a millenary culture. It is an induced death, not violent.
These figures, these expressions, this agony of a land, provokes shivers, but also pretend to be an impulse, an excuse to make this land known. Desolate, remote, cold, but that hides people and places that deserve to be known.
To narrate this situation I have taken as reference the magnificent study: LA SERRANÍA CELTIBÉRICA : Un proyecto de Desarrollo para la denominada «Laponia del Mediterraneo” by Francisco Burillo (only in Spanish), professor at the University of Zaragoza, whose results have also been sweetly exposed throughout the interesting book Los Últimos, by Paco Cerdá. Another essential on these topics is The Yellow Rain, by Julio Llamazares. Both perfectly reflect the harshness of the situation in this land in which I was born and in which I am lucky to live.