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Clarion Congress & Hotel, Cosmos 3A


Ricard Morén-Alegret et al. (Autonomous University of Barcelona)



In English language, hamlet means ‘small village’ and, at the same time, Hamlet is the
main character of an existential tragedy authored by William Shakespeare. In many parts
of Europe, including some areas in Catalonia, sustainable development of small villages is under threat due to, among other factors, depopulation, while many migrants or unsettled people are looking for a new place to live. Ageing and depopulation make these (often rural) places more vulnerable to natural hazards (e.g. wildfires) or uncontrolled

The research project titled “HAMLETS. Immigration and Sustainable Development in
Small Villages” is based on the hypothesis that (international and internal) immigrants
have the potential to make social, economic, environmental and cultural contributions
to the sustainable development of small rural municipalities in Catalonia. It is inspired
by humanist geographies as well as political ecologies (see: www.uab.cat/hamlets). In this
study, municipalities with fewer than 500 inhabitants are considered small villages, i.e.
hamlets. In Catalonia, the area covered by these hamlets is about 35% of the territory, but
less than 2% of the Catalan population reside in these small villages. Thus, in the 336
Catalan municipalities with fewer than 500 inhabitants (INE, 2016), population density is
usually very low. During the period 2017-2020, the main study area is the autonomous
community of Catalonia (Spain).

Among other results, this presentation offers data and reflections from a survey on local
sustainability challenges that was conducted among local governments of Catalan
municipalities with fewer than 500 inhabitants. In that exploratory survey participated
mayors, councillors and civil servants. Responses were obtained from 49 municipalities
(over 14% of the total) distributed in 25 different counties. For instance, an outcome of that survey is that the number of inhabitants during winter in small villages is much lower
than official statistics indicate: on average, key respondents informed us that just about
75% of the population registered in ‘Padrón Municipal’ was really living in the villages
during winter. The demographic situation was usually worse in inland mountainous and
relatively remote municipalities because there in winter residents were on average just
about 63% of the population officially registered as resident in those municipalities. In
order to face that situation, 15 respondents claimed to have local policies in order to
attract new permanent inhabitants (international and/or internal immigrants). However,
in contrast, some other municipalities (usually placed relatively near metropolitan areas or
the coast) were not interested in promoting local policies for attracting any kind of
immigrant (e.g. in order to keep the so-called ‘charm’ of the village). In addition, in tune
with the increasingly nationalistic/xenophobic political situation, some respondents were
interested in selecting the geographic origin of immigrants (e.g. preferring just
newcomers original from other parts of Catalonia, Spain and/or Europe with ‘costumes that would not interfere with what the [rest of the] population is doing’).

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