Men in Plan, Spain, hope to attract plains women

The plan in Plan has developed several hitches. With the workday over, the men had gathered as usual in the only caf'e in the Pyrenees village of Plan. Spanish television was showing an old western by William Wellman -- ``Westward the Women'' -- which is set in the 1850s.

As the men talked and slapped dominoes and cards on the caf'e tables, they watched as a tough-talking Robert Taylor led 250 women on a trail of perils from a recruiting center in Chicago to their future, unknown husbands in a green California valley. Wonder turned to excitement for the lonely bachelors in the tiny Pyrenees village.

What if they did the same? The next day, the bachelors of Plan sent out a call through the region's newspapers to all women who might want to get married and share the rigors and rewards of mountain life.

The response was immediate. In fact, the men say they can hardly cope with the volume of telephone calls. ``It's getting out of hand. . . . If it goes on like this, we'll end up with more than 3,000 candidates for just 140 bachelors,'' Jose Antonio Lopez said.

Since Spain's industrial boom in the 1950s and '60s, mountain people have been seeking better jobs and an easier way of life in the plains. Today, there are almost a hundred abandoned villages in just a few Aragon valleys.

The magnificent but narrow, steep valleys of the Pyrenees -- like Gistai, the valley of the enterprising bachelors -- have made for limited, one-family cattle and sheep farms.

In the old kingdom of Aragon, custom makes the male the sole heir of the household. That, coupled with the lack of opportunities for women, has led young girls to flee the mountains, explains Jose Baila Bruned, a cattle farmer and mason.

Jose explains the men's plan. ``The nearest meeting place, a discoth`eque, is 40 kilometers [25 miles] away and the main town, 150 km. Some of the older men feel silly about going to a discoth`eque anyway. So we've thought of holding a dance, like in the film, and have the women come here to visit for a couple of days. Maybe a wedding or two will come out of it.''

Men from surrounding villages have expressed a desire to participate in the dance, which is scheduled for late February.

The mayor of the neighboring locality of San Juan de Plan, Josefina Loste, says eagerly, ``If only the women would come to repopulate the valley. It would mean the recovery of the area.'' She says her son and daughter are studying and working in Barcelona with the idea of one day coming back to the valley.

The French Pyrenees have experienced a similar exodus -- with heavy emigration to the Americas between 1850 and 1920 -- but their prospects look much brighter. A rural reconstruction plan that was started in 1967 has been able to reverse the trend. -- 30 -- {et

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Men in Plan, Spain, hope to attract plains women
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today