Spain migration: case study

The case study of migration in Spain will be studied in the following steps:

1. A historical overview of migration in Spain (both internal and international)

2. Internal (inter-regional) migration in response to regional disparities and agricultural decline and mechanisation

3. International emigration

4. Internal (intra-regional) migration

5. International immigration

20th century rural poverty in Spain

There is some remarkable footage of rural poverty in Luis Buñuel’s ground-breaking  “surrealist documentary” of 1933, Las Hurdes (also titled “Land Without Bread”).  Although the film was made as a surrealist pastiche, a humorous satire on the anthropology documentaries of the early film period, it was shot on location in Las Hurdes, a region of terrible poverty and hunger. It shows the extreme poverty of rural village life.  (There is also some rare film footage of Alfonso XIII travelling in Las Hurdes in 1922.)

“In 1927 Legendre published an ethnographic study about Las Hurdes.[10] This study was read by Luis Buñuel, who continued the gloomy legend that cast a pall over the area by means of the modern media. In a short but famous 1933 film about the hurdanos, Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan, that Buñuel shot around the town of La Alberca, Las Hurdes was portrayed as an isolated spot full of darkness. Buñuel exaggerated some scenes of the film by staging them beforehand in order to create strong impressions in the public. Screening of Buñuel’s movie was banned by the authorities at that time, the Government of the Second Spanish Republic, for allegedly exploiting the misery in which the local people lived.”  (Quoted from the Wikipedia entry for Las Hurdes.)

When we consider some of the problems of rural life in LEDCs like Brazil, and the issues of agricultural mechanisation, drought, and the need for land reform, which lead people to migrate to cities like Sao Paulo; these are the very same problems which drove thousands of people to leave rural areas of Spain and migrate to the cities, searching for work and a better life.




Since the economic boom of the fifties the necessity for a city-based workforce has increased. Many country dwellers abandoned their villages in search of a job and a better life in the cities. Since then rural depopulation has continued: now only 20% of the Spanish population lives in 80% of the country’s land. In the last few decades as many as 3, 000 villages have been abandoned, and almost all of these in central Spain, an area which (excluding Madrid) has one of the lowest percentages of inhabitants per squared kilometre not only in Spain, but in the whole of Europe.


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