Meeting of mayors from the province of Soria in Spain on Welcoming spaces
21 December 2020
By Estela Vallejo Latorre
Despite COVID-19, the pandemic has not prevented the organisation of Welcoming Spaces events in 2020. As has happened into every aspect of our daily lives, we became more flexible and we adapted to the needs of the moment. As a consequence, and due to the circumstances, all our events have been organised in a virtual format.
As part of our WS programme, we organised three of them. Poland brought together NGOs while the Netherlands and Spain focused on meetings with mayors. In Spain, seven mayors from the province of Soria – with different ideologies, ages and size of municipalities – came together and presented various integration initiatives that take place in their localities.
Soria province suffers severe demographic issues. Makin up only around ten thousand km2, it is only populated by 89.501 inhabitants. The territory counts 183 municipalities of which 63% have a population under 100 inhabitants. The population average in the province of Soria is 8,6 inhabitants per km2 – in some areas, there are not even two inhabitants per km2.
During the Spanish meeting that took place on 10 December 2020, different topics were discussed such as the emplacement of the first generation of migrants, the reluctance of some natives to receive foreign populations and the benefits that newcomers bring to our territories.
This event with mayors form the province of Soria is part of a series of Webinars organised by CEPAIM Foundation. The objective of all these events is to provide knowledge, exchange best practices and start a dialogue related to the revitalisation of depopulated areas through the integration and participation of migrants.
In 2021, we will continue with organising these events, hoping that little by little, it will be possible to jump from a virtual to a face-to-face world.
Some reflections on Welcoming spaces in Soria:
“To integrate: first not to make a difference. Second, when integrating them [the newcomers], include them in the dynamics of the people. Simple things, but that can help to integrate [everyone], from the oldest to the youngest” – Alberto López, Mayor of Arenillas
[Speaking about the vision that migrants also bring something to local communities]: “From Soria, we see the rural world as something pessimistic and they [the newcomers] encourage us to see strengths that we normally do not see” – Juan Carlos García, Mayor of Fuentecantos
“Have we asked the people of the towns, if they want people to come? People have not asked me, but I know that people are a bit reluctant in principle to allow people from abroad to come. I speak of nationals or foreigners” – Juan Carlos González, Mayor of Gómara
“In many cases, those who move from their place, for economic, political or social reasons, yearn for a return. This is an important factor when it comes to integration because they are always thinking about returning” – Rosa Pérez, Deputy Mayor of Langa de Duero
“Integration is achieved in the second generation, in the first, people have the idea of returning. The second generation is the one that no longer wants to leave” – Pablo Febrero, Mayor of Yangüas
“The idea is to create a global collective so that the new generations grow up in common society” – Miguel Cobo, Mayor of Burgo de Osma