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Ochate - A Spanish Ghost Town

by John Bascombe on Thursday, October 30, 2014

Since Halloween is this week, I thought we could talk about those abandoned cities and towns that give us so much good storytelling material for this time of year. Ghost towns are present all over the world and in just about in every country. In the United States, there are famous places like Centralia, Pennsylvania (the inspiration for the Silent Hill videogame and movie), well preserved Bodie in California and numerous other spots in the west and Great Plains. Abandoned places in the UK are everywhere primarily due to the Black Plague while more recently others were abandoned during WWII like Tyneham and Langford.

In Spain there are also some very noteworthy towns where only some buildings, landmarks or vestiges of dwellings once were. In northern Spain, the County of Treviño forms a part of Castille and León. Due to agreements made in the Middle Ages between rival kings, this county is enveloped by the Basque province of Álava and is not physically connected to Castille and León. Due to the difficult geography of the area—rugged and irregular hills along with difficult farming conditions—Treviño has always been isolated from its neighbors like Álava, Burgos and La Rioja.

The Village of Ochate

However, in an area full of hamlets and half abandoned villages, there is one place that stands out—the village of Ochate. This abandoned village is known to have been inhabited since the Bronze Age thanks to discovery of flint and quartz tools in the fields nearby. There is also proof of Roman occupation since a funeral stele was discovered near a neighboring hermitage. Ochate's location, today remote and more off the beaten path than ever, was once positioned along a very transited road that connected Castille and León to what is known as the Route of Fish and Wine. This route got its name by being an important trade route between the fishing villages along the Bay of Biscay and the fertile fields and wine producing region of La Rioja.

Today, that route is nothing more than a hiking trail and with its decline, the enclave of Treviño also experienced depopulation which has dwindled the county's population down to 1461 inhabitants in 2011; a very small population for an area of 100 sq. miles or an area roughly the size of Sacramento, California. Vacío means empty in Spanish and this lack of populatoin coupled with an eerily remote region and unfriendly landscape combine to make this place very empty indeed and also an ideal location for a ghost town.

Through the middle ages to the 19th century, Ochate was always a village on the edge; in fact it was previously abandoned at the end of the 13th century only to be revived again in the mid-1500s. Descriptions of the village from the second half of the 19th century tell of a small and humble village populated with cattle farmers and laborers. The people here lived off of what they raised and they ate principally beef, beans, potatoes and cereals. Curiously, the ingenuity of the villagers for making the best of their situation were able benefit from their harsh  conditions by charging mushroom collectors a fee for foraging around their village. We know this thanks to the preservation of written contracts dating back to the 18th century… read more »

Other Posts

The Messi Effect

by John Bascombe on Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spanish as a Second Language British students are increasingly choosing to study Spanish as a second language… read more »

Dolce & Gabbana Go Spanish

by John Bascombe on Monday, October 20, 2014

Spanish Influence Spain has a long history of influence in Europe , all we have to do is remember that Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was also the same Spanish King Carlos I. As ruler of Spain (and its American empire) he was also the ruler of most of central Europe and Italy. Today this influence is still seen in many parts of Europe, in fact there is an annual festival in Brussels called the Ommegang. In the town square, thousands of Brusseleers participate in this parade that recreates the welcoming of Charles V into the city that would be his principal home during his reign. Another part of Europe that pertained to the Spanish crown was Sicily. This Italian island was first part of the Kingdom of Aragón beginning in 1409 and later as part of the Spanish Empire . This territory would remain under Spanish control until 1860 with Garibaldi leading the charge for Italian unification. So after over 400 years of relations, something must have stuck as far as influencing the culture and life, right?… read more »

10 Spanish Film Festivals

by John Bascombe on Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Top 10 Film Festivals in Spain You could say that Spain is a country you’d see in movie and a country in which you’d see a movie: its scenic landscapes have not only been captured in an impressive number of famous films, but they also capture a big variety of film festivals . You can find film fests here on just about any genre imaginable, from documentary, feminist, environmental, short film, gay/lesbian, fantasy, horror, advertising, international film… Spain holds more than 80 film festivals every year. That’s almost 2 per week… read more »

How October 12 Is Celebrated Around the World

by John Bascombe on Sunday, October 12, 2014

Christopher Columbus arrived to the Americas for the first time on October 12, 1492 . The historic event marks an important change in the course of the history of the Western world, as it lead to permanent contact between Europe and the Americas. The day is officially observed in a variety of ways and called a variety of names in much of Latin America, the US and Spain. … read more »

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