Monegros is the Aragonese region with the most colonization villages: Sodeto, Cantalobos, La Cartuja de Monegros, San Juan del Flumen, San Lorenzo del Flumen, Curbe, Frula, Montesusín, Valfonda de Santa Ana and Orillena. Between 1950 and 1970 the Franco regime, together with the help of the Instituto Nacional de la Colonización (National Institute of Colonization) created 300 villages of colonization in Spain (30 of them in Aragon). In Monegros, 10 were founded and eventually they came to have a total population of 3,760 inhabitants.
A unique development
All the people of the area had similar properties: a large house surrounded by pine trees for shade. The houses were built with one or two floors and a yard, following a regular pattern around a central square and a church. They were built in a distinct 1950’s style. Settler people enjoyed what is similar to the luxury urbanization of today, detached family homes, wide streets and abundant greenery.
The architects of the INC (Instituto Nacional de Colonización) (National Institute of Colonization) designed several buildings, including homes for the settlers, agricultural workers, artisans, employees (foremen and supervisors) and professionals (doctor, teacher and the parish priest). The houses which were assigned to each family consisted of one or two floors and they could be different sizes depending on the number of members that each family had. But whatever the size of the houses, the conditions attached to them on arrival were similar. There was no electricity or furniture and the bathroom was in the back yard. The part of the house where people spent the most time was in the kitchen. The total space occupied by the house was large (about 150-200 square feet) but most of the area was used for the yard with the pen for the animals and the barn for storage, making a smaller living space for the family.
In the case of Aragon, the settlers came mostly from their own catchment areas, towns in the Pyrenees Mountains. People also came from other provinces and regions (especially from Andalusia and Extremadura). The INC granted each settler a property comprising of a house, a farm and an orchard and depending on demand, a horse or different kinds of livestock. The only obligation for the newcomers was a form of debt to the family, which had to be paid each year. One of the fundamental requirements to be a settler in these new towns was to be a couple with children, the more children the better in order to have more people in the villages. Many families were large in number, and it depended on the ages of the children whether or not you could ask for more aid for farm animals. When the sons were older they could help their father at work on the farm or get another day job. The daughters assisted their mother in the house especially with the animals. Life was governed by the Junta de Colonos (Board of Settlers), which discussed the problems of the settlers or the organization of town parties. A kind of town hall, the INC, was controlled by experts and overseers, and remained until the arrival of democracy.
Colonization towns today
Eight of the ten villages of colonization have reduced their population since their inception. Only La Cartuja and San Juan del Flumen, both belonging to Sariñena have increased their amount of inhabitants. According to various studies, one of the causes of this decline may be a lack of building land in the environment, because the villages were surrounded by vast pine forests. On the other hand, with the passage of time the cost of living increased. Combined with the poor quality arable land second-generation settlers were often forced to emigrate.
Interpretation Center: Agricultural Colonization in Spain
Sodeto (Alberuela de Tubo) is the only interpretive centre on agricultural colonization that exists in Spain. It tells through images and documents (from conception through development to this day) the process of colonization that occurred in Monegros. In the centre we can find an old house recreated with everyday utensils, audiovisuals, models, an archive and documentation.
C / Galileo, 9
Sodeto 22212 (Alberuela de Tubo) HUESCA, ARAGON (SPAIN)
Weekends and holidays: 16:00 to 19:00.