As a reaction to the Second Republic’s instability and progressive reforms, the Francoist Regime (1939-1975) undertook an ‘agrarian counter reform’ to preserve the interest of large land owners and the traditional social order in the countryside. After politically repressing the Republican rural sectors, the New State undertook a large scale agricultural policy led by the newly founded INC-Instituto Nacional de Colonizacion. It entailed the reorganization of hydrographical basins in order to irrigate large dry-farming and steppe area, and drain wetlands.
The improved land was resettled, either with newly founded grouped villages (pueblos) or with isolated farmsteads. Plans included the improvement of 1,403,000 ha of land, out of which only 600-700,000 ha were eventually implemented, with 264,600 ha on state-owned land, increasing the country’s irrigated land surface by 50%.
Around 60,000 families were settled (out of a 3,000,000 farming population at that time) in more than 300 new villages. This policy affected all of Spain, but mainly the latifundia regions (Andalusia, Extremadura), and the area with important need of a radical hydraulic policy (Aragon). Those regions represented more than 50% of the transformed land and 70% of the new villages and resettled population.
Hence the examined case-studies will deal with the Tagus valley in Extremadura (CESAP/CEAA), and with the Ebro Valley in Aragon and Catalonia (ULB), as representative of the two main different geo-climatic situations faced by Spanish Agricultural Development and Colonization Schemes.
Colonization policy changed over time: the ‘indicative’ (1939-1949), ‘peasant’ (1945-1962), and ‘business’ (1962-1973) models all gave varying importance to irrigation, resettlement of poor farmers, and foundation of new settlements.
Francoist Agricultural Development and Colonization Schemes found inspiration in Republican era’s experiments, in the TVA scheme, and in the Italian Pontine Marshes scheme.
The Spanish Modernist Rural Landscapes feature large regular open fields, where hydraulic and road infrastructures are predominant. The pueblos were imagined as original modernist reinterpretations of the traditional rural architecture, with church and school facing a central plaza at the centre of each village. Interestingly, architects, planners and experts had a crucial role in shaping shifts in the INC’s centrally dictated policy, contributing to introduce more progressive social and planning ideas than those of the Regime.
This case-study is very-well documented: an important series of transdisciplinary studies was conducted between the late 1980s and early 1990s. The last volume of the series, dealing with the challenges faced by Spanish Modernist Rural Landscapes at that time was prepared but not published.
There is a general concern for the heritage value of Francoist pueblos, and dedicated tools have been developed.
Some of the Francoist Modernist Rural Landscapes have survived well the transition to an open society and economy, but many others have been abandoned or have been turned into either holiday resorts or third age resorts. New challenges are coming to the fore.