Spanish town frozen in the 1960s after residents were forced to flee by mistake

The medieval fortress village of Granadilla remains frozen in time after locals were forced to evacuate it by mistake decades ago.

Located in the province of Cáceres, part of the autonomous region of Extremadura, Granadilla has been a ghost town since the late 1960s, after the last residents moved out leaving behind their homes and many material possessions.

One of the former residents who has been fiercely campaigning for years to bring back residents to Granadilla claimed the town experienced a “Greek tragedy” which affected even the dead.

Eugenio Jimenéz, president of the Sons of Granadilla association, told the BBC: “I’ll always believe that what we went through in Granadilla was a Greek tragedy, because the living were pushed out and the dead were denied the right to sleep in their village forever.

“When the previous cemetery was inundated, the deceased had to be swiftly relocated to a new, more modest cemetery.”

In the 1950s, while Spain was still ruled by Fascist dictator Francisco Franco, Spain embarked on a major dam-building project to boost its economy in the face of international isolation.

Granadilla, officials said in 1952, was in the floodplain that would be affected by the construction of the massive Gabriel y Galán reservoir located on the Alagón River.

Between 1959 and 1969, the 1,000 residents were forcibly evicted – with many only receiving compensation in 1973.

While the water level around Granadilla did indeed rise and for two years it became an island after its bridges were flooded, the elevated town was never submerged.

Despite the medieval town not being affected by the water level as much as its surrounding, the regime didn’t allow residents to return to their homes.

Even more shockingly, the democratic government that followed didn’t revoke the evacuation decree, which remains enforced to this day and continues to bar the former residents from returning to Granadilla and reclaiming their houses.

As a result, tourists and locals alike can only carry out day trips to the medieval town, and nobody can sleep there.

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Voicing his frustration, Mr Jimenéz said: “It was a travesty. They kicked us out, claiming the dam would flood the town, which was impossible because the town is higher than the dam.

“But those were times of dictatorship and we had no rights. But what truly frustrates me is that during democratic times, I have been struggling for the recovery of Granadilla with the former children’s association and no government has listened to us.”

Depicting how he misses the town he was born in, Mr Jiménez added he wants to be laid to rest in Granadilla.

He said: “The only way I’ll be able to return to my village would be when I pass away. In the place where I grew up, I’ll sleep forever.”

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Founded in the ninth century, Granadilla can today be accessed via a pot-holed road from Zarza de Granadilla or Abadía, which lead to the town’s perfectly preserved castle and ancient walls.

But many of the houses were ransacked in the years after the evacuation was complete, with looters even stealing the main altarpiece from the church in Granadilla.

In 1980, it was designated a Historic-Artistic Site in 1980 and now runs as a free, open-air museum.

Former residents and their descendants meet up twice a year in the town, on All Saints’ Day, November 1, and on the day marked as Assumption of Mary, August 15.

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