Spain is ground-zero for rural depopulation within the European Union. Over decades, millions have migrated to the cities to find jobs.
Those left behind in villages are often elderly – or they are single men working in agriculture.
So, how does a lonely Spanish shepherd find love?
The village of Pradena de Atienza is home to Antonio Cerrada, 52, who has worked here, with animals, all his adult life.
Like his father and grandfather before him, his days are spent tending goats on the farm he runs with his brother.
Fewer than 10 people live year-round in the village and Antonio has seen dozens of his neighbours up sticks for a new life in the city.
He never wanted to leave – but he longed for a partner.
Antonio heard about the Caravan of Women, a commercial initiative bringing coach-loads of single women from Madrid to meet unattached men in the countryside at organised dinner-dances.
When Antonio read the Caravan was coming to a restaurant in a village nearby, he dumped his overalls, scrubbed up, and headed out.
Maria Carvajal, a Colombian living in the capital, was the last to get off the bus.
At dinner Antonio and Maria sat at the same table and the spark was lit.
“We talked and talked. Then we talked some more,” recalls Antonio.
The couple arranged to meet a fortnight later at another Caravan party in the region. Then Antonio invited Maria to visit Pradena de Atienza for a weekend.
Antonio was relieved that Maria took to the almost-empty village immediately.
“I liked the tranquility,” she says simply.
And after working for more than a decade in Madrid as a cleaner, she was ready for a change.
“When I first arrived from Colombia, I would sometimes go dancing with my friends in Madrid.
“But after a while I was just going from home to work, from work to home.”
The roots of rural outward migration commenced under Franco’s dictatorship at the end of the 1950s, when factory jobs in urban areas offered opportunities to those arriving from farming communities.
Now, the survival of more than 4,000 of Spain’s rural hamlets and communities hangs in the balance – 1,300 municipalities have fewer than 100 people.
It is nearly six years now since Antonio and Maria met.
Antonio is still hugely excited at finding love after looking for so long.
And there’s something else that’s new – a toddler, also Antonio, born nearly 18 months ago.
“It’s so exciting to see him when I get home from work – to see how he’s doing, to play with him… I’m out with the animals all day, and then in the evenings I have someone to talk to… It’s like a home now, not just somewhere to live,” Antonio says.
For Antonio Cerrada the novelty of being a parent has not worn off – he is enjoying every minute.
And he is sanguine about the future, and whether his son will be one of those who helps to keep the village of Pradena de Atienza alive, or whether – like so many others – he leaves for the city.
“I’m going to leave my roots here for him just as my father left his roots for me. And if he wants to follow tradition in the village, well that’s up to him.”
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at email@example.com