Situated in the Serranía de Ronda, in the Upper Genal Valley, a great deal of Pujerra’s land is covered with chestnut trees. It comes as no surprise, then, that the council is keen to promote the area’s delicacy area, as the chestnut has become the backbone of the local economy. Francisco Macías (PSOE) has been mayor of Pujerra since 2003 and he admits with a certain amount of resignation that the lack of communications is one of the main problems.
–What is your daily life like?
–If you are the mayor of a small village, you are mayor 24 hours a day. Also, we are seen as being - and we want to be - here to help local people in any way we can. We try to organise our days, but it is very difficult because things happen, people need something or matters arise that mean we have to give an immediate response to our residents.
–What is the population of Pujerra?
–There are 350 inhabitants. We are maintaining the population level. People used to move to places like the Costa del Sol, but with the crisis they have come back to look for new opportunities and to be with their families and enjoy the more traditional way of life.
–What do people work at here?
–The chestnut industry is the village’s main economic resource. Practically the whole population has a small, or not so small, cultivation of chestnut trees. At harvesting time the change in the municipality is noticeable, especially when the harvest has been good. It also generates jobs and, although these are temporary, they help in the present difficult situation.
–What do local people come to the Town Hall about?
–People come for everything. From a problem related to their own services, classic things like water, rubbish, or works licences, to problems in their everyday life such as issues with the electricity company or their telephone service, or they want advice on setting up a business or something to do with social services... also, many people come for matters related to employment. We try to give them the best solution to the questions they ask us.
–Does the municipality have all the necessary services?
–At the moment. We even have a bank, which these days tends to be a problem for small municipalities. In many places in this area the banks have decided to close their branches and local people, especially the elderly, find it a real problem. Many of them have to go to towns in the area, spending their pension money on a taxi to Ronda, for example, just to withdraw money to live on.
–How have things been in your mandate so far?
–Despite everything, including with the economic crisis, I have to say I am happy to be mayor of my village and I think the situation is positive. Although I can’t feel totally satisfied while any local resident is out of work and is struggling to make ends meet.
–What projects have you carried out?
–We have done all sorts of things, such as improving communications, building a new Town Hall, improving cultural and sports facilities like the gymnasium, the Guadalinfo centre, promoting chestnuts as the principal product for economic development, opening a small industrial estate and we have also organised training and employment programmes.
–What are you planning now?
–We want to promote our star product: the chestnut. We want to build a production centre so we have made contact with other producers, including foreign ones, with the intention of exchanging ideas. We want to be able to keep our population here with the chestnut production, because nearly everyone here has chestnut trees. They would see their hopes fulfilled, when their local product is used to help develop their village.
–What does Pujerra council want from other administrations?
–Support. We don’t want them to abandon us; we don’t want to be condemned to being mere places for tourists to visit, to remind them of times gone by. We need to modernise ourselves, we need our land to be part of our economic development and to improve the quality of life of local people so the youngsters don’t have to leave to look for new horizons.
–The roads need improving too...
–Of course... you only have to come here in winter, for example, to see that. We must not be more than an hour from any important town.
–What do you think is the future of the Serranía?
– With the economic crisis, with the lack of support from other administrations and the planned reform of local administration, I have to be pessimistic about it.
–What are the attractions of the village of Pujerra?
– Pujerra is a natural paradise, so green and fresh in summer, it is a monument in itself. People love the famous colours and falling leaves in autumn. We now have the Chestnut Festival on 1st November, too. Everyone should come to Pujerra.