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Cútar, the village that ended up with no school when pupil numbers dropped

  • The children go to school seven kilometres away, a doctor comes twice a week, there is only one shop and a bar

malaga. The school in Cútar is in the lower part of this tiny, pretty village in the Axarquía. It is unoccupied now. After more than 40 years during which it had up to 50 pupils, the numbers dropped progressively and by 2019 there were only two, so the Junta de Andalucía said it had to close.

"I really hope we can open it again soon," said Mari Carmen Agüera, the Education councillor. "Several babies have been born in the past two years so maybe next year or the year after it will be possible." The municipality has just 615 residents and they are spread out over seven outlying districts.

"There were a number of reasons. People with children that age preferred them to go to the school in Benamargosa, seven kilometres away, because that's where their friends were," said the mayor, Francisco Ruiz.

"It's a great shame that our school had to close, but the Junta has said that once we have three pupils it will open it again," he explains. In the decade up to 2019, when it closed, there were on average eight to ten pupils each year. At present there are around 50 children of school age in Cútar, but they go to schools in other places, not only Benamargosa but also Los Romanes, which is part of La Viñuela, 11 kilometres away.

Cútar does have a doctor, who comes two days a week. Francisco Mérida, who is 60, has been running this surgery and the one in Comares, 17 kilometres away, for the past ten years. "It's a lovely job, I don't want to leave here until I retire. You have a closer relationship with people than you would elsewhere," he said.

"Safer here"

During the pandemic, people in Cútar and Comares seemed to feel safer than those in bigger places. In fact, a lot of people came back to the village when the lockdown came into force in March 2020.

"They felt more protected here for some reason, even though in some villages nearby, such as Almáchar and El Borge, there were several outbreaks of the virus," said Dr Mérida.

There is one shop in Cútar, which opens in the mornings. It is run by Melodi Fernández, who also runs the village's only bar. She opens that at weekends.

There is also a pharmacy, managed by José Antonio Colino, who moved to the village from Jaén seven years ago and "has barely left it since," he said.

"It's very picturesque, very quiet, with spectacular views. I send photos to all my friends and they're envious. This is a lovely place to live," he added.