The mayor, Francisco Lozano. / V. M.

A whole village in a WhatsApp group

Júzcar. The local council of this Genal Valley municipality uses this messaging service to stay in touch with its 240 residents, more than those registered on the census

VANESSA MELGAR

To be the village mayor is a 24-hour-a-day job. This is a fact well-known to all those who undertake the role, but especially to those in charge of the smaller municipalities, where they are easily accessible through a phone call or a home visit.

In the village of Júzcar, social media coexists as a means of communication alongside traditional posters and bulletin boards.

Participation

The local council's WhatsApp group comprises more inhabitants in the village than those registered on the census, a total of 240, according to its mayor Francisco Lozano.

As such, almost the whole of Júzcar participates in the chat.

Lozano said, "We reach practically everyone, even those who are not registered in the village but are from here, live elsewhere, usually come to visit and want to stay informed."

He clarified that, "only elderly people who do not use WhatsApp aren't involved, but we are talking about those over 80 years old. In these cases, their relatives keep them informed as to the content of the group."

According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), Júzcar has, based on 2020 data, 214 inhabitants.

"The maximum allowed in a group is 256 participants...we cannot fit any more people in right now!" joked Lonzano.

Sierra Bermeja fire

On a more serious note, he spoke of how the Sierra Bermeja fire has meant an increase in the number of people who want to be included in the chat.

"At first there were many people who did not want to sign up, they told us that they were already involved in many groups, but this chat allowed us to inform people quickly about the progress of the fire. When we were evacuated, one of the councillors and I came and fed the neighbours' animals, sent them photos...There was a lot of uncertainty...The WhatsApp group has proven to be a very useful tool," he said, recalling the tragedy that was very close to the village and burned almost 10,000 hectares.

"It gave us peace of mind and it is very effective and fast for sending out information. People can stay immediately informed through the group, although when I have to go to the town hall for something more serious, I go," said a Júzcar resident who participates in the chat.

One of the most recent posts in the group, which is managed from a municipal mobile phone, is about the rollout of psychological workshops for residents following the fire.

The administrators of the group are the mayor and other local council staff.

Events

"We publish activities, proposals, events, service information, job offers..." said the mayor.

Though the group doesn't allow interaction - "The group would get out of hand...Imagine!" - because there are only a few administrators, they do see the responses from the residents.

Examples of events published on the WhatsApp chat have included the delivery of books and materials, free of charge, to the village school; the celebration of the traditional Mycological Days and the opening of the churros shop on Fridays next to Bar Torricheli.

The group makes it easy for Júzcar's council to get its residents' opinions, for example, on the need to repaint their houses blue.

The Blue Village

Júzcar was declared the World's First Smurf village following its use by the production company for the promotion of the first Smurfs film. Due to problems with the owners of the commercial rights associated with these characters, the town was renamed the Blue Village, to carry on with its new fame.