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HISTORY

IN IMAGES: The Spanish ghost village that emerges from underwater every few years

In 1992 the Galician village of Aceredo was deliberately flooded and submerged underwater, but every few years when the water levels are low, this eerie 'pueblo' reappears.

The submerged village of Aceredo in Galicia.
Usually submerged ruins of the former village of Aceredo. Photo MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

Recently the old town of Aceredo in Galicia’s province of Ourense has remerged from the nearby reservoir, revealing eerie scenes of a village lost and forgotten.

However this is not some ancient tragedy dating back centuries; the village was only flooded in 1992. 

Usually submerged ruins of the former village of Aceredo
Usually submerged ruins of the former village of Aceredo. Photo Miguel Riopa / AFP
 
 
Why was it flooded?
 
It all started with an international agreement signed in 1968 between the heads of state of Spain and Portugal, Franco and Salazar, in order to construct the Lindoso dam.
 
While the dam and the reservoir were great feats of engineering, in order for the project to be possible, it meant that some of the land would have to be lost.
 
The flooded village of Aceredo in Galicia
A man walks among the ruins of the former village of Aceredo. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 
 
 
What happened to the people of Aceredo? 
 
In order to get the residents out of the town and carry out the work, the Portuguese hydroelectric plant EDP began the arduous task of negotiations.
 
The people of Aceredo of course did not want to leave their town, but finally some were convinced to abandon their homes in return for financial compensation.
 
As soon as the company had convinced just over half of the residents to leave, the order was published in the Spanish BOE state bulletin for the rest to pack up and go, despite the neighbourhood demonstrations. 
 
The village of Aceredo galicia
The village of Aceredo was flooded in 1992. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 
 
 
When did Aceredo first disappear underwater? 
 
Once permissions were fully approved, all the residents had left and the dam had been built, the hydroelectric plant closed its floodgates on January 8th 1992. The river began to flow in quickly, swollen from a period of very heavy rainfall, and Aceredo began to be submerged underwater.
 
Aceredo’s residents were given compensation to leave the village. Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP

 
 
 
Did the same happen to other villages in Galicia?
 
Yes, the same happened to four other nearby villages – O Bao, Buscalque, A Reloeira and Lantemil which were also swallowed up by the rising waters of the reservoir. 
 
The floods happened so quickly and the people in some of the villages were not aware or had not been warned. Some of the residents of the towns of Buscalque and O Bao for example, had to swim out with any belongings they could grab, watching their animals drown before their eyes. The residents there were lucky that the disaster didn’t claim any human lives, as EDP did not even disconnect the power cables before it was flooded. 
 
Aceredo is the most famous of Galicia’s submerged villages. Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP

 
 
Another reservoir was also created further north, due to the pact that Spanish dictator Francisco Franco signed in the 1960s.
 
This was the Belesear Reservoir, near the town of Portomarín. In this case, the residents had lots of warning and in anticipation of the flooding, the settlement was relocated to higher ground.
 
Some of the most historic buildings in the town were rebuilt stone by stone including the 12th and 10th-century churches of San Nicolás and San Pedro. 
 
The flooded village of Aceredo
The usually submerged ruins of the former village of Aceredo, appear from the Lindoso reservoir. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 
 
 
Why is Aceredo the most famous? 
 
Aceredo is the most well-known of these flooded Galician villages as it is one of the only ones that completely remerges when the water levels are low.
 
Here, the water levels recede every few years, so that it is possible once again to walk along its streets and peer into the skeletons of its buildings. 
 
Other villages such as the one in Portomarín, only allow for the tops of its buildings and the spires of its churches to be seen when water levels recede. 
 
Aceredo in Galicia, Spain
People living in the Aceredo village were ejected from their homes in 1992 for the construction of the reservoir. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 
 
Did this only happen in Galicia? 
 
Unfortunately, no. Several towns in different parts of Spain have fallen to the same fate as Aceredo. In 1987, the old Leonese town of Riaño was completely demolished to build the reservoir of the same name. 
 
The worst tragedy of this kind however happened in Ribadelago Viejo, also in Castilla y León, near Zamora. In 1959, the entire town was washed away by the waters of the Vega de Tera dam, due to a construction error. Of its 549 inhabitants, 144 died, although only 28 bodies were recovered. The rest remain submerged underwater. 
 

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CULTURE

Spain’s Prado probes if artwork was stolen by Franco’s regime

Madrid's El Prado Museum said Thursday it was investigating the provenance of 62 works in its collection to determine whether they were seized during Spain's civil war or the Franco dictatorship.

Spain's Prado probes if artwork was stolen by Franco's regime

“The aim is to clear up any doubts about the origins and the context that brought about the entry (of an artwork) into the Prado’s collection,” said a statement from the museum.

If the law allowed, they would be returned to their legitimate owners, it added.

The Madrid-based museum had on Tuesday released a list of 25 works that “originated from seizures during the (1936-39) civil war”, publishing images of 22 of the paintings on its website.

By Thursday, the number of artworks confirmed as seizures rose to 62, most of them paintings.

Among the works are paintings by 17th-century Flemish artist Jan Brueghel the Younger, French painter Francois Boucher and impressionist-inspired Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla, according to the list.

Most of the works were being held in storage, although five of them — one by Sorolla — have been on display at public museums in Girona, Granada and Malaga, RTVE public television said.

“The quality of the works is very diverse, there are some by well-known masters like Joaquín Sorolla, but also anonymous paintings whose ownership will probably never be known,” Andrés Ubeda, the Prado’s head of conservation and investigation, told public television on Wednesday.

Investigators will now try and establish why these works were seized, he said, indicating it was the first step in what would likely be a long process aimed at restoring the artworks to the families of the original owners.

“The seizures carried out by Franco’s government were aimed at taking away the legitimate possessions of their wartime enemies,” he said.

The Prado said it had set up a team to probe the provenance of works in its collection. It will publish its report in January.

“The Prado Museum has decided to formally open an investigation into the possibility that some of the works in its collection may have come from seizures during the civil war or during the Franco dictatorship,” which ended in 1975, it said on Tuesday.

All 25 works initially identified were “deposited in (the museum’s) collection by the Commission for the Defence of Artistic Heritage” set up by Francisco Franco during the civil war, the statement added.

Seventeen of those paintings were given to the museum between 1940-1942, while another six were initially transferred to Madrid’s Museo de Arte Moderno in 1942-43 and later acquired by the Prado, it said.

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