Arts and Design

Flavour of the month: the Spanish hamlet (population: 16) that created a hit nude calendar

For decades they’ve grappled with a steady exodus as residents set their sights on jobs and opportunities beyond the southern Spanish hamlet. But the dwindling population of Peña Zafra de Abajo may have found a singular strategy to fight back – in essence stripping down to save their town.

“When I suggested the idea of a nude calendar, people said, ‘Are you crazy?’” said Lucía Nicolás, who leads the hamlet’s residents’ association. “But I saw it as a way to put ourselves on the map and show off our hamlet of 16 residents.”

Slowly, the divisive idea gained steam. By September there were enough residents willing to participate, setting in motion a three-day photo shoot. The result is a 2023 calendar that artfully captures residents alongside the landscapes and traditions that have long defined the hamlet in the region of Murcia.

The month of October, for example, shows Nicolás in the 200-year-old home that once belonged to her grandfather and now houses the hamlet’s only winery, while November is dedicated to Juanjo, a local farmer who poses with an assortment of strategically-placed squash.

The undisputed star of the calendar, however, is Pedro Sánchez. At 100 years old, the hamlet’s oldest resident graces the month of December, shirtless and smiling as he holds up a bota, or wineskin. “He was the first one to say yes,” said Nicolás.

Pedro Sánchez with a wineskin
Pedro Sánchez poses with a wineskin for the calendar. Photograph: Juanjo and David/Instagram: juanjoydavid_photo

Since its launch in October, orders for the €9 calendar have poured in from across Spain and even as far as Mexico. “We’ve sold nearly 400,” said Nicolás. “We first ordered 200 and thought we would end up giving away the extras, but madre mia, they’ve been snapped up.”

As news of the calendar travels, messages have come pouring in from across Spain, where rural depopulation threatens more than half of the country’s surface area. “There were weeks where I didn’t know whether to cry from happiness or sadness,” she said, citing the many who shared their own struggles to stave off the demise of their hamlets. “We found out that we weren’t the only ones in this situation.”

For the few still left in Peña Zafra de Abajo, the success of the calendar has been made all the more poignant by the quarries that surround the hamlet, often leaving remaining residents battling against the constant noise of mining activities and clouds of dust, said Nicolás.

“For us this has been a rebirth,” she added. “We’re asserting that this hamlet still exists, that it is still inhabited.”

Residents have already begun planning 2024’s calendar, eagerly pitching ideas that range from nude manger scenes to paying tribute to rural professions that have long ceased to exist. “Those who didn’t participate ended up regretting it,” said Nicolás. “We’ve already got a list of people signed up for [the] next year.”


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