This article originally appeared on VICE Spain.
Although it’s long been abandoned, the Perlora Holiday Village in Spain’s Asturias region still shows signs of the paradise it once was.
Established by Franco’s Vertical Trade Union (Sindicato Vertical) in 1954, during the height of his dictatorship, Perlora was as a cheap vacation rental spot, serving workers from the regime’s main public companies. For 54 summers, the booming seaside resort – which includes 300 chalets over 30 hectares – offered lucky raffle winners the holiday of their dreams.
Just 15 pesetas (about €9 cents) per person bought four meals a day and a stay in one of the villas. Up to 2,000 vacationers spent 15 day “shifts” in the village, which had a soccer field, restaurants, entertainment, shops and, of course, beach access.
Perlora boomed in the 1960s and 70s, but post-Franco the resort continued to depend on the state until, in 1982, it was handed over to the Asturias local government. When that region fell on tough economic times, which continue today, the local government could no longer maintain it. Perlora was shuttered in 2006 and, despite multiple proposals for the ill-fated resort, nothing has ever come to pass.
But it’s not a total ghost town. Publicly-employed guards patrol the empty blocks by car, making sure no one sneaks into the 300 unoccupied villas, and routine minor maintenance tasks are carried out. I asked a guard in a security booth if they ever have much to deal with. "Only one or two teenagers who sneak in out of pure curiosity," he told me calmly from behind the glass.
The region, one of the poorest in Spain – with the country’s highest suicide rate – has poured around €1 million into keeping the resort from disrepair, but a tour of its quiet streets shows you can’t stop the passing of time.
Perlora’s church, closed off to the public, is framed with broken windows and scattered garbage cans. The various administrative buildings, restaurants, sports areas and playgrounds are covered in chipped pink, yellow, green and orange paint. Everything feels kitsch and trapped in time.
The town still attracts visitors, although most come from the local municipality of Carreño. I saw people running, walking their dogs and, above all, elderly people strolling along slowly with a nostalgic look in their eyes. Now, it is purely a place to pass through. In summer, people still go to the two beaches nearby.
While walking through the former resort, I met a grey-haired man called Roberto, who was standing on the road in front of a bunch of cats. He said he feeds them whenever he can. “In the 70s, my whole family came here," he told me. "There were about 20 of us, and we did all kinds of things: we played football, we ate tortillas."
Many of the buildings he remembers have been demolished, and some are waiting in line for their turn. But, for now, the street lamps still work, giving out a warm yellow light when twilight approaches.
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