Demographics of Castile and Leon
Lying in North Central Spain on the sprawling central plateau, Castile and Leon is the largest autonomous community in Spain. It covers nine provinces: Avila, Palencia, Valladolid, Burgos, Leon, Salamanca, Soria, Zamora, and Segovia. Despite its vast size, however, Castile and Leon is a very sparsely populated region. There are approximately 2.5 million inhabitants here, representing just 5% of Spain’s total inhabitants – yet it covers nearly a fifth of the country in area.
The modern Castile and Leon was formed from the two historic communities of Old Castile and Leon. Castilian Spanish is the dominant language, and strong claims have been made that the region (Salamanca, especially) speaks ‘the purest’ Spanish – making it an ideal destination for students looking to enrol on a language course.
Valladolid is also the mostly densely populated province, with Leon coming in second. Soria has the fewest inhabitants of the nine provinces – less than 100,000 at the last report. Many of the small municipalities in the countryside, meanwhile, have been home to fewer than 100 inhabitants during the last century. Gormaz in the province of Soria had just 17 residents in the 2000 census.
As Castile and Leon is a largely rural community, the economy is centred on agriculture rather than urban industry. Each province has a beautiful historic capital which is home to the majority of its residents, but the population of each city is still relatively small.
The regional capital, Valladolid, is the most densely populated city, although only a modest 300,000 of Castile and Leon’s residents live there. It’s also the seat of the regional government, the Junta de Castilla y Leon, and the regional parliament, the Cortes. From 1983, this has been the sole home of Castile and Leon’s political influence since the region became one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities.
Like many of Europe’s rural areas, Castile and Leon suffered significantly from large scale emigration to the major cities at the turn of the century, as workers headed to Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and abroad in search of jobs. The decline grew further in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The modern population of the region still has a negative rate of population increase – the lowest in Spain – which continues to be more evident in less-developed rural provinces, where vast expanses of wild rural land are very much the norm.
However, the speed of decline has been reversed to some extent, thanks to the growth of Valladolid. With incentives from the National Industrial Institute helping to encourage the establishment of new industry in the city, the regional capital has been a strong industrial centre and important heart of region’s economy since Renault opened Spain’s first car factory here. The provinces of Segovia and Salamanca also go against this trend. Lying relatively close – and with easy access – to Madrid, they have been part of the development of the country's major urban area.