19 December 2011

Júzcar – The Spanish Village that Voted itself Blue

For hundreds of years the smart houses of the tiny pueblo of Júzcar, near Malaga in the Spanish province of Andalucía, were whitewashed. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the village of 220 souls and it attracted just a few hundred tourists each year.

Then in the spring of 2011, executives from Sony Pictures turned up. They were looking for one of the White Towns of Andalucía to be painted blue. At first the villagers were incredulous but the executives maintained that the publicity stunt, created to mark the opening of The Smurfs movie (Los Pitufos in Spanish) would make the village stand out. Just a little.

This is how the village looked just before the vote.
...and once the painting in the Spring had taken place...

The villagers had little to lose and a wad of Sony’s cash to gain, so they held a meeting and voted unanimously to agree to Sony’s colorful request. After all, it was only for a short time and Sony promised to paint all the houses back to their original color. 1,100 gallons of vivid blue paint later, Júzcar became Smurftown.

The small town wholeheartedly embraced Smurfdom.  There were Smurf fun runs, Smurf painting competitions and the Smurf market which runs six days a week. Even the church has got in on the act, running Smurf-related weddings inside its (now) blue walls.

It seems like something out of an Ealing Comedy, but the villagers embraced their new found fame and discovered that the Smurfs were something of a draw, with people coming far and wide to see the all blue Smurftown. A harmless but, of course short-lived, gold rush commenced.

The village was dubbed el primer pueblo Pitufo del mundo - the first Smurf village in the world. Of course, the Smurfs have to come from somewhere, so why not Júzcar?

Six months later and the village council received a phone call from the people at Sony. The village had remained blue for the length of time they had agreed. When would they like to have their houses whitewashed, the pueblo reverted to its original bright white? Another meeting was called. A vote was held. Sony was called.

Thanks, said the villagers, but we will stay blue. A case of collective madness or collective canniness? Most definitely the latter.

141 people voted to remain blue while only 33 voted against it. The reason?  In the six months that the village had represented Smurftown, it had seen something of an increase in tourists visiting Júzcar. In fact, from the trickle of a few hundred in a year the village had received over 80,000 people in six months.

The vote was held amidst much excitement, with many people showing up to vote dressed up as their favorite Smurf. The town hall, it seems, had never seen anything quite like it!

It looks like the legacy of Los Pitufos may well become permanent.