Ignacio Martinez never imagined becoming mayor, but when he saw the struggles of his mountain village in northeastern Spain, he and his friends decided to run for office in the 2015 elections. “There was a sense of paralysis in the village. The school had shut several years before and that caused a lot of sadness,” said Martinez, a cereal farmer who was 32 when he became mayor of Allepuz in Aragon, a region often described as ground zero for rural depopulation in Spain. Like many in sparsely-populated rural Spain, Martinez couldn’t not just stand by and watch his village and its 114 residents dwindle as older residents died off and others left seeking work. “Many villages are on the verge of demographic collapse, a level of abandonment from which there’s no return,” he told AFP, saying running for office “just felt like the right thing to do.” With campaigning in full swing ahead of Sunday’s local and regional polls, Spain’s political parties have rolled out fresh pledges to attract rural voters, from better internet and public transport to social housing or grants for families relocating to villages. But the campaign has drummed up little enthusiasm among rural voters in Teruel, Aragon’s most sparsely-populated province, with fewer than 10 residents per square kilometre, one of the lowest rates in Europe.