"Women's caravans" to the rescue

In search of a love connection, rural bachelors in Spain bus in groups of urban women.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

Published June 29, 2007 8:25PM (EDT)

Life on the farm can be pretty lonely. Especially if you're a middle-aged bachelor tending farm in a remote Spanish village that several decades ago saw most of its female population lured away by the shining promises of city life. But there's hope for these lonely farmers in La Viñuela, Spain, reports the New York Times, thanks to a program that busses in single ladies from Madrid. The Association of Women's Caravans handled the village's recent matchmaking event: Arrangements were made to secure the outdoor bar, live music, porta-potties and, most important, the women.

This seems plain resourceful and kind of sweet, actually. It's no mystery that, hey, people need people; companionship is important, whether you're a weary farmer or hardworking madrileña. But it's also fascinating to consider how political, cultural and economic forces impact sexual commerce. When a rural village -- or entire country -- experiences a female famine, does it improve the lot of women?

It's hard to say. In China, predictions that there would be 30 million lonely bachelors within 15 years was taken as evidence that women would climb to a higher cultural standing and that the frequency of female infanticide and sex-selective abortion would fall off. But then came reports of "bride selling," postmortem marriages and, in some extreme cases, women being murdered and sold as "ghost brides" because of the shortage of women (particularly in rural areas). Then there are the bachelor tours arranged for rural South Korean men in need of a wife.

Admittedly, these are extreme comparisons, but they at least fall on the same spectrum. Where exactly they fall would seem to depend on a whole range of things, including, most basically, women's cultural value and standing.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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