A small Spanish village that agreed to be painted blue for a Smurfs movie in 2011, has opted to remain Smurfville to continue luring tourists.
In Spain, with unemployment at 26 per cent and a heavy debt burden, the influx of tourist dollars into Juzcar, a village of 400 people in the Andalusia region of southern Spain, has been welcome.
Three years ago, Mayor David Fernandez Tirado was able to convince his neighbours to paint all their houses Smurf blue as a setting for the movie.
“A person came and asked me if we were willing to paint the village in blue to film the movie Smurfs II. We said ‘yes.’ And we were chosen because ... all you see around us is a small town and farmland,” Fernandez Tirado said in the radio documentary The Things We Do For Money on CBC's The Current.
Since that day, the Smurfs have become an industry for the village. Cafes serve blue Smurf spaghetti, gift shops sell Smurf keychains and T-shirts and local people work as police, waiters and staff at the mushroom museum.
Up and down the main street, Smurf figures are painted on the buildings and Smurf statues adorn the parks.
The result has been hundreds of thousands of visitors, the mayor said.
“First it was a common town living off the land, now it’s a tourist attraction We’re off the beaten track, at the end of a small, poorly maintained road. It was hard to get here. Not a lot of people came. Now with the Smurfs, just last weekend alone we had 14 buses rumble in,” he said.
Not every resident of Juzcar is happy about the development – some would rather tourists come for the natural beauty of the hills.
But a majority of villagers voted just last June to leave the village painted blue.
In cash-strapped Spain, cities and towns are innovating to pay the bills in the face of five years of economic hardship.
Madrid, which has municipal debt of more than 7.5 billion euros ($11 billion Cdn), has sold the naming rights to one of its Metro lines and one of its most famous squares to Vodafone. The mobile phone company paid three million euros to put its own name on the former Puerta del Sol metro line and historic plaza.
“Given the economic crisis in the public sector, it was important to try to find money without charging the Metro users themselves more so we decided to launch this,” said Mayor Ignacio Gonzalez.