The Alarcon family is one of the last families who still work as nomadic shepherds in Spain and Europe. In the heart of Europe, the phenomenon of transhumance has survived for centuries: with families of shepherds migrating through the territory on foot with their animals in search of better pastures, climate and living conditions. In Spain, close to 150 families survive as nomadic shepherds. Twice a year Antonio, Maria and their two sons walk close to 200 km during an 8 day long hard trip with their hundreds of sheep from Fatima (Granada) to Las Navas de San Juan (Jaén). During the journey, they live in forests and amongst nature, on the slopes of mountains, enduring hard living conditions and extreme weather along the very ancient Spanish paths known as “Cañadas Reales”.
Spain is the only European country that maintains a network of footpaths that exceed 125,000 km. Until the early nineteenth century, 5 million herds of cattle roamed these corridors of biodiversity. Today transhumance in Spain is threatened by several factors, including the scarcity of public aid and the difficulty for the older generation of shepherds to be replaced. The scarcity of economic resources and the cheapening cost of livestock should be compensated, in some way, for the sacrifice of living on an eternal pilgrimage. The result is that most families are on the verge of abandoning transhumance altogether. Paradoxically, as a livestock activity that follows in ancient tradition and historical trails, this life represents an opportunity to keep more economical and sustainable livestock.