It’s not uncommon for babies to enter this world with an adoring entourage of family and friends already in place. But your average newborn is nowhere near as popular as baby Pablo, whose fan club is 84 strong—and growing. Pablo has the distinction of being the first baby born in Ostano, Italy in nearly three decades.
The population of the remote Italian town—currently at 85, including baby Pablo—has been creeping toward zero for decades. A century ago, Ostano was thriving, with a flourishing economy and more than 1000 residents. However, the town hasn't seen that population high point in years.
It’s hard to find work in towns like Ostano, where commerce consists of a mountain lodge, a single bar, two restaurants, and one shop. As a result, new generations are packing up and leaving for the cities, or at least towns with more financial opportunity. That flight of the young people has left remaining residents scrambling to keep their towns alive.
Ostano isn't the only Italian town facing this problem. Hoping to slow death rates, one town instituted mandatory doctor visits. Another area, Gangi, decided to sell about 20 homes for less than $2 to buyers who agree to stay and renovate the buildings.
“The problem is that there is really an absence of politics to help small mountain communities—we are a long way from Rome,” Ostano mayor Giacomo Lombardo told The Local.
By the 1970s and '80s, there was a real chance Ostano could die out completely. At its lowest point, Ostano’s population totaled five full-time residents. Only 17 babies were born there between 1976 and 1987, and none have arrived since—until Pablo. And even that was a close call.
Pablo’s parents Silvia Rovere and Josè Berdugo Vallelago were ready to leave. They’d even bought plane tickets. But Ostano’s town council had begun fighting to keep its people. The council offered Rovere and Vallelago jobs at the lodge. They decided to stay.
"It's great to finally have someone born here, and it shows that our efforts to reverse population decline are slowly working," Lombardo said in The Local.
The town is throwing a party for baby Pablo and his family, who say they’re glad they stuck around. "We never regretted our decision," Vallelago told the Italian newspaper La Stampa. "This place immediately felt like home."
[h/t The Washington Post]