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Introducing Matadepera, Spain's richest town
Introducing Matadepera, Spain's richest town
By thinkSPAIN Team Sun, Oct 11, 2020
TREE-LINED, lush, green and on the edge of the Sant Llorenç del Munt i Serra de l'Obac nature reserve, Matadepera is home to just 10,000 people, 30 kilometres from Barcelona, about 10 kilometres from Sabadell and six from Terrassa – and has just knocked a Madrid celebrity belt off the number one spot as the richest town in Spain.
Pozuelo de Alarcón had held onto its crown for at least the past five years, with its average gross annual income per resident having risen from €70,298 in 2016 to €79,506 by the end of 2018.
Residential areas in the élite commuter town of around 90,000 inhabitants are largely made up of gated urbanisations, the most famous being La Finca, where former Madrid CF and FC Oporto goalkeeper Iker Casillas and his reporter and fashion designer wife Sara Carbonero own a 2,000-square-metre villa, currently let to tenants as they have just returned to the capital region after a five-year stint living in Portugal.
They are far from being the most blue-chip residents in Pozuelo de Alarcón, however – they're among equals in terms of fame and fortune. Actors, sports personalities, politicians and property tycoons are some of the typical fabric of the local community, although given that their earnings probably run into hundreds of thousands a head, it does seem that it must be home to a hefty number of much more average-to-low-income earners if the mean figure is only just short of €80,000 each.
Also in the Greater Madrid region, Alcobendas comes immediately after Pozuelo, with pre-tax per-capita income of €68,842, leapfrogging Boadilla del Monte, with the average resident earning a before-tax annual income of €61,910, despite having been ahead of Alcobendas until this year.
Number-seven wealthiest town in Spain is also in Madrid – Majadahonda, where a typical inhabitant nets €54,506 a year, gross – and numbers five and six are in Catalunya, both in the province of Barcelona: Sant Just Desvern, with a mean average gross pay per resident of €58,875, and Sant Cugat del Vallés (€57,565).
Avinyonet del Penedès was ahead of Sant Just and Sant Cugat last year, with a typical individual inhabitant getting €57,843 a year before tax, but for reasons that have not been explained, this has now plunged to less than half – a gross annual €28,347 per head.
So Matadepera, with a yearly pre-tax income per capita of €218,788, leaves them all standing.
And the richest town in Spain joins these three in being within the same province as the second-largest city in the country – but its profile seems very different.
Quaint, pretty and low-key: What's in Matadepera
As well as being considerably smaller than those that typically hog the top 10 or so, this big village in the department of Vallès Occidental is almost entirely residential, rather than commercial or industrial: It is split into neighbourhoods and urbanisations, such as Les Pedritxes, Cavall Bernat, Can Robert, Rourets and Pla de Sant Llorenç.
Matadepera does have what would be considered 'essential services', such as a GP clinic, nursery schools, primary and high schools, a library, a music school, a municipal police force and – fruit of its being in the depths of hundreds of acres of dense woodland – a volunteer fire brigade and forestry brigade.
Here, though, you won't find shops, aside from the bare necessities like supermarkets, nor shopping centres, industrial estates, nightclubs, or even many bars or restaurants to speak of.
It's nestled at the foot of the La Mola mountain, which stands 1,104 metres above sea level and serves as a base for the attractive Sant Llorenç del Munt monastery (second picture), built from local stone in the 10th century but largely reconstructed about 120 years ago (Napoleon's troops destroyed the original in 1809), and also for the Can Pobla stately home, commissioned in the early 20th century by the then owner of the mountain, Antoni de Quadras.
Over half the village is nature reserve, and its other attractions include the mid-14th-century Santa Agnès hermitage chapel on the slope of the El Drac cave (fourth picture, by Ramon2222 on Wikimedia Commons); the chapel and estate known as La Barata, restored in 1940 after being wrecked during the Civil War; the Torre de l'Àngel, or 'Angel's Tower', which isn't a tower at all but is actually a modernist-style house designed by local architect Lluís Muncunill in 1907; the old Romanesque-style Sant Joan de la Mata Xica church, rebuilt in the 17th century; the 'new' Sant Joan Baptista church, built between 1911 and 1917, and the Can Roure estate, which is said to date back to the 13th century and serves as the grounds for the Sant Joan de la Mata Xica church.
This beautiful ivy-covered building in acres of verdant gardens was recently the venue for an open-air concert to mark the 25th anniversary of the 'Musical Autumns' (Les Tardors Musicals) festival, and dedicated to a much-loved local resident, Sílvia López, who 'left us in November 2019', according to the town hall.
The photo of the church (third picture) and a close-up of the concert (fifth picture) are both from its Instagram page, ajmatadepera, and the first picture, of its main annual fiestas, from the town hall website.
How Matadepera became Spain's richest town
Fewer than half the inhabitants in this quaint little town, or 4,812 in total, filed a tax declaration in 2018, the year for which gross income was calculated to work out which was Spain's wealthiest municipality – according to its local government, of whom 12 out of 13 councillors are on pro-Catalunya independence parties, this was because the others were either exempt from doing so due to having worked for the same firm all year with their earnings below the required figure to declare them in this situation, or because what they actually got did not reach the minimum taxable threshold.
How can this be, then, when its average per-head annual earnings are about three times those of last year's richest town in Spain, and getting on for four times the figure of the five immediately preceding it?
In fact, when Matadepera followed the now-standard procedure in Spain of councillors declaring their assets publicly on their town hall website's 'transparency register', mayor Nil López Crespo was only obliged to mention his car – an 11-year-old Suzuki Switch.
And he was swift to counter Matadepera's new-found fame off the back of its alleged fortune.
“These headlines don't reflect the reality of the village – they're statistical data, that's true, but many people here are struggling financially and need welfare to survive,” he argues.
It turns out this wooded hideout at the foot of a mountain is a perfect spot for high-profile figures to set up home without being found by the paparazzi or crazed fans.
And it only took a small handful of those, with anything-but-small earnings, to skew the average sharply to the detriment of Pozuelo de Alarcón.
The rich and famous in Matadepera
Ex-Barça player Xavi Hernández – currently manager for the Qatar-based club Al-Sadd – is among those whose income means the Matadepera average is a net-of-tax €166,006 a year (€10,818 per month once all dues have been paid, including Social Security contributions). And he gets vastly more than the local average, too: Ever since he moved to Doha, Xavi has been on a salary of €10 million per season.
Founder and former owner of the casinos, bingo and video-game empire Cirsa, Manuel Lao, had been trading across Spain, Italy and Latin America and is the proprietor of a number of estate agencies and restaurants nationwide, including a 1,500-square-metre villa in Matadepera, but in April 2018, the Almería-born tycoon sold his fruit-machine business to Blackstone for an unconfirmed sum said to be between €2-2.5 billion. This means he has a personal net wealth of in region of €1.94bn.
Two famous faces on Catalunya's regional television channel, TV3 – Pere Arquillué and Pere Mas – both live in Matadepera, according to Spanish media sources. Arquillué has starred in a string of TV series including Jet Lag, Secrets de Família, Estació d'Enllaç and La Riera, whilst Mas is an on-screen reporter and newscaster and presents the show Preguntes Freqüents ('Frequently-Asked Questions').
Some top-ranking regional politicians are also said to live in Matadepera. They include Vicenç Villatoro, former member of the pro-independence party Convergence and Union (CiU) and one of the right-hand men for Jordi Pujol during his final years as Catalunya president; he's also a writer and journalist with a fistful of major catalán literature awards under his belt.
Divide the sizeable earnings of these and other possible celebrities we don't know about living in Matadepera by 4,812, and even adding on those of the rest of the residents obliged under Spanish tax laws to declare their income, and it wouldn't be hard to get to a figure of €218,788 before tax, or €166,006 net.
Even without Manuel Lao's multi-billion business sale, Matadepera was still Spain's second-richest town in 2018 – although back then, its average gross annual income per head was €54,113, or a quarter of the figure taken for this year's statistics.
Of course, where these famous folk live in Matadepera is likely to be a well-kept secret, because that seems to be the whole point – as well as being far enough off the grid to escape the risk of being burgled once unsavoury types work out how much they're worth and where they are.
The tail end, and the average
As for the opposite end of the earnings scale, the Badajoz-province town of Zahínos keeps its dubious seat on the throne for the lowest per-capita annual income, hanging onto it from 2018: The figures only relate to cities, towns and villages of 1,000 inhabitants or more, so there could be a few that are even poorer, but residents in this land-locked Extremadura municipality near the foot of the alphabet as well as the pay scale get paid just €12,459 a year – a poor €957.60 a month after all deductions if they're employees, and which drops to just €741.15 a month if they're self-employed.
Admittedly, that's a pay rise from their €11,480 from last year, which works out at €889.80 a month after tax for an employee or €673.35 for a self-employed person, but it's still below the minimum wage for a full-time, 40-hour-a-week job, and below the national average retirement pension.
El Palmar de Troya (Sevilla province) fares little better, with a gross income per person of €12,560 (€962.50 a month net for employees or €746.09 for the self-employed); and the remaining towns that make up the bottom five are, like Zahínos, in Extremadura: Puebla de Obando (Badajoz province), at €12,575 a year (€963.20 for employees, or €746.75 for the self-employed); Higuera de Vargas (Badajoz province) at €12,661 a year (€967.40 a month for an employee or €750.95 for a self-employed worker); and Tornavacas (Cáceres province), at an annual €12,965 (€981.50 for employees or €765.05 for the self-employed).
The mean average gross annual income per capita in Spain as a whole is €27,632, which would translate to a net monthly €1,800.50 for employed workers on the 'standard' wage, or €1,663.41 if they were self-employed.
Of course, the averages were taken as the mean figure based upon everybody's tax declarations for the year, meaning the figures are likely to be sharply skewed upwards: Business tycoons, celebrities, politicians and wealthy investors will force the average up, whilst the bottom rungs may not be counted at all if their earners are below the tax threshold and do not need to make a declaration.
In practice, and according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), the modal average – or most commonly-earned gross annual salary per head in Spain is €18,468.90, being €1,275.30 a month after all deductions for an employee, or €1,089.72 for a self-employed person.
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