In most of the villages and towns that dot the landscape of southern Spain you can paint your house any colour you like – as long as it’s white.
But one tiny community is an exception. Though tucked away in as remote a spot as one can imagine, it has become world-famous and attracted thousands of visitors.
All because its huddled houses, sheltering some 218 inhabitants, are a dazzling bright blue.
Blame that on film-makers and the Smurfs.
For decades Júzcar, located near Ronda in Andalusia, slumbered amid rugged mountains and chestnut forests. Long gone was the tinplate factory, Spain’s first, founded there in 1727.
Then, suddenly, it jumped into global prominence – Sony Pictures decided to premiere their comedy film “The Smurfs” in the village.
(The film is based on a Belgian comic book series and an animated television series screened in the 1980s.)
It was, they claimed, just the sort of quirky place where the cartoon characters the Pitufos would live.
Astonished at this opportunity to leap to Hollywood-style fame, the villagers embraced the idea with enthusiasm.
Sony hired 12 unemployed locals to paint every building in town bright blue, using 4,000 litres of paint.
As a publicity stunt, it was a sensation. Flocks of visitors have been negotiating the narrow mountain road, to Júzcar ever since the premiere in 2011.
They snap pictures next to Smurf puppets in the sky-blue streets, gape at the cemetery and the church (also painted blue by special permission from the bishop), and sample “tapas” (traditional bar snacks) coloured, yes, you guessed it, blue.
There have been weddings in blue, Smurf art festivals and trade fairs promoting all things blue.
In fact, the villagers are so pleased at the attention that their replica Smurf village has attracted that they have declined Sony’s offer to repaint everything the original white.
Mayor David Fernandez (nicknamed Papa Smurf) held a referendum and by 141 to 33 the residents – some dressed as Smurfs – voted to stay blue.
Local businesses have agreed to promote the village (one hotel, one camp site, three bars) as the “Pueblo Pitufo”. The film folk may have gone, but Smurf mania lives on in the sierras of Spain.