The occupation was a demonstration of the class conflicts that simmer amid complaints about austerity and joblessness in Spain. Such protests have gathered pace in this farm region in Spain’s south in recent weeks, adding a volatile dimension to the country’s economic downturn. They have also pointed to a deeper anger about the shape of Spain’s economy and democracy.

The resentment here over land that has been left uncultivated at a time of deepening recession and record joblessness reaches beyond local politicians and landowners to European Union bureaucrats. Agricultural subsidies are criticized by many here as favoring landed interests, paying them not to grow crops when nearly a third of the work force in Andalusia is unemployed.

Mr. Cañamero said that European subsidies reinforced landed interests because the payments’ value was based on the size of the landholding rather than on its productivity. “There is zero incentive for these already wealthy owners to grow anything,” he said.

Three years into the crisis, the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has faced protests by miners, students, teachers, legions of jobless workers and any range of others unhappy with his austerity policies. But the protests here in rural Spain, which have tipped increasingly toward lawlessness and civil disobedience, contain the echoes of conflicts that have a special place in Spain’s history. As Spain’s biggest region and farming heartland, Andalusia was the site of many of the confrontations over land ownership leading up to the Spanish Civil War, when a landed elite resisted an agrarian reform meant to give farm hands better work conditions and job security.

“We’re not anarchists looking for conflict, but our claims are similar to those of the 1930s,” Mr. Cañamero said, referring to the war years, “because the land is, unfortunately, under the control now of even fewer people than at that time.”

José Luis Solana, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Jaén, said that even if some of the claims made by the farm unions were questionable or exaggerated, “an agrarian reform and proper land distribution in Andalusia is one of the missing elements of our transition to democracy” — both in terms of social justice and improved economic efficiency.

Farming use, as measured by the surface area of cultivated land on each farm, rose 18.5 percent in Spain between 1999 and 2009, according to data released last year by Spain’s national statistics institute. In Andalusia, however, the rise was 6.9 percent, the lowest among Spain’s 17 regions.

The occupation of Palacio de Moratalla from Tuesday morning to early Wednesday was part of a march that Mr. Cañamero has led since Aug. 16, walking about 15 miles a day across the parched countryside with around 500 demonstrators. In recent months, the protests by unemployed farmworkers have mostly singled out unused state land, either in the hands of Andalusia’s regional government or Spain’s Defense Ministry, which previously required it for military purposes. Increasingly, the demonstrations are spreading to vacant private estates as well. "Unqoute.