I found it. Found what I was looking for.
30 minutes of sleep since getting home from La Experimental and I am back up to head out to another space. We get on the train for about an hour, get off and walk thirty minutes through the countryside, sheep grazing freely with bells tinkling, surrounded by mountains, benches set out in small fields of wheat – clearly this town cares about its people.
We come into the space, put our things down and are asked to choose which work we would like to do. Some people are making a fence with the naturally existing bamboo stalks, a group of strong men are filling potholes and creating drainage paths for water from the road, a large group of people are in the fields plowing, planting and preparing for crops, a group is painting the grey cinder block house, another group is preparing a meal and a final group is plastering the inside of the house. I decide I want to work with the soil so head out to the crops. I am given a hoe and begin clearing the field of weeds. The woman I am assisting is gorgeous, tiny and about 7 months pregnant. She is soft and kind. There are people in charge of each space but everyone feels equal and respected. I learn to use the natural weight of the tool and remind my muscles of their intelligence.
After the field is cleared I am given a pitchfork and begin loading manure into a wheel barrow to lay out in lines over the field. Then irrigation hoses are passed over the lines of maure and covered by burlap sacks. The sun is high but there is a cool breeze. It feels nice to be working. After a few hours a soft bell rings and we go on break. They give us water, apple and pear slices. After the break we are given the option to do a different task. I decide I want to paint. The painting group is 7 girls. Again, one person is in charge but operates more as a resource. She works alongside us and is there if we have any questions or need help. For the first time in my life having a manager helps to streamline the process and allows the team to work together instead of micromanaging and adding an extra hurdle.
The girls speak very little English but feel so nice to work with. They are all friends of different people who live in the space. Of the some 80 people there to help with the space, only 6 live on the property, the others live nearby or just believe so much in the project that they travel far and wide to help out.
The space was started by a political theory study group. They saw that our society is creating multidimensional crisis and studied political history to try and understand how to make a lasting change for a better world. Through their studies of prior revolutions and social changes they recognize that it is impossible to make a true change within the system. Wanting to take the theoretical and turn it tangible, they set up a squat 9 years ago that embraced communal ethics and was their societal blue print. After a few years they were kicked out of that squat. As a community they pooled their resources and searched for the perfect space where they could sustainably set up the community. They looked at hundreds of properties and chose this plot of land. Their reasons for deciding on this space was because 1) it is in a valley so that even with increasing global temperatures and desertification of land, they will always have natural supply of water, 2) it is in a city that historically has been politically active and resonant with liberal ideologies, and 3) it is a commutable distance from a metropolis – Barcelona – where most of the founding members are from.
They host days like today where people can come work on the space, check out the space, attend lectures and learn about what they are doing.
After painting, a bell rings and we disassemble the scaffolding and clean the brushes. Lunch is vegan paella, salad and bread with water or a 1 euro beer made on premises in their brewery.
I dont know if it was because my blood was circulating due to the physical work, or the sense of community sitting with people who all worked really hard together and believe in creating a better world, or sitting in the sunshine looking out into a valley and mountains, or because i was with a group of girls comfortable in themselves and their power, or because I was hungover and a bit high from lack of sleep, but I have never felt more at peace, more solidly my own. This place is raw but pure. It feels so nice to be here. There is a real love being put into the people, crops and the space. The detailing is through love and a pure dedication to the theoretical and tangible solving of world problems. There is nothing more I could want than to wake up, work hard to create a tangible better world with people who genuinely care and respect each other and believe in working together to solve multidimensional issues. It was euphoric. It is elysium.
Lunch lasts 2 hours, we are invited to have seconds and given apple tart for desert. People take their time and are immersed in comfortable conversation. The pace is intentional, free. I get up, clean my plate and begin to explore. I find a beautiful chicken coop with plenty of space to run and happy singing chickens. For real. They were singing not clucking. There is a space a bit up the property with a water tank and solar panels.
After lunch they invite us to slowly make our way to sit in a circle in the field. A woman begins to describe the space and its origins. My friend translates behind me to english. The softness of his voice on my neck, the salvation of hearing my own desire to build a better world and conclusions of how to go about doing it being spoken back to me by a stranger in a sunshine field, in a different continent and tounge, and the fact that I’ve had only 30 minutes of sleep in the past 72 hours puts me in a trance.
They really truly want to create a sustainable better world. And are doing it by making a self sustainable space. The entire space is built with the focus of creating an alternative ethical society based in love. In every step they take they consider the wider implications of autonomy, self sufficiency, equality, etc. etc. etc. Decisions are made by assembly which can be called at anytime and all persons are equal. All persons are seen as the self. Economically, all members share a bank account and people take what they need not what they earn. Interactions are not focused on what you can gain but what you can give.
After the discussion they host a lecture on the state of global climate and the environment. Several members are climate scientists and IT professionals. I pass out and wake up to a rap battle.
This space is by far the closest to what I am looking for that I have heretofore explored – heavy on theoretical turned tangible, all members are well versed in political and social theory. 3 years (tangible, 9 theoretical) in and they are already self sustainable replete with their own solar energy, water supply, food, brewery, livestock, kelm for ceramics (the valley they live in has a lot of naturally occurring clay), welding and woodworking workshop, IT department, and more drums than I could count. They are also immersed in the surrounding city – a major provider of produce, the primary location for the city’s children’s summer camp, host for rap battles and musicians, and active in local politics. As a woman I have never felt more safe, powerful, and equal. Another world is possible, already exists. I’m going to have a hard time leaving this space but so so infinitely glad it exists and look forward to finding more like it.
What we learned:
- Wow wow wow
- It exists.
- Everything I dreamed of
- Theory to tangible
- We need to find like minded individuals and work with them not separate into our own space, if we make our own space then it is more likely that we will fail and waste energy. Coming together with those who you resonate with is the most important first step.
- They bought the property for only 10,000 e. This is possible financially.
- Need to think about how environmental change will affect the sustainability of the space.
- Economically sharing a bank account is a fundamental way to shift consciousness about the inherent value of life. It is also a bit scary tbh – if the space was in the US and one person got sick – The entire community would go down.
- Making a self sustainable space takes time, many steps, and a blue print or squat can be an important step. Most important is to begin making things tangible.
- What love looks like in practice, in a community
- Work feels good, it feels good to be a part of something, building a better world.
- Gender equality feels really good.
- I felt truly equal for the first time in my life!!!!
- It is important to build a space in a region that would resonate with you. They specifically chose this town because it had a history of radical political action. Setting matters – potentially why your space in upstate New York failed.
- Self sustainability is crucial.
- Important to stay up to date on global political issues and continuing education for the whole community.
- Management and people in charge does not mean there is a hierarchy
- It is a lot of work. Will take generations
- Fuck it feels good.