Here’s a remarkable video from *faircompanies, a Spanish website focused on voluntary simplicity and sustainable living.
It’s the story that might be called Occupy Lakabe, the saga of the occupation of an abandoned village in the hills of Northern Spain that began three decades ago and has blossomed into a exemplary community, showing that a different way of living is not only possible but desirable.
The program notes from *faircompanies:
Medieval Spanish ghost town now self-sufficient ecovillage
It’s a utopian fantasy- discover a ghost town and rebuild it in line with your ideals-, but in Spain where there are nearly 3000 abandoned villages (most dating back to the Middle Ages), some big dreamers have spent the past 3 decades doing just that.
There are now a few dozen “ecoaldeas” – ecovillages – in Spain, most buil[t] from the ashes of former Medieval towns. One of the first towns to be rediscovered was a tiny hamlet in the mountains of northern Navarra.
It was rediscovered in 1980 by a group of people living nearby who had lost their goats and “when they found their goats, they found Lakabe”, explains Mauge Cañada, one of the early pioneers in the repopulation of the town.
The new inhabitants were all urbanites with no knowledge of country life so no one expected them to stay long. At first, the homes weren’t habitable so they lived 14 in a large room. Slowly they began to rebuild the homes and the gardens.
When they first began to rebuild, there was no road up to the town so horses were used to carry construction materials up the mountain. There was no electricity either so they lived with candles and oil lamps.
After a few years, they erected a windmill by hand, carrying the iron structure up the hill themselves. “Even though it seems tough and in some ways it was, but you realize you’re not as limited as you think,” says Mauge. “There are a lot of things people think they can’t do without a lot of money and there’s never been money here.”
In the early years, they generated income by selling some of their harvest and working odd jobs like using their newfound construction experience to rebuild roofs outside town. Later they rebuilt the village bakery and sold bread to the outside world.
Their organic sourdough breads now sell so well that today they can get by without looking for work outside town, but it helps that they keep their costs at a minimum as a way of life. “There’s an austerity that’s part of the desire of people who come here,” explains Mauge. “There’s not a desire for consumption to consume. We try to live with what there is.”
Today, the town generates all its own energy with the windmill, solar panels and a water turbine. It also has a wait list of people who’d like to move in, but Mauge says the answer is not for people to join what they have created, but to try to emulate them somewhere else.
“If you set your mind to it and there’s a group of people who want to do it, physically they can do it, economically they can do it. What right now is more difficult is being willing to suffer hardship or difficulties or… these days people have a lot of trouble living in situations of shortage or what is seen as shortage but it isn’t.”
From our own experience going back a few decades, we can say that we lived life at its fullest when we had the least cash and the most friends, all working toward common goals.
Austerity’s getting a bad rap these days, because the term has been coopted by economists to signify the sacrifice of the common good for the sake of private profits.
For Buckminster Fuller the desideratum was synergistic emphemeralization, which he defined as the art of doing more with less. With human communities, the process occurs when we rely more on community and less on commodity, finding the infinite variety of richness that comes from interaction with others in pursuit of common, mutually enriching goals.
So our hat’s off to the people of Lakabe for giving us a glimpse of what’s possible now.