One Saturday my friend planned a day for us at Can Masdeu, a permaculture-focused community and social center situated in Barcelona, off a hiking trail, 5 minutes from the subway. We took the 20-minute subway ride from the center of Barcelona, walked through a small neighborhood filled with middle-class homes, a school, and a football field, and came to what seemed like the end of the earth. After all of this well planned infrastructure we came to dirt and mountains. No signs, no “welcome to the hiking trails” or anything like that. We asked a parent outside the football field how to get to Can Masdeu. He said just walk up the trail. What trail?!?! We made our way through dirt and bushes and came across a shifty little bridge that led to a huge, turn-of-the-century leper colony and hospital.
On our tour we learned about the history of the community. The residents had fought the police, 10 years ago, declaring their rite to stay since the buildings were not otherwise being used. In the end the police backed down as the city decided that rather than pay for an information point on the hiking trails, they could offer this community (free) electricity and water in exchange for getting to stay in the buildings and open up on the weekends for hikers. The services Can Masdeu provides for the community include workshops galore happening simultaneously around the community all weekend, an organic café, a library, eco-film screenings, a free store, a meeting point for activist groups, rehabilitating the land through permaculture terraces, facilitating community gardens that surround the buildings, cooking with solar ovens, building homes out of alternative materials, and giving tours to the public. This place spoke to me! It said, “This is what you’ve been looking for! It’s urban and rural. It’s outdoors. It involves community interaction but not living with hundreds of people. This is a real future possibility.”