It is exhilarating for me to visit other communities: to see how they function, to meet the people, to learn about their processes, to understand their reasons. While in Europe in April I got to spend time in 3 communities, all with their own similarities and differences.
We took a train for 2 hours outside of Barcelona. We walked about a kilometer down a dirt path, following simple, hand-made signs strapped to light posts. We arrived at the factory and warehouse. In the early 1900s this had been built in a modern-style, surrounded by a dark and dirty apartment building with tiny apartments that let in no light. The purpose was to keep the workplace sparkly clean while the village was unkempt in order to keep the workers desiring work and their workplace over home and home life. A nasty trick.
Since then the abandoned “village” has been collectively-purchased and turned into CALAFOU, an alternative community of self-described life-hackers. They live, work, or do both at CALAFOU. Walking through the somewhat decrepit buildings there was an overwhelming feeling of abandonment: fires, halves of buildings left perching in clearly not-up-to-code conditions, faded walls of punk-style graffiti, and long stretches of emptiness between inhabited rooms.
There are a handful of people who live there and more who come to work collaboratively on hack-style projects. There’s a tech room filled to the brim with organized computer parts. There’s an electronics lab with circuit boards and batteries and strange-looking objects meant to fill a functional need or a costume party need.
The old wood/metal workshop is still in working condition and available for use. When the community needs money they build some furniture to sell. They get their food from local markets and specialize in making jams (to eat and sell) from the almost-rotten produce. They turned a bathroom into a chemistry lab and make soap. They have a DIY expectation.
We got a tour from Karlos who explained that inhabitants pay 10 Euro per week for food, electricity, and water. They share and maintain compost toilets, a van, a garden, a kitchen, and a water source that they are decontaminating from the factory’s working years. They are renovating the apartments, knocking through walls to make windows for natural light, installing compost toilets and surround sound. They have weekly assemblies where problems are discussed, plans formed, and decisions made. They are, in my opinion, a decentralized community of creators, makers and doers in a raw space.
We spent a few hours there getting to know the people, learning about visitors who camp out on the lawn or stay in trailers in the parking lot. A few community members offered to make us lunch and were happy to oblige our vegan-ness with rice, lentils and salad. We all went out on the lawn, took off our shoes, gobbled up lunch, and chatted under the sun in a variety of languages about community life.