C.A.S.A. Ecovillage Network Born in Latin America!
By Diana Leafe Christian
Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA)Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA), one of the three GEN regions, on January 5-7. This was just before the eight-day Llamado de la Montaña (Call of the Mountain) — the sixth annual ecovillage celebration and Vision Council hosted by the Colombian Ecovillage Network at Atlantida Ecovillage, and this year extended to people from all over South America. (See article, this issue.)
I was there as a liaison to ENA from the US, representing Eastern and Western US ENA regions. Although not able to attend, Linda Joseph from Colorado, US, ENA core group member and central office administrator, was instrumental in organizing the meeting, along with Gio, Lucia, Pato, and other ENA core group members.
This two-and-a-half-day ENA meeting was apparently the first one ever held in Spanish and the first in which there were more Spanish-speaking than English-speaking representatives. This turned out to be quite significant.
Reports from the ENA Regions
Each person gave an update on the ecovillage movement in their country or region. We heard reports from México, Costa Rica, Colombia, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile, and Brazil. We learned that national ecovillage networks are particularly strong in Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil.
We also had reports from two different couples who were traveling researchers in Latin America making videos of the places they visited, including ComunTierra — Ryan Luckey from the US & Leticia Rigatti from Brazil, and CodeEarth — Renny Freitas from Brazil and Kali Vaux from Australia.
A Latin American Ecovillage Network — It's Time!
Our discussion revealed a Catch-22. Most of more active people who have been administering the ENA organization all these years have been in the North: (Linda Joseph in Colorado, and Gio Ciarlo, half-time at Huehuecoyotl Ecovillage in Mexico and half-time in Connecticut). Consequently, many Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking ecovillage activists had the perception that ENA was a “US-based, English-speaking” organization that didn’t include them.
Paradoxically, the people in the North have been devotedly caring for ENA — as unpaid volunteers — keeping the website going, seeking/hoping/asking for articles and news for the website in Spanish and English, and . . . not getting much response. There have been only intermittent funds from GEN to pay a part-time person to answer emails to the ENA website, and only some ENA regional representatives had emails forwarded to them from their regions, so many emails to the ENA website went unanswered. Also, the ENA website was badly hacked at one point and no emails went through while it was being restored. So when Latin Americans emailed ENA, or when I did, we sometimes didn't get a response. Because all of the news about ENA activities for the former ENA column in Communities magazine came from ENA meetings and events in Latin America, and the fact that when I emailed ENA I got no answer, I had presumed the opposite all those years — that ENA was an organization by and for Latin Americans and the South!
C.A.S.A. Is Born!
Unlike ENA, CASA will not be focused solely on ecovillage projects, but will include other kinds of intentional communities, urban ecobarrio projects, transition towns, traditional sustainable villages, eco-caravans, sustainability educational centers, and NGOs and other organizations that further the values of sustainable projects across Latin American borders.
Language, Cultiure, and C.A.S.A.
The Latin American ENA folks didn’t want to dishonor the North Americans who have been holding the fort for so long. They want to keep the hands of friendship between South and North. They are like a new energy leaping up and saying, “We emerge!” There is so much pride and delight in Latin Culture — as I saw so vividly before me every day — and they want to do their international, tri-continental ecovillage and friendship network inside their own culture. Of course!
CASA representatives will be from each country, not several-country-regions. On the last morning of the Llamado, Jorge Calero, one of the Atlantida co-founders who was very involved in the meetings, told me CASA had nominated me to be one of the liaisons from the North to CASA. Did I accept?, he asked me. “Sí! Claro!” I said. “Es un grande honor!” (The other liaison from the North is Penelope Baquero from Sundog Ecovillage.)
C.A.S.A. Meetings at the Llamado
Many participants of the ENA meeting and other Latin American ecovillages attended the subsequent meetings of the Ecovillage Vision Council, one of the ten Councils in the eight-day Llamado gathering that followed the ENA meeting. (See article, this issue.) In these meetings participants continued discussing how CASA would evolve. Gio Ciarlo later wrote, “CASA will work alongside ENA, amplifying relations with parallel movements, creating partnerships and helping to empower all of the eco-community projects to succeed and gain recognition as real-life solutions for our current global transition.” The organizational process is now is in the hands of working groups who are organizing activities for the Peace Village to take place during the RIO+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.
Diana Leafe Christian is author of the books Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities and Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community. She is editor and publisher of this newsletter, a columnist for the GEN website, and liaison from the US to ENA and CASA. She lives at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina, US.
Other activists who participated in the ENA/CASA meeting included Verónica Sacta Campos, originally from Equador and keeper of Andean traditions, and former Caravana member who now lives at Huehuecóyotl; Noelle Romero and Ivan Sawyer from the Ecobarrios project in México City; Holger Hieronomi, permaculture teacher and organic farmer from México; Gustavo Rojas and Rosita Elena Blanca from Costa Rica; Bruno de Roissart, who lives with indigenous Andean people in the Shasawasi community in Bolivia; Natalia Alonso from Spain; Penelope Baquero and Jason Gutzmer, former Caravana members who live at Sundog Ecovillage in the US; and two more members of the Colombian ecovillage network, R.E.N.A.C.E.: Beatriz Arjona, of the Change the World nonprofit and formerly from Aldea Feliz, an ecovillage near Bogotá; and Carlos Rojas also from Aldea Feliz.