“We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature.” (LS, 44)

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One Saturday when we were sharing in a circle what we had learned that day in the workshop about community urban gardens, I requested that everyone transmit good vibes to me, so as to be able to express what we dream and do every day to take care of our common home. At that moment I noticed a Uruguayan friend of mine, who is part of our process, walking barefoot in direct connection with the earth.  With that one small act, I could see that one of our goals, which is to create conditions for the residents of Villa 4 Alamos to have direct contact with nature, was being fulfilled.

The process to transform Villa 4 Álamos de Maipú (Santiago) into the first Eco-Village in Chile began in the year 2006. Community leaders contacted María Inés Diaz – ecology and landscaping student-, who was looking for a community to develop her thesis on ecovillages, and the community leaders were in need of technical support; so the needs of each joined together and lit a small flame that has grown over time.

These leaders organized themselves in November 2003 when a group of workers, mandated by the Mayor of Maipú, arrived at the Villa 4 Alamos to chop down 120 trees in the local park.  The neighbors objected and generated great solidarity both within and outside the commune. For two months, many actions, statements, meetings were held to conserve the green area, which was created and maintained by neighbors for over 30 years. The municipality had decreed without any consultation that in that location a municipal primary school would be built 20 meters from another municipal primary school in a sector that was a preference of the elderly. Alternatives were given, but the authorities turned a deaf ear to them and on January 13, 2004 they sent more workers, together with the police and managed to chop down 119 of the 120 trees. Only one managed to be saved because a group of elderly residentstied themselves to it.

From the depths of pain, hope was born:  from anger, the organisation was born.

An Eco-village is a place in the city, where people freely organize themselves to improve the quality of life and protect the environment, creating networks to change the system that dominates the world.  It is a comprehensive project, covering among other areas: nutrition, with urban community gardens and a park with fruit trees; health, with medicinal herb gardens and improving the environment; education, sport and culture, a botanical garden, workshops and permanent artistic installations.  All this has resulted in many peoplevisiting the area, especially grassroots communities, to seek inspiration, and the residents of the Villa have improved their self-esteem, caring and improving what already exists, occupying public spaces.  In addition, several of these spaces are illuminated by solar lights which provides better public safety.

As it says in the encyclical, the contribution made by environmentalists, neighbors and authorities has been important, but reviewing the current situation, has not been enough.From a popular community of Maipu, we make ourselves available to work together to create sustainable projects, where we can walk in contact with nature, eating the fruits, which we produce together and thus contribute with a grain of sand, reminding ourselves that each shore started with a single grain.

Collaboration: Luis Márquez Valdivia, Eco-Village Social Outreach Centre

Facebook :EcobarriosMaipú
Email: ecobarrios@yahoo.cl

PS:  We would like to announce that between the 15thand 17thof December 2015, we will be presenting a workshop entitled “ fromEco-villages to communities in transition” with friends from Norway and Brazil.  All are welcome.

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