Once upon a time – they say – you could cross all of Spain from the Pyrennees to the Strait of Gibraltar without touching the ground, swinging from tree to tree.
Those times are long gone. Human deforestation has turned much of the peninsula into an arid plain. Many of the old forests were cut to build the fleets that sailed the Indies, just like the ancient forests of Sicily were cut by the Romans to build the ships with which mighty Carthage was subdued.
To find some forests still, you have to take to the hills. And that is exactly what we did. We are in the woods just above the village of Piedralaves, about a hundred kilometers north of Madrid.
The place is a former holiday resort that was ceded to activists of the 15M last September. This weekend they opened up their doors to the public. Now, I don’t know how many people they expected, but they created an invasion. We are hundreds of people from all over Spain.
Yesterday morning we arrived. I had only heard about this project the day before, and so I hooked up with a couple of comrades from Madrid, and with comrade Canario from the March on Brussels.
I had expected something completely different, like a country community based on agriculture and aimed at self sufficiency. I had to abbandon that thought immediately. A holiday resort it was, and a holiday resort it still is. Only now it’s run by hippies.
For me, it’s a bit too much. I have an innate allergy for things that smell of new age philosophy and the likes. I will gladly opt out of the ‘get to know yourself’ workshops. But still, I can appreciate the initiative. For example, another of the workshops focussed on listening to each other. Five minutes, without interrupting, then you switch. People were enlightened afterwards. And I can understand that.
From personal experience I know that many people, probably most people, have grave difficulties with listening to each other. All they care about is talking. Either because they don’t really care what other people think, or because they are frightened of silence.
If there is anything that the 15M movement has reached, mainly through speaking turns in the assemblies, is that it got people to shut up and open their ears. With difficulty sometimes, that’s obvious, but nonetheless, it worked. And the fact that people are getting used to listening can only be positive.
The resort is a good business. But unlike normal holiday resorts it also allows for people to pitch their own tents and cook their own food. And even though it’s not the germ of a countryside revolution that I hoped it would be, it also has a lot of practical workshops, and it can serve as an incubator.
Many people you meet here have experiences in organical agriculture and alternative consumption models. And through them I got to know that modern countryside societies which are largely self sufficient already exist in various places in Spain.
It’s this practical side of the revolution that I’m most interested in, more than in ‘getting to know myself’. But maybe, just maybe, that’s only because I’m terribly frightened to discover what kind of horrible person I really am…