I cannot believe it is only our third (well, my fourth) day. We have seen so much, so many impressions and emotions, people and places, that it feels already like a week at least. Each person has a story to tell that deserves so much more than I am capable of writing down in the time at my disposal (and we have been up from sunrise until 3am, writing, editing, planning and social networking).
After our visit to Valencia, packed with insights into corruption, violation of human rights and injustices as much as with creative design, dance, music and politics, we entered a world of total tranquility. Carricola is a tiny village of 85 inhabitants. Pedro – or “Peter” as the local kids nickname this incredibly friendly local – took us on a walk through the lands surrounding the village. The first thing I noticed was the warm and fresh, almost tasty, air, the beautiful landscape, the fresh green of the orange and olive trees and the colours of the houses and the abundance of art work. The walk that should have taken 45 minutes probably took two hours, because we had to stop every few minutes to gaze in awe at another beautiful view, discovered a hidden sculpture, the donkeys in the valley or remains of the Islamic period.
So where should I begin? Maybe with the fact that this little village is so creative and active, that, as our film maker Edgar mentioned, if Barcelona had as many people making and creating things as Carricola, the city would be plastered with art and sustainable designs of living every 5 meters. Promoted by its local council, Carricola has devoted itself to biodiversity and sustainable living. People make a living by harvesting mostly oranges for marmelade, but also olives (some olive trees are around 600 years old!), tomatoes, aubergines, kaki, medlar, onions, potatoes, romanesco and traditional coliflower.
Crop rotation, organic fertilizer from their own pigs and donkeys and the abstinence of pesticides, herbicides and the like secure a nutritious and healthy soil. Indeed, the often old ways the community recovered are as amazing as simple: they keep donkeys who maintain the land (the advantage of donkeys, as Pedro tells us, is that they eat anything) and thereby protect it from fires spreading. They also use their own plants, for example horsetail as natural insect repellent and diarrhoea relief for the donkeys.
About 200 years ago, Carricola had 250 inhabitants, but with the 60/70s boom in textile fabrication, many people moved to the cities and lots of the surrounding agricultural land lied fallow. However, about 15 years ago, Carricola made an effort to turn itself into a village promoting sustainable agriculture, sold land to very affordable prices to city people who wanted to move to the country side, started organic farming and managed to lower the average age from about 55 to 35.
Part of the Carricola philosophy is to use ancient and natural methods of farming. For example, they restored and share the Islamic aqueduct, and added remote controls to the pipes for each field so farmers could adjust water usage to their need reducing consumption. They moreover built a green filter, which pretty much works just by filtering waste water of the households first through larger pebbles and then smaller ones, using water reed and other plants to disintegrate organic material. At some point the water runs through a little fountain to lose gases through oxygenation. Even the castle up in the surrounding mountains, a reminiscent of the Islamic period, had been restored using construction techniques of the ancient times.
In Carricula, the organic cultivation is also deeply connected with cooperation: On their way to the school in the neighbouring village the children take turns in carrying a container to collect leftovers from school dinners, which are then taken back to Carricola to be fed to the village pigs. And to sells their goods at the market, the villagers construct stalls on wheels in a communal effort, so that they would not have to mount and dismount every time. Interestingly, Carricola has no political parties and all decisions are taken together by the community, a tradition that is still surviving from the old times, when all decisions were taken by consejos abiertos.
2010 was a big year for Carricola, the EU year of biodiversity, where they competed with an installation of objects by various artists, including Pedro himself, who made a pidgeon from leftover pipes. The whole project represents Carricola perfectly: it combined community, with lots of people donating their artwork and villagers, their friends and many people cooperating with sustainability, since only material was used that would not destroy the land or that is biodegradable.
The funniest thing about the village is its particular combination of the traditional with the modern. For example, one art project that comprises lots of tree roots in one big ball is called “WinZip”. And not only the irrigation system, also the castle lights are controlled by remote control (!!). Pedro, of course, lovely as he is, turned the castle lights on just for us the night we stayed :). Have you ever had anyone illuminating a castle just for you??