In 1980, a group of people living in the mountains of north of Spain lost their goats. Today, there is a completely self-sufficient ecovillage, or ecoaldeas, equipped with everything from an auto shop to a bakery, and chickens to wind turbines. The medieval ghost town that the group of young folk stumbled upon when searching for missing goats barely resembles the infrastructure in place today. In the early years of Lakabe, which the abandoned village was named, there was no road to reach the compound, many of the buildings were rundown and most had collapsed. Nature had begun to take its course on what used to be a quaint mountain village.
Lakabe was abandoned in the 1950s or 60s, when Spain was undergoing a massive modernization period known as the “Spanish Miracle”. At this time Francisco Franco, the infamous, autocratic dictator of Spain, was still in power, yet his economy, as well as his government, was becoming increasingly decrepit. In the early 1960s Franco allowed for some minor reforms to be implemented, by his own appointed bureaucrats, which led to great economic development. The industrialization of Spain led to the ultimate desertion of many small, old villages, such as Lakabe, whose residents could no longer sustain themselves when so many were leaving for cities.
Fast-forward twenty years. A group of young people, with no farming, or even rural living experience for that matter, are rebuilding Lakabe, transporting supplies by horse, surviving the nights by candles and lamps, and rooming with twenty people in cramped quarters. They worked incredibly hard reconstructing the old buildings, creating farms, and trying to figure out the how to survive in a way they never had before. Also they had no money. In fact it’s pretty amazing that they were able to be as successful as they are. But based on the words of Mauge Cañada, who was one of the early settlers of Lakabe and can also be seen giving a tour of the compound in the above video, there was no doubt they would succeed.
She says, translated into English from Spanish, “If you set your mind to it and there’s a group of people who want to do it, physically they can do it, economically they can do it. What right now is more difficult is being willing to suffer hardship or difficulties…” In other words, the reason many people aren’t willing to live ecovillage-like lifestyles is the fact that they don’t think they can, and that they don’t actually know what it’s like to live in shortage, to simplify your life. I can imagine it’s not hard deciding what to eat for dinner when there is only so much food available. That’s real simplicity. But once the Lakabe inhabitants gained traction, erected more houses, and acquired livestock, things became easier.
What Lakabe really turned into, was a very idealized form of utopia. A place where they can create all their own energy, all their own food, and live in harmony with the landscape. They only need to rely on themselves, a reality that feels so out of reach to many of us these days. That is a pretty incredible accomplishment in today’s world, especially the first world. In Spain many other people have followed this template, with success. Lakabe’s ability to repurpose rundown infrastructure and refurbish them for the sake of living in an ecologically sustainable community is a very impressive, and inspiring endeavor. The more people that do follow their footsteps, not just in Spain but also all over the world, the more caring people will realize it’s actually possible, and they will hopefully be able to make a positive difference in their society as well.