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15 May 2007
Barcelona
See slide show:

Last week while I was in Barcleona, I had the good fortune of meeting up with a friend who offered to host me for a day. I asked if there were any urban garden projects going on, and the next day we were on the subway leading to the outskirts of town, walking up a dirt road into the valley of San Genis to Can Masdeu.

A winding dirt road lead us to a cluster of hand painted signposts and bulletin boards framing a view of arcadia"

“WELCOME TO THE COMMUNITY”
You have arrived in a
rural/urban social center.
It is not a hostel.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
If you would like to visit the
house and/or get involved in
the project please talk to someone
from the community.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Here we collectively organize
diverse acitivities. We invite you
to come especially on Sundays to the
interactive workshops of Collserola.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
If you use any materials
return them to where you found them
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Here there are no door keepers,
Security, cameras, or cleaning service.
This project depends on
EVERYONE TO MOVE AHEAD!

Can Masdeu is a squatted social centre in one of the last non-urbanized valleys, San Genis, part of the Collserola National Park in Barcelona. It was squatted by an international group of activists in December 2001, and the terraces surrounding the masia (country mansion) are cultivated by neighbors who live in the neighborhood below, Nou Barris. It sits on 49.4 acres of land. Parts of the masia were built in the 1600s, and in the early 20th century and the house was a nunnery and leper hospital. Surrounding the mansion are terraced gardens that provide food for the entire community. Sections of the land are community gardens dedicated to the neighbors. These are broken up into small plots separated by bamboo fencing.

Can Masdeu gained international attention in April 2002, when over 100 national police came to evict 11 squatters defending the house in positions of passive resistance. Unable to remove the squatters from lockdowns, tripods, on ropes and planks extended out of windows, and even a hanging bathtub, the police waited for the squatters to get thirsty and hungry and come down. After three days of media attention, hundreds of protesting onlookers chanting slogans and stopping traffic on the local highway, and even a solidarity group organizing a sit-in in the Spanish Embassy in Holland, the judge ordered the police to leave and the case reopened. Later rulings favored the owner, the Hospital of San Pau, but no eviction notice has been given.

The project includes a bakery, pizza oven, bike kitchen, cafe, and a social center, the PIC, or Punt d'Interracció de Collserola, which opens Sundays to the public and offers a variety of activities and workshops, often related to environmental issues, permaculture and organic farming, communal living, and community autonomy.

The PIC and the rurbar, a cafe serving local and organic meals and drinks, is open most Sundays from noon until evening. Activities are listed on the website and in the newsletter Infousurpa.

As of 2007, more than 28 people live in and share the house. Community participation includes bi-weekly meetings, organic gardening, housework, and two collective meals per day, and each member contributes roughly 25 euros/month to food costs. The working languages of the house are Catalan and Spanish, but as it is an international group, English, Italian, French, Basque, and Esperanto are also spoken.

Upon entering the main courtyard, we were greeted by a table of people enjoying a community lunch including fresh baked bread and several dishes of food from their gardens. We happened to arrive on a Friday which is the baking day.

After wandering around the grounds and leafing through their extensive zine and radical left library for over 2 hours, it became very clear that Can Masdeu was organizing beyond the local community and that it had become an important link in an international network of social organizations and movement carrying genuine social ecological and political value;
many of its residents have participated in broader social struggles, including the demonstration for a "New Culture of Water" against the Damming of the Ebre River, and the Campaign Against the Europe of Capital and the War.

One aspect of this community that seemed to be the glue of its efficiency and survival was the distribution of responsibilites. The group works in a very open way, such that they make sure that people who have specific skills pass them on to other people. In the case of doing renovation work, they might run a workshop so that when they repair or develop something, they can also teach a group of people as they go along. It seems that skill sharing and rotating roles is essential, such that if one system fails, more than one person will know how to fix it.

Currently Can Masdeu is prodding ahead with educational programs, outreach and rehabilitating the compound with the intention of being completely sustainable. Evidence of this dots the land; solar panels, composting toilets, pedal powered washing machine, rainwater catchment tanks, solar showers...

The city of Barcelona has plans to develop the valley, but the project has received international attention and is in a holding pattern at the moment. The project was an inspiration and breath of fresh air during our stay in Barcelona. I will carry this day with me into the urban garden in San Francisco. Thank you Can Masdeu!

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