Imagine There’s No Country

Self-Sustained Community
Thrives in Colombian Jungle

For once, they’re are not indigenous people. Or a still uncontacted tribe. And if you’re wondering, they do know all about 21th century living. They’re just no longer interested in it.
Meet “Las Gaivotas,” (The Seagulls, even though they’re miles from the sea), a self-sustained community founded in the 1970s in an almost inaccessible corner of the Colombian jungle.
As it turns out, it was a Colombian developer, Paolo Lugari, who had the original idea of creating a village where no one else would like to live. Not even the many dangerous splinter guerrilla groups that still occupy the plains around.
The community has now 200 members but no cellphones or Internet, no guns, no police, no organized leadership, and no church or priests. And they’re doing just fine, just like the Lennon song said someone would.
There is, though, a method to this apparent madness. Gaivotas is Lugari’s personal experiment in alternative communal living, completely independent of the world at large. And it’s doing so well, in fact, that it’s able to sell the surplus of many of its innovations for living in such an inhospitable and isolated place.
Visitors have just one day to stay and check the ingenuity of Gaivotas’ inventions, such as a water pump powered by a children’s seesaw, the solar kitchen and the forest of tropical pine trees that stands in contrast to the otherwise barren plains of the region.
With the help of the mycorrhiza fungus, introduced to enrich the poor soils, jacaranda, ferns and laurels have flourished under the pines’ canopy. Resin from the pines serves as biofuel for its tractors and motorbikes, while other resins are sold for use in varnishes and linseed oil.
But to critics, Gaivotas is closer to a cult than to a utopia, because of Lugari’s role as a patriarch of sorts of the village. His is still the final word about pretty much every decision concerning its caretaking. Thus some of its original members did leave it for good.
The biggest merit of such an experiment, though, is less about its possible anthropological reach, and more about its small-scale eco-agricultural project. One just hopes that it’s all been scientifically documented for further research.
Since the people living in the village has shown great restrain and sense of privacy, no one has heard of any salacious details about the nature of their relationships, which is nobody’s business anyway. That’s probably what turned off the Colombian media long ago and it’s a good thing.
We would, however, be very interested about knowing how they’ve managed to accomplish what neither Colombia nor any of the countries bordering it would be able to guarantee: their own survival amid hundreds of heavily-armed, half-starving, power-struggling and ideologically-dubious guerrillas and drug traffickers that make the Colombian jungle their home too.

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