In Mexico City, I am working with Proyecto Ecobarrios Santo Domingo (Eco-neighbourhoods). Santo Domingo is a Colonia in Los Pedregales de Coyoacán- the stony place of the coyotes. It is a colonia for the fact that families occupied this area on the 1st of September 1971- and it is in the Pedregales because this area was/is a lava spill. When the invasion (la invación) happened, the families that settled here built their houses on top of the rocks and hewed it in other places to create streets and so on. You can still see the igneous rock foundations on some of the houses.
At the time of the invasion there were no schools for the children and none were forthcoming from the city government seeing as the place had been invaded. So some students from the university, UNAM, who had come to live in Santo Domingo to help and collaborate with the invading families began to teach classes- reading and writing- and to offer activities to keep the children out of trouble. My host, Fernando Diaz, was one of these students. He stayed on after some of the students went back to the university and made his life here. These classes and the buildings that were set up to house them were known as La Escuelita – little school- and later El Centro de Artes y Oficios Escuelita Emiliano Zapata.
One of the Ecobarrios’ projects, a greenhouse, is nestled within this community centre that began functioning in the 1970s. Julio takes care of this greenhouse that is on the roof with the help of one other person. In the greenhouse they grow tomatoes, various kinds of lettuce, spinach, chillies, cilantro, basil and parsley. He sells these vegetables around the neighbourhood at a price that is fixed unlike seasonally fluctuating markets, which gives him an edge over the other markets along with the fact that his produce is organic. Watch the video below in which Julio talks about the greenhouse project and about Ecobarrios.
I am still getting to understand the history of this project and projects as I am finding that it is different from what I had expected/the idea I had had of ecobarrios. So far, my understanding is that a small group of people were trained in eco-techniques (for free) by members of an ecovillage. They were then expected to use the knowledge they had gained to implement projects in the neighbourhood- and through this demonstrate that it is possible to make a living (and save money) from environmentally friendly projects, I believe. According to Julio, many of these, which were mostly urban agriculture projects, fell through. I will be investigating why this was so in the coming months. I am also interested in finding out if the location has anything to do with the success of the greenhouse project in the community centre.
I am currently helping Julio in the greenhouse (although the plants are resting for a few days during the new moon) and will be learning how to take care of the plants there. I am also beginning the dance workshop next weekend at la Escuelita and still inventorying the bookstore.