Category Archives: Natural Building

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Esperanza Project at a Crossroads

This year The Esperanza Project will celebrate nine years of life – nine years of bringing inspiration and hope to the work of environmental and indigenous rights journalism. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, and poised to take our work to the next level. Please read on to see our highlights, our exciting plans for 2018, and how you can help.

PLATANAR 13In 2017, we gave voice to so many sources of inspiration. To name just a few:
* After a wave of earthquakes left thousands homeless in Mexico, scores of natural builders, architects and visionaries stepped up to ‘bio-reconstruct” a new, resilient society from the rubble;
Roper-Current-1 (1000x750)* A Maryknoll sister who spoke out against Salvadoran death squads who assassinated her sisters in the civil wars of Central America in the 1980s, now speaking for the Web of Life;

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Fighting ‘adobicide’ in post-earthquake Mexico

By Tracy L. Barnett

Editor’s note: After the earthquakes of Sept. 7 and Sept. 19 in southern and central Mexico, scores of architects, builders, engineers, designers and other experts stepped forward to help. A nascent natural building movement – known as “bioconstruction” or “bioarchitecture” here in the Spanish-speaking South – is pushing back against the dominant cement-and-steel model, seizing the opportunity to rebuild with an architecture that promotes longterm resilience and human, environmental and social wellbeing. The Esperanza Project took a trip to the earthquake zone to learn about a few of those initiatives.

Among the casualties of the September earthquakes in Mexico are thousands of antique adobe homes and the millennial architectural heritage they represent. A week after the quake, Architect Peter Van Lengen, the son of “Barefoot Architect” Johan Van Lengen, arrived in the town of Hueyápan, a Nahuatl-speaking town in the foothills of Volcano Popcatepetl, known for its rich arquitectural heritage of multi-story adobe buildings that date back more than a hundred years.

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Rebuilding Tradition in Hueyápan, Morelos

By Tracy L. Barnett

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series on bioconstruction, or natural building initiatives, in post-earthquake Mexico.

Visto from atrás, el Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, campanario cuarteada y lo que queda de su cúpula. (Tracy L. Barnett)
Seen from behind, the Temple of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, with its bell tower cracked and what is left of the dome.  (Tracy L. Barnett)

When the earthquake struck the adobe-rich town of Hueyápan in the foothills of Volcano Popocatepetl, a circle of mourners surrounded their dearly departed in the colonial-era Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán. When the ground began to tremble beneath their feet, they made for the door – and just in time, as the nearly 500-year-old dome came crashing down around the dead man.

No one died in the earthquake here, the townspeople will tell you, but this moment will forever be seared into their memories. Never in half a millennia had the tremors that occasionally ripple through the region produced as much as a crack in the rock-solid Templo Santo Domingo. But this quake was different. More than 400 families in this little town alone were left homeless, and a millennial tradition of adobe homes was in danger of eradication.

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A House for Mari: Bioconstruction to the Rescue in Tetela del Volcán

Editor’s note: This photo story is part of a series about “bio-reconstruction” or natural building initiatives that are springing up in the wake of the earthquakes in Mexico. To follow some of these developments see the Facebook page for BioReconstruye México, a network of natural builders around the country who are sharing techniques and coordinating efforts to respond to the need for housing in ways that care for the environment.

By Tracy L. Barnett

Mari Neri Aguilar will never forget the terrible feeling of the ground heaving beneath her feet and the sounds of her home and those of the neighbors cracking and falling to the ground. She gives thanks that the quake happened in the daytime; otherwise, she says, “my children would no longer be with me, because their beds were filled with rubble.”

Mari and her four children lost their home in Tetela del Volcán, in the foothills of Volcano Popocatepetl in the Sept. 19 earthquake that hit Mexico City and the surrounding states.

Bioconstructor José Rosas of Valle del Bravo had done a project in the area and heard about Mari’s case. First he inquired through a friend whether she was up for it. When she agreed, he decided to organize a workshop to share some low-cost natural building techniques with the local residents – “to teach them to fish, instead of just giving them fish,” he explained.

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PLATANAR 13

Bio-Reconstructing Mexico: Toward an Architecture for Life

By Tracy L. Barnett
For ArchDaily.com

Editor’s note: After the earthquakes of Sept. 7 and Sept. 19 in southern and central Mexico, a nascent natural building movement – known as “bioconstruction” or “bioarchitecture” here in the Spanish-speaking South – has stepped forward, seizing the opportunity to rebuild with an architecture that promotes long-term resilience and human, environmental and social wellbeing. This article is part of a series featuring a few of those initiatives.

In the days after the earthquake that brought reality crashing down for millions throughout central Mexico, Huerto Roma Verde, the community garden and green gathering space at the heart of one of the most stricken sectors of the city, was transformed into a major hub for emergency relief. With the help of more than 5,000 volunteers who arrived to lend a hand. Roma Verde became a civilian-organized shelter, community kitchen, aid distribution center and much more, offering a space for rescue workers, medics, attorneys, psychologists, chefs, bicycle and motorcycle brigades and professionals of all kinds to offer their services to a traumatized public.

In the ferment that arose in the round-the-clock disaster response, a vision evolved of a sustainable society arising from the rubble. By the third day, recalls Arnold Ricalde of Cuatro al Cubo, a network of environmental organizations connected with Roma Verde, immediate needs were being covered and it was time to look forward to a sustainable reconstruction.

Bio-Reconstruye Mexico,” they called it, a reconstruction initiative based on the Spanish word for natural building techniques – bioconstruction, an architecture of life. Continue reading

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Visionary gathering brings regenerative development to Caribbean shores

All the pieces are beginning to come together for the XV Vision Council – Guardians of the Earth “Call of the Water” gathering. This year, the itinerant ecovillage and high-impact social movement has set its sights on Mexico’s Caribbean coast near the border with Belize. The gathering is set for the shores of the magnificent Laguna de Bacalar, which in Mayan means “Gate of the sky where the reed grows,” also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colors.

Sian Ka’an Bakhalal, the Lagoon of Seven Colors – site of the XV Vision Council, the Call of the Water

This year, as it was in 1992, the goal is to protect a unique coastal ecosystem, organizers say.

“We are talking about a unique lagoon ecosystem in imminent danger,” said Santiago Palomar, one of the event organizers. Palomar and others on the team have been working to strengthen community networks and to teach techniques applicable for protecting the bioregion.

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Spirituality Council, XIV Vision Council – Call of the Sage, Teopantli Kalpulli, Jalisco, Mexico, 2015. (Santiago Palomar photo)

For seven days in November-December, hundreds of environmentalists, healers, artists, activists, spiritual seekers and people from all walks of life will create community for a gathering which, unlike most festivals, is designed to leave the site better than they found it. From Nov. 26-Dec. 3, the open-air ecovillage will be the site of workshops, ceremonies, forums, performances and celebrations, all geared toward shifting the paradigm to one more in tune with the rhythms of the planet.
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Juan del Río prometes the Transition Movement in Spain. Photo: Juan del Rio

Translating Transition: New book shares experiences of Spain and Latin America

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Magis Magazine

Rob Hopkins is one face of the Transition movement, but there are many more. In the Spanish-speaking world and particularly in Spain one of those faces is Juan Del Rio.

Del Rio, author of a new book in Spanish on the movement of transition, La Guía del Movimiento de Transición (February 2015), was one of the first outside the English-speaking countries in pushing this movement forward and researching its evolution. Del Rio shared his thoughts about his new book, the way in which Transition developed in Spain, the cultural differences and similarities, the  Occupy and Indignados movements and more. A Spanish version of this interview can be found on the Magis website.

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