Sunseed and the Río de Aguas (the river of waters – and of cañas and of mud!-)
This summer I discovered an unusual enclave in the semi-arid region in Andalusia that is Almeria. My first impression was, logically, that I was standing in an oasis in the desert. I could have never imagined that, across the dry mountains and valleys, there flowed a quantity of water capable of producing such fresh and green surroundings in the middle of summer. And there you discover Sunseed which warmly welcomed me and my friends thanks to Patricia, giving us information and a tour of the project. I thought that evening that I would like to return to spent more time there. After spending three weeks in my city, I decided revisit Sunseed with the intention of spending 5 weeks there as a volunteer. On my arrival, David kindly introduced me to daily life in the community. During the first days, out of curiosity I eagerly explored the surroundings. I found a special charm in the abandoned and semi-derelict ‘cortijos’ (traditional Andalusian farmhouses), with their walls of stone and yeso, and their interiors painted blue; one can imagine with a certain nostalgia life here many decades ago. Leo, my enthusiastic coordinator, informed me that cereals were grown on terraces in the area to be ground in the five local mills that have now practically disappeared. The water from the spring is not far upriver from the village and used to flow through channels (acequias) on both sides of the valley (although currently one channel is no longer functioning, leaving this side uninhabited). Shortly after my arrival, the area experienced one of the largest floods since 1997. The sight of water roaring down the dry valley flanking the village to the south was spectacular, as were the huge waterfalls created on the other side of the ravine. The appearance of the riverbed of the Rio de Aguas changed dramatically. What once seemed an impenetrable forest of cañas, which restricted any sight of water, was now a visible river. It was, however, full of foam and pollution from the water treatment plant in Sorbas, which no longer works properly creating a serious problem, particularily since the area is declared a natural protected area. The small and charming pools hidden in the caña that we used to bathe in had disappeared, along with a number of beautiful bridges. But, a little downstream, an enormous natural pool has been created where one can swim and dive, so every cloud has a silver lining! The floods presented a huge challenge to the inhabitants of Los Molinos. We had to restore the flow of water to the channel which was completely blocked by tons of caña and mud. A group of around 20 villagers started tackling the blocks and the atmosphere was one of enthusiasm and collective energy. Today, two weeks after the event through hard labour, water has finally returned to the village. So I could never say that I have been bored in Los Molinos. On the contrary, it has been a very intense and stimulating experience, prompting me to really think about the community developments and possibilities that this special physical and social context could offer. There is in fact a current proposal to regenerate an old school in the village which, for many years, has been abandoned and deteriorating rapidly. If repaired, it could act as a wonderful multi-use space for the village. We shall have to see if the villagers are motivated to collaborate. Many at Sunseed are certainly inspired!