Whenever Lucia Battegazzore from Uruguay thought about herself living in a community, she imagined herself in a beautiful place of untouched nature, with a stream of clean water, an old native forest where she could lose herself… However, the place where she has ended up is different. Lucia has experienced first hand that regenerating the ecosystems brings back community – and the other way around.
I live in an old vineyard in an intensive agro-industrial zone, where a contaminated creek flows, with a little grove of exotic trees. It was not the call of Nature, but the human call that brought me here. The group that is building community here was what moved me.
We used to hear the stories of our beloved grandfather, Nene, an old local resident, who in his time used the stream to swim, fish, and wash clothes in. Over many years, this stream has seen our children play, many temazkales, retreats, baptisms, prayers, songs and ceremonies succeeded within its banks, sheltered by the little grove. In nowadays time, is no longer healthy to have a bath here, and rarely is the water deep enough for swimming. But still, the place is full of love, and that love embellishes my eyes. Receiving that love and beauty, we return to the land, improving our place, where we chose to raise our children together.
While caring for the creek began when the pioneers settled in this place 180 years ago, we began to develop a regeneration project on a larger scale in 2013. For more than a year we cleaned landfills in the watershed, we planted about 2,000 native trees on private land, reforesting in patches, the banks denuded by agribusiness. We have worked with the neighbors, with state agencies, with universities; even we engaged the national army to plant with us! We had a very cool intervention in the two schools of the basin, with a home-made movie that had a large impact and where we, ourselves, were the actors. And after the film screening, the characters entered the school and shared with the children and planted trees. It was such a joy to see the caring love for water, trees, and the earth emerge in the kids.
We have celebrated the beauty of all what we have done in the town square, with live music, a gigantic movie screening, and an ecological fair. We also wanted to share how we integrate the spiritual dimension that sustains our work; holding a native ritual praying for the waters, that paraded to the central square with colors and feathers.
More than a year after the recovery project, in our creek we have seen a family of otters, ferrets, foxes, and more birds. Now, among the exotic plants, native trees grow and there is a patch of edible forest where our children, in a few years, may climb to eat tangerines, enjoying all the fruits that are already growing, and prepare their own meal.
When I think now of the place I have chosen to live, it is not the wild place that I dreamed. It’s a place that has the beauty of love impregnated in everything that has happened, which permeates every sapling. And, of course, I recognize the power of transformation that we have as a group of dreamers to regenerate all around us with our love. The power and healing that occurred outwards, also occurred inwards: the love we gave, came back to us, multiplied.
The “Community Management to improve the watershed of Arroyo Colorado Project” was supported by the Small Grants Program, Uruguay, during 2013, and was conducted by the intentional communities LaTierrita and La Comarca (Sauce, Canelones, Uruguay), and testifies the beauty of community work in the process of regeneration of their environment.