Can Masdeu is an occupied old country house on the slope of the sierra of Collserola Park on the outskirts of Barcelona. The building was used as a leper hospital from about 1906 until the late 1950’s, after which it was abandoned and deserted until it was occupied in December 2001. In April of 2002, just a few months after the project began, an attempted eviction was successfully resisted thanks to the direct, non-violent action of the occupants, and the firm support of much of the local neighborhood. As a result of this show of solidarity, the judge was forced to rescind his order of eviction. The long legal battle that ensued ended with a judgment against in favor of the owner of the property, the Foundation for the Hospital of Sant Pau, which is managed by the government of Catalonia, Barcelona city council and the archbishop’s office. Thus the house remains under threat of eviction which has not been carried out.
At the time of the occupation, the large home had been completely neglected for over forty years and was seriously deteriorated, with the roof was on the verge of collapse. Over time, and with the collective work of many people, the building has been rehabilitated, many spaces have been recovered and new ones added, and it now provides a comfortable home for some 25 persons, as well as a popular social center.
Outside the building itself, a significant portion of the valley has also been recovered for agricultural use. With the shared effort of many local neighbors, the collective has managed to restore the centuries old irrigation system made up of cisterns, tanks, canals and wells, restore the many gardening terraces and create new planting areas, care for the orchards and fruit trees, as well as restore and improve the trails in the surrounding hills.
The following projects currently bring life to the valley:
The living collective, made up of the long-term inhabitants of the house (currently 25 persons, including children). They organize their lives communally and they are the principal driving force behind most of the initiatives in the valley. Since their arrival, the residents have also planned and participated in numerous initiatives that go beyond the valley: defending the Collserola park, taking action against wars around the globe, fighting for human rights and the right to decent housing, campaigning against the agricultural-industrial complex, boycotting multinational corporations, protesting against U.S. foreign policy and the G-8, defending and supporting other occupied/liberated spaced, etc. The residents also run the social center and manage all of the projects below, cooking meals for the public and partaking of the rich social and cultural life of the nearby “barrios”.
The Community Gardens, where some 80 people, mostly persons from the surrounding neighborhood from 20 to 85 years of age, grow their plots around the house individually or in groups. The project began in 2002 and its internal structure has grown in ways that encourage intergenerational exhange, community use of resources and develop connections with the nearby neighborhood of Nou Barris.
El Point of Interaccion of Collserola (PIC), is a social center which is open primarily on Sundays, other than holidays or during the summer. Its’ diverse programming offers workshops, speakers and activities to all visitors free of charge, primarily regarding social justice and personal growth. Inside the PIC, at the Rurbar, many items are served for a small cost, such as organic and fair trade coffee and teas, tapas, pastries, and a delicious vegetarian lunch. There is also a library, a newspaper archive, a Free Store (with clothing), and Oficina Rurbana, productos de autorrenta and much more.
The Environmental Education is a teaching tool that the residents of Can Masdeu offer to all schools, adult education centers, esplais, and diverse groups working on projects related to the environment, sustainable argiculture or energy, etc. Numerous groups come through the environmental education program every year ans there is a specific space set aside in the garden as an educational tool. Besides this educational resource, every Thursday the community residents come together with others to work in the garden and exchange knowledge and ideas.
Can Masdeu is all this and much more.
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Health and Autonomy!