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Falling into Magic at the Ecovillage Gathering in Colombia

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Eight Days in January at the Llamado de la Montaña

By Diana Leafe Christian

Photo, Ivan Sawyer
(February, 2012)

I began as an ordinary North American. But by the end of my nearly two weeks in Colombia, first at the ENA/CASA meetings (see article, this issue) and then at the eight-day Llamado de la Montaña ecovillage gathering, I felt like a different person. I had become — is there a word for this? — Latin-Americanized.

Photo, Ivan Sawyer
The Llamado de la Montaña (Call of the Mountain) — a kaleidoscope of bright colors and lively music — was an ecovillage and alternative-culture gathering taking place January 7-14, 2012 at Atlantida Ecovillage. Atlantida is set in the emerald green Pubenza Valley between the western and central Andes on the Pacific side of Colombia, a two-and-a-half-hour drive south of Cali. The Llamado was hosted by R.E.N.A.C.E. (Red Colombiana de Ecoaldeas y Comunidades Alternativas) the Colombian ecovillage network. This was my first time in South America . . . actually my first time in Latin America ever. I was very excited to be there!

The Maloka. Photo, Diana Leafe Christian
Atlantida, founded in 2002 on 9 hectares (22 acres) looks much like inland Hawaii, with organic vegetable gardens and free-range chickens in a jungle of mango, avocado, banana, and jacaranda trees. There are hibiscus flowers and giant strong-smelling datura flowers that look like white hanging trumpets, red and green ti leaves, and an abundance of other tropical plants I didn’t recognize. Atlantida’s 20 members share a white brick hacienda of hexagon-shaped rooms and many small A-frame cabins, a thatched-roof outdoor kitchen and an indoor kitchen/dining room, a half-walled dining room/sala with a central firepit, and their beautiful 64-foot wide bamboo-timberframed open-wall meeting pavilion — the Maloka Bambasa (“Maloka” for short). (More about Atlantida ecovillage in a future issue of this newsletter.)

A morning plenary in the Maloka. Photo, Ivan Sawyer
Morning plenary session in the Maloka. Photo, Ivan Sawyer

This was R.E.N.A.C.E.’s sixth Llamado, but unlike previous events held mostly for Colombia’s network of nine ecovillages, this was a much larger Ibero-American celebration — for Spanish-speaking people from all over Latin America and Spain interested in ecovillages and alternative culture. Participants came from all over Colombia, as well as Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Venezuela, Panamá, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and México. Also a few Norte Americanos and Europeans, including about a dozen participants from Spain. With roommates in bedrooms in the main hacienda, or in the tent city that sprung up behind it, in total we were 478 people from 27 different countries.

Photo, Ivan Sawyer
The bubbling-stream sounds of Spanish were everywhere, along with the BOOM, boom, boom, boomBOOM, boom boom boom of Lakota-style giant-drums, and guitars, singing, and Andean flutes and panpipes.

I felt like I was inside a CD of Andean panpipe music. Everywhere my eyes landed it looked like a South American music festival too.

Photo, Ivan Sawyer
People wore all kinds of bright colors, and wore them all together — red, purple, green, gold, turquoise. One day one of my roommates wore a purple full skirt, with a bright red tank top and magenta shawl.
Photo, Ivan Sawyer
Almost everyone wore at least one or more items of indigenous fabric or textiles or beaded bracelets, including bracelets made by Huichol people in Mexico and indigenous people from Colombia and other South American countries. Many men wore Mexican or South American striped wool serapes, or alpaca serapes, with beaded bracelets.
Photo, Ivan Sawyer
Women wore one or more multi-colored scarves, big earrings, beaded bracelets, and indigenous fabrics. Men and women both carried woven indigenous bags. This is countercultural festival attire, though — in regular daily life, judging by being in airports, Colombians seem to wear the same kinds of clothes as people in the US.

Photo, Diana Leafe Christian
But mostly what I saw at the Llamado were big smiles and shining eyes. To quote a friend in the US, in South America people “give you their eyes.” I got looked at in the eyes with kindness and friendliness, smiled at, greeted with “Hola!”, hugged, and kissed on the cheek, or on both cheeks, all day long.

Total strangers greeted each other with “Hola!", a big smile, a big hug, and a cheek kiss. Then they’re not strangers anymore as they tell each other where they’re from and exchange email addresses. Then they walk off with their arms around each other.

Photo, Ivan Sawyer
Physical touching, arms around shoulders, holding hands, and touching each others arms and shoulders as they talk are all a part of how you express yourself here. It’s not considered too much closeness too fast; it’s normal. Ay, what a culture! Does it make you want to live like this too? It does me.

A woman from the Misak tribe. Photo, Ivan Sawyer.
Everywhere I looked too, I saw history in people’s faces. The history of Inca and Mayan Empires, and of Spain, and of Africa. (And a few people from northern Europe, especially Germans, and/or their descendents here — tall blond folks speaking rapid Spanish).
Photo, Ivan Sawyer
And three very short ladies wearing navy blue wool buttoned-up jackets and full skirts, with multicolored trim, and little black bowler hats. They were Misak women, and their mountain tribe is just 45 minutes from Atlantida. I could hardly take my eyes off them!

Photo, Ivan Sawyer
Of course, this was the Latin American counterculture . . . and people told me that this is the future they want to create and is not yet the norm through all of Latin America. The wave of the future, I’m told, is pride in being all or part indigeno and pride in one’s mixed-culture/ mixed-race heritage. Hence all the indigenous fabrics, bracelets, woven bags, and flute and panpipe music.

Sweat lodge. Photo, Diana Leafe Christian
Atlantida provided four sweat lodges, one for each direction from the central fire. Early morning yoga, tai chi or other energy offerings were held in the Maloka, along with the morning plenary sessions after breakfast.

Afternoon Mercado. Photo, CommunTerra
At the afternoon Mercado (market) during the three-hour lunch break, people displayed wares for sale on blankets. The Maloka was also home for the Dances of Universal Peace (which everyone loved) from 6 to 7 each evening, and the later evening “Magic Nights” of musical and theatrical performances.

One of the Councils. Photo, Ivan Sawyer
The Llamado was organized as a Vision Council — Consejo de Visiones — a type of celebratory gathering originating in México in 1996. Unlike most conferences, which have breakout workshops, a Vision Council has several different ongoing groups, called Councils (Consejos), which meet daily on one topic. After the morning plenary address, each of 10 different Councils met and planned what they would do that day and for the rest of the week. People picked which Council they want to participate in, and attended it all week. Each Council had general discussions and organizational meetings in the morning, and some days offered workshops in the afternoon.

(1) In the Ecology Council, which included Permaculture folks, people shared their projects, learned new things, and offered programs to the rest of the gathering.

The Arts & Culture Council provided music and other events. Photo, Ivan Sawyer
(2) The Arts and Culture Council provided music and art projects throughout the Llamado week, and organized the magic evenings of music, theater, dance, and song.

(3) The Health and Healing Council offered healing to people who needed it in a special healing room, and was in charge of the "Energy Awakening" morning programs of Tai Chi, Yoga, etc.

(4) The Youth Council was created and organized by teenagers and young adults, who chose to discuss and learn about topics of interest to them.

(5) The Ecovillage Council was comprised of people from ecovillages in South America as well as people who would like to start or join an ecovillage. It was where people met to continue developing the new C.A.S.A. organization — Consejo Asentamientos Sustentables de las Américas (“Council of Sustainable Eco-Settlements of the Americas”) — which will be linked to ENA (Ecovillage Network of the Americas), one of the GEN Regions. (See article on ENA/CASA meetings, this issue.)

How some of us spent our three-hour lunch break. Photo, Diana Leafe Christian
(6) The Economy Council explored sustainable bioregional economies, local currencies, and un-hooking from dependence on the unstable and inequitable world economy.

(7) The Council on Networks and Social Movements was comprised of political and social justice activists.

(8) One group began as the “New Time” Council, based on the Mayan Calendar 13/20 Movement in Latin America (see below), but later changed its name to the Noospheric Council, using Teilhard de Chardin's term for the envisioned planet-wide “sphere of human thought.”

The Spirituality Council led rituals & ceremonies. Photo, Ivan Sawyer
(9) The Spirituality Council offered workshops on various forms of spirituality, and was in charge of sweat lodges, the daily Dances of Universal Peace, and other ceremonies.

(10) The Education Council looked at various issues of education, and was in charge of the Llamado Children’s Program.

Photo, Ivan Sawyer
On the second-to-last day in a “Council of Councils” each group reported to the others what they had been learning and doing. And in an afternoon Open Space session people gathered to discuss many different topics of interest offered by various participants, and some gave workshops.

Panel discussion near the end of the Llamado. That's me third from left.
I offered a workshop on why I now believe that consensus with a 100% or unanimity as a decision rule is not only not helpful but can in fact be harmful to most ecovillages and other kinds of intentional communities. I also gave a brief introduction to alternative methods that seem to work well, such as the “N St. Consensus Method,” Sociocracy, and Holacracy. About 60 people attended, and many were nodding in recognition when I described typical difficulties of consensus-with-unanimity when used in intentional communities. “Ah,” I thought. “The same kinds of community challenges happen in the South as in the North!”

Everyone at the Llamado wore a card in a plastic holder which showed the person’s name and country and their ecovillage or another affiliation. People would glance at each other’s cards and said “Hola! Where are you from?” I learned to respond, in rapidly mispronounced Spanish, “Me llamo Diana. Vivo en Carolina del Norte en los Estados Unidos en una ecoaldea llamada ‘Earthaven’.”

“Ah,” they would say with a smile.

The Llamado outdoor kitchen. Photo, CommunTerra
The colors of yarn that held our cards around our necks were coordinated with our times during the week when we had kitchen duty. My navy blue yarn meant I worked the 7:30 am shift on Monday. I peeled potatoes and carrots with a knife — no potato peelers — and learned from a new friend, Noelle from Mexico, and a Colombiana named Katerina, about the "New Time, 13/20" movement in South America. I learned that Jose Arguelles, of the 1980s “Harmonic Convergence” fame, was a US-American whose father was from Mexico, and who had both scientific and apparently spiritual guidance about the real meaning and uses of Mayan Calendar. And his work on this calendar and “New Time” is absolutely revered throughout all of Latin America.

The New Time Council. Photo, Ivan Sawyer
At the Llamado, the New Time 13/20 Movement was everywhere! As Noelle and Katerina explained to me over the potatoes, “13/20” means a 260-day calendar 13 months of 20 days. I asked them to please tell me more, and they did. Whew, get this! If you learn about even the first level of this calendar, they said, which is like a mathematical spiritual teaching tool, you can organize your days in the cycles of 13 days and 20 days. And if you know the characteristics of each day, which are said to be a combination of two different principles for the cycle, you can align with and resonate with those two characteristics on that day. Which, Noelle and Katerina told me, allows you to attune to the rhythms of nature, of the Earth, the moon, and of spiritual forces that change you, heal you, grow you, transform you. And actually change your DNA. And then, you begin to notice synchronicities, because you are now actually synchronized, on purpose, consciously, with these teaching, healing rhythms. And more and more synchronicities and symbolic messages then appear to you every day. “It has changed me,” said Katerina. “And me, said Noelle, who was a close friend of and translator for Jose Arguelles, who died last year.

This made perfect sense to me. I had read every metaphysical and spiritual book I could get my hands on between the ages of 17 and 37 (and did almost nothing else), and what Noelle and Katerina told me was consistent with what I’d learned then. So for me, yes, Mayan Calendar — 13/20, Sí!

Photo, Ivan Sawyer
The night before the Llamado 11 Mexican runners arrived from a tri-continent run from Mexico City to Chile. They’ve done this every year for about the last dozen years. They are members of the Native American Church, a religious movement begun in south Texas in the US in 1880s and formally established in Oklahoma in 1918. Church activities include deep prayer, ceremony, and the ritual ingestion of peyote. The Church was outlawed by the US Government and thus practiced in secret, and finally legalized in 1978 and again in 1996. Apparently thousands of Mexican immigrant workers joined the Native American Church while living the US, then took it back to Mexico where it has become a hugely popular alternative religious movement. I had no idea! The night before the Llamado the Mexican runners held an all-night peyote ceremony for anyone interested in the ritual and visions. So the Llamado started out with an optional shifting of dimensions to visit the nonphysical realm.

Photo, Ivan Sawyer
And ended with another dimensional shift. The last event of the last night was a ceremony with yage, a hallucinogenic herb closely related to ayahuasca. The ceremony was led by Taita Isaias Mavisoy, an elder of the Inga tribe in the Putumayo region of the Colombian Amazon. I had already gone to the airport by then, but got emails from friends who were there for the ceremony describing their experiences — a visitation by a small affectionate jaguar; visitations of tall, shining Beings who welcomed the spirit of community that emanated from the Llamado out to the world; and other tales from the magical and nonphysical. I really wish I’d been there for it!

"Magic Nights" of music & theater in the Maloka. Photo, Ivan Sawyer

Diana Leafe Christian is author of the books Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities (Crear una vida juntos in Spanish) and Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community. She is editor and publisher of this newsletter, a columnist for the GEN website, and liaison from the US to ENA and CASA. She lives at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina, US.

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Mission & Purpose

To encourage and inspire new and existing ecovillage projects with news about ecovillages and related projects worldwide.

Advisory Board

  • Lois Arkin,
    CRSP; ENA; Urban Ecovillage Network; Los Angeles Eco-Village, US
  • Peter Bane,
    Permaculture designer; publisher, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Albert Bates,
    Co-founder, GEN; Post-Petroleum Survival Guide; Director, Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm, US
  • Tree Bressen,
    Consensus & Facilitation Trainer; Cofounder, Walnut St. Co-op, US
  • Ernest Callenbach,
    Ecotopia, Ecotopia Emerging; US
  • Giovanni Ciarlo,
    GEN; ENA; Huehyecoyotl Ecovillage, Mexico
  • Raines Cohen,
    Cohousing Association of the US; Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC); Berkeley Cohousing, US
  • Leila Dregger,
    Peace journalist & writer, Peace Research Center & Ecovillage, Tamera, Portugal
  • Chuck Durrett,
    Cohousing; Senior Cohousing; Architect, The Cohousing Company; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Jonathan Dawson,
    Ecovillages; Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
  • Robert Gilman,
    Co-founder, GEN; Ecovillages & Sustainable Communities; City Council Member, Langley, Washington, US
  • Michael Hale,
    Yarrow Ecovillage, Canada
  • Jeff Grossberg,
    Guidestone Consulting Group, US
  • Martha Harris,
    Earthaven Ecovillage, US
  • Scott Horton,
    Editor, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Hildur Jackson,
    Co-founder, Gaia Trust; cofounder, GEN; Ecovillage Living, Denmark
  • Kosha Joubert,
    Editor, Beyond You and Me, GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage Sieben Linden, Germany
  • Elana Kann & Bill Flemming,
    Co-developers, Westwood Cohousing, US
  • Joseph F. Kennedy,
    Designer/educator; The Art of Natural Building, US
  • Fred & Nancy Lanphear,
    Northwest Intentional Communities Association (NICA); Songaia Cohousing, US
  • Mark Lakeman,
    Founder, Portland City Repair & Village Building Convergence, US
  • Max Lindegger,
    Cofounder, GEN; Director, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Crystal Waters Ecovillage, Australia
  • Chris Mare,
    GEN's EDE Program; Village Design Institute, US
  • Ronaye Matthew,
    Canadian Cohousing Network; Cranberry Commons Cohousing, Canada
  • Kathryn McCamant,
    Architect/Developer, Cohousing Partners, Inc.; Co-author, Cohousing; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Dr. Bill Metcalf,
    Findhorn Book of Community Living; Professor, Environmental Sociology, Griffith University, Australia
  • Ina Meyer-Stoll,
    Co-director, GEN-Europe; ZEGG, Germany
  • Tim Miller,
    The 60s Communes; Professor of Religion, University of Kansas, US
  • Hank Obermayer,
    Mariposa Grove Cohousing, US
  • Toshio Ogata,
    Professor of Economics, Chuo University; GEPA (Global Environment Project in Asia), Japan
  • Craig Ragland,
    Executive Director, Cohousing Association of the US; Songaia Cohousing; New Earth Song Cohousing, US
  • Penelope Reyes,
    President, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Tuwâ - The Laughing Fish, Cabiao, Philippines
  • Michael Rios,
    Network for a New Culture Summer Camp East; Chrysalis, Washington DC, US
  • Jim Shenck,
    Enright Ridge Ecovillage, US
  • Nicola Shirley,
    The Source Farm Ecovillage, Jamaica
  • Tony Sirna,
    Communities Directory; Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, US
  • Jan Steinman,
    EcoReality Co-op, Canada
  • Liz Walker,
    GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage at Ithaca; EcoVillage at Ithaca, US