Can Masdeu : a rural-urban place
Did you know Collserola Park is the biggest metropolitan park in the world? The “Serra of Collserola” is a mountain range that makes part of the Catalan Coastal Range, a system of mountains running parallel to the Mediterranean Sea coast. Its tallest peak is the Tibidabo, at 512m.
Collserola Park is 22 times larger than Central Park, in New York, and it is used by Barcelonan and inhabitants from surrounding towns. It is very popular for walking, cycling and bird watching.
Exactly in the Collserola Park there is the “Can Masdeu” a squatted social centre, residence and community garden. Below some details about this peculiar place.
In Catalan “Can” means “property of” and “Masdeu” comes from the name of the family that inhabited the farmhouse right at the centre of the valley.
History and Location
The former building was created on the ruins of an ancient Roman site and was surrounded by vineyards, before the city of Barcelona expanded. The “masia”, an ancient rural construction common during the Kingdom of Aragon, was completed in 17th century and, in the early 20th, it was enlarged with the construction of a kitchen and a common space. Then the building was used as a nunnery and hospital for lepers too, but it remained abandoned for almost 50 years, and maybe the fear of leprosy has been a factor that affected this event.
The ground consists of almost a hectare of land, abandoned nunnery and hospital facility and 15 hectares of forests.
Occupation and legal status
In 2001 an international group of activists organized a conference about climate change and in that occasion they squatted - literally occupied illegally- this area. Just a year later, Can Masdeu became very famous when 100 national police went to evict 11 squatters. After a three-day passive resistance, the squatters were able to resist police’s efforts to remove them forcibly. They locked themselves to precarious perches outside the building, but it was so risky even for the police, that they changed their strategy waiting for the squatters to get thirsty and hungry and come down. The squatters received a lot of support, and this event had consequences evenin other countries : in Netherlands a solidarity organization occupied the Spanish Embassy.
The Barcelona judge ordered the police to withdraw, stating that human rights are more important than any property right. Most of the cases brought to court have been lost, but no eviction notice was ever notified.
Since squatters established at Can Masdeu, one of their first goal was to create good relations with the local population. Immediately they encouraged local gardeners to go and plant at the community gardens. At first just old women began planting produce and flowers. Monthly they organize pot lucks, that is to say meal where every guest bring food, and regular meetings to manage the community affairs.
There are a lot of public workshop in the social centre known as the PIC, the ”Punt d'Interracció de Collserola”. You could enjoy a tour in which a proponent of the community will guide and explain you their everyday life, the consensus-based decision-making, their ecological lifestyle and the functioning of their social centre. Furthermore you can join a collective meal, enjoy music, dancing and cultural expression and take part in community movement, political resistance and organic farming.
Residents –currently 24 adults and 5 children- enjoy a low energy, low lifestyle with few low power wiring and just a couple of woodstoves to warm their complex. The community runs a bike shop and repair clinic, bakes bread for both the community itself and local people, and provides a place for school meetings and performances –and for resistance movement, of course!- The working language are Catalan and Spanish, but since it is an international community English, Italian, French and Esperanto are spoken as well.
Do you feel like going and visit Can Masdeu? On most Sundays, from late September until early June, there is an open house and guided tour. Enjoy this “rurban” (rural-urban) experience to visit a timeless place that resists to the voracious rhythm of a city without limits.