A District in the basque region
While I was travelling in the north of Spain to go surfing, a person with the new nickname “Polo” told me about the project of Errekaleor Bizirk.
In 2013 a group of students started to occupy a former worker suburb in Vitoria-Gasteiz and have revived the area in accordance to the other inhabitants by building a cinema, gardens, a bakery and many more things. I do not want to discuss, if occupying buildings is just, but I am very interested in the way they have organised their needs like food and energy (the power has been cut by the government since 2017). What I am most curious about is the general mood on site.
Even though my goal is to actually live with in the communities, I didn’t have the time to do that in Errekaleor Bizirk, because my visit was very spontanious. I researched the project in their all Basque/Spanish website and convinced my travelling mate Fabienne to drive 2 hours to see the concert of
Irrekoñocilbes. We planned to arrive a couple hours before it started just to see the Murals and the area it self.
Arriving there is a little bit like arriving in any neighborhood, pretty uneventful. But we immediately knew, that we were in the right area, because the buildings were much older than the surrounding ones, and the street lights are a different kind to the rest of the city, each with a little solar panel on the top. The area is situated behind a bigger field, after which Vitoria Gasteiz rises, which gives it the feeling of almost being on the country side.
As the visit was super spontaneous, we didn’t plan much and we also didn’t know what to expect. We saw a group of around 15 people paint an entire house front, and a couple people sitting around the are having a cigarette and chatting. It is definitely not the post-hippie vibe where everybody cooks together and sits in a circle. We asked one person to show us around and it came super handy that Fabienne is fluent in Spanish, as almost no one spoke englisch. While were at it, language is a big topic there, the community gives free classes to learn basque for 2 weeks every once in a while.
Currently around 120 people live on site, keep in mind this is mostly students or people around that age. The flats look a lot like the shared flats that I know and live in in Berlin.
The only thing that is very different about the community is, they talk a lot. I know, that’s common for spanish people compared to germans, but they talk to make decisions about the events the do (there is loads of them) and to decide, if an artist is allowed to paint a mural and if the motive is “cool” with everyone. The site looks like what it is, a work in progress, but also a space with actual space in- and outside to realize imaginations.
Before the concert around 30 people gathered and we had a chat to an artist from south america who came to Errekaleor Bizirk to paint a mural and a german, who is travelling all year long on a budget of 5€ per day. The beer was more affordable than in my student bar back home and was our first cold beer in 3 weeks. It felt like heaven.
I, to this day have no idea what the all female band sung about, but it was so much fun to watch them perform, and dance in the church turned to a concert hall. For 45 minutes they played the drums, guitar, bass, saxophone (the woman was wearing a mask that reminded of a fish with a puppets leg hanging of the ear :D) , piano. They switched positions 4 times while playing, so that each singer was able to portray her own style.
For me this was an awesome start to see this community and especially the concert, before exploring others. It reminded me, that I don’t need to live in the hinterlands to find a community. And also that I don’t need to complete change my live, and leave the “society” at once, but I could, like the lovely folks from Errekaleor Bizirk continue studying or working a normal job.