La Casa de los Ningunos (The Nobodies’ House) is tucked away at the top of a flight of 39 steps on a steep cobbled street in the heart of the bohemian neighborhood of Sopocachi, in the world’s highest capital: La Paz. Overlooked by the mountains of the Cordillera Real, la Casa de los Ningunos is a project that brings together the dreams of a group of young, urban activists in an experimental community.
Three years ago a young civil servant named Gadir realized that he’d had enough of trying and failing to do something about climate change through working in institutions, and took the decision to dedicate all his time to what he believed in. He quit his job at the government foreign office and with his savings rented a house and offered it as a space for activists and young people to gather and hold activities. He was quickly joined by Ariel (Apniuq), and then a few months later by Daniela, Paula, and Fabrizio.
They shared a common vision of wanting to build a different future and of wanting to dedicate their lives to that vision, not just to be activists in their spare time. The first initiative that really started to bring people into the space was their “Conscious Food Thursdays” (Comida Consciente in Spanish). Every Thursday the house opens its doors to the public and serves a vegetarian lunch, with a different “invited chef” in the kitchen each week. The first Conscious Food Thursday was attended by only a few people. Now this weekly event attracts up to 80 people.
Seeds of a new society
Through the Conscious Food program, urban agriculture, barter and exchange markets, women’s circles and cultural events, the Ningunos seek to inspire change in the world by shifting their values and inspiring the broader community to adopt these changes in their own lives. And community is a word that can be heard often at Casa de los Ningunos. The concept wasn’t present when the house first began, but over time it has become a key pillar of its purpose.
The name Los Ningunos is from the poem Los Nadies by Eduardo Galeano, referring to the have-nots, those seen as ‘nobodies’ by society at large – those who are most marginalized in the world. Ariel, Angela, and Yumey, the current residents of the house, recognize the need to transition towards a society organized according to principles beyond those of our capitalist system, which drives this marginalization and causes so much social division and environmental destruction. Finding alternative ways to live and work together around a new set of values is part of that transition.
Perhaps one of the most unusual and fascinating aspects of the Casa de los Ningunos is its multi-faceted approach: inspired by the threat of climate change, members of the project are constantly striving to find new ways to collaborate and coexist amongst themselves and to share those experiences with others through their outward-facing activities at the house, whilst also participating in spaces as diverse as policy development groups with the government, Terra Nova (a discussion group that focuses on building a global revolution by healing love and relationships), and running conscious food workshops in rural communities in the Bolivian Altiplano.
Being in the middle of the city and interacting with so many different spaces is at once a huge opportunity to be able to create ripples of change within society, but also presents powerful challenges when it comes to building a new way of living and functioning economically while in the midst of “the system”. These juxtapositions are also reflected in the unusual coming together of influences that range from the Tamera intentional community in Portugal to the Andean indigenous philosophy of Vivir Bien.
The culmination of three years of trial and error in different ways of working and organizing themselves, the Casa de los Ningunos now concentrates its efforts in four areas: community, initiatives for action, economic initiatives, and allies and networks. Here we report on and explore the efforts that these young, urban Bolivians are engaged in to re-imagine economic and social relations, focusing on three central aspects – community, food and economy – and aiming to share their successes, their challenges and the lessons they have learned along the way. As people across the world are coming together to respond to the global climate crisis from the roots up, we hope that these materials will contribute to the cross-pollination of ideas to support the building of more resilient and sustainable communities and to offer inspiration in the fight against climate change and its systemic causes.