“We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims. [The challenge is] to make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time, with spontaneous cooperation and without ecological damage or disadvantage of anyone. ” –R. Buckminster Fuller
LOCATION: La Montaña, Guerrero, Mexico
SUMMARY: In the steep La Montaña region of Guerrero, home to 85% of that state’s indigenous population and one of Mexico’s most marginalized localities, landslides crippled communication and infrastructure, destroyed crops, and irreparably damaged more than 5,000 adobe homes. It is Mexico’s most seismically active area, and adding insult to injury, winds there can reach 110 km/h. Cooperación Comunitaria has envisioned and is implementing a comprehensive model to radically improve these marginalized populations’ living conditions by working with communities to rebuild—combining sound geological and engineering risk analysis with local indigenous wisdom. The project leaders engage with local people in the placement, design, and building of affordable, seismically sound, eco-friendly, culturally appropriate dwellings using local materials.
PROBLEM SPACE: “In September 2013, hurricanes Manuel and Ingrid devastated the West of Mexico, causing 200 deaths and affecting over 230,000 people. In La Montaí±a region of Guerrero state, these hurricanes caused landslides, crippled communication and infrastructure, destroyed crops, and irreparably damaged more than 5,000 adobe homes.
La Montaña region, in the East of Guerrero, is home to 85% of the indigenous population of the state and is considered one of Mexico’s poorest localities. Half of the Montaña’s inhabitants, due to social and economic exclusion, live in extreme poverty. The region, with its steep valleys and villages perched on peaks and slopes, is particularly susceptible to landslides: it is Mexico’s most seismic zone and winds reach 110 km/h.
However, high-risk topography and extreme weather events are not exclusively to blame for La Montaña inhabitants’ vulnerability to landslides. Agrochemical overuse has deteriorated the soil, causing constant crop rotation, deforestation and thus, landslides. Moreover, extensive migration has occasioned the loss of knowledge of traditional construction methods, reducing the strength of adobe homes and increasing disaster susceptibility.
Our project responds to the intensification of natural phenomena and the consequent vulnerability of marginalized populations. Our methodology for reinforcing traditional housing is replicable to other regions.”
“The idea of working with the communities and primarily using the knowledge and the systems and techniques that each community has and has had for generations and generations makes it a very replicable model. We are not trying to put the same type of house or the same type of reforestation instituted in different regions – we are trying to combine these types of technology advances with whatever each region, both climactically and culturally, already uses. That makes it a very flexible model that can be adapted to any region of the world. It’s a model that makes use of whatever resources and knowledge a region already has.” – Gerson Huerta, Engineer at Cooperación Comunitaria
In addition to their efforts in the built environment, Cooperación Comunitaria works on education and training programs, sustainable economic development through agroforestry and agro-ecological projects, as well as the revival and revitalization of local indigenous culture, including its herbal and medical traditions. Cooperación Comunitaria thus aims to address the root cause of a number of problems, all while reviving traditional skill sets and holding the collective wisdom of the community on a pedestal. This exemplary, multi-faceted initiative combines science and local traditions in a comprehensive approach community resilience.