SAN JUAN DEL SUR – To get to the heart of Nicaragua’s new green revolution, just follow the music.
In a clever twist of Woodstock and the green movement, sustainable housing-development group Casa Llanta will be holding its first annual Earthship Pitaya Music and Arts Festival on Feb. 9 in El Carrizal, a small community 20 minutes south of San Juan del Sur.
The festival, named after Casa Llanta’s self-sustaining homes known as “earthships,” aims to spread awareness about sustainable housing techniques while raising money for the overall improvement of the local community.
Festival attendees will be able to listen to musical acts from Canada, the United States and Nicaragua while they learn how to pound tires and build water-catching systems.
Festival proceeds will go toward funding community projects and supporting the local economy.
The Earthship Pitaya festival is indicative of the growing trend of green energy techniques and sustainable-housing development in the San Juan del Sur area.
As more and more foreigners buy land, build environmentally friendly houses, and contribute to the “greening” of Nicaragua, the San Juan del Sur area is quickly becoming a popular hub for new trends in conservation and sustainability in Central America.
However, the Earthship Pitaya Festival is more than just an effort to introduce renewable energy techniques to Nicaraguan communities: it’s also representative of the broader philosophy that some foreigners are bringing to the area. The idea is to use proceeds from the development and sales of sustainable housing projects to educate local communities about sustainability while improving the local economy through small-business investment.
According to the festival’s co-founder, Brooke Rundle, proceeds from the event will go toward funding classes for locals on how to employ sustainable techniques such as rainwater catching – an inexpensive method of using rainwater for washing and irrigation. Classes will also be given in English and art for youth and adults.
“Our goal isn’t to build a bunch of houses and shut out the local community,” Rundle said. “Since we first started this project, we’ve grown a real kinship with the people here, and we want to continue growing with them, not apart from them.”
The integration between foreign developers and local community members seems to be a staple of the new trend of green development represented by Casa Llanta, or
“House of Tires,” named for one of its primary recycled building materials. Unlike some models of community engagement, where well-intentioned foreigners impose ill-conceived projects on the community, Casa Llanta is integrating the locals in every step of the building and planning process. The U.S.-based organization regularly employs between 10 and 15 locals in the construction process of each home, which helps create a culture of cooperation and teamwork between locals and foreigners.
“There’s definitely been a transfer of knowledge that has gone both ways,” said Matty Powell, musician and co-founder of the Earthship Pitaya Festival. “We’re teaching the locals about conservation and sustainability techniques, and the locals have taught us about how to build and plant on the land – everything from which plants will grow well to time to plant. That’s stuff you can’t know unless you’ve been here for 20 years, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”
The upcoming festival promises to be an eclectic smorgasbord of these cooperative tendencies. During the concert, which will showcase a healthy mix of Gringo and Nica bands, Casa Llanta representatives will be holding classes for locals and tourists on sustainability techniques.
The local residents of El Carrizal will pitch in by providing a Nicaraguan ambiance with local food and crafts.
The Earthship Pitaya Festival aims to be an optimistic peek into the future of what San Juan del Sur can become – a healthy mix of socially conscious foreigners with the financial means to provide sustainable and beneficial projects to the local communities.
Admission to the festival is by donation, which will go directly toward supporting Casa Llanta’s sustainable housing educational effort in the El Carrizal community, as well as other community support projects.
While drinking at the festival is encouraged, driving is not; free shuttles will be provided departing every half hour from San Juan del Sur.
Visit the festival site at www.earthsippitayafestival.com for more details.