The story of Casa Pueblo: what we have to learn from a humble organization in rural Puerto Rico.
In 1980, Tinti Deyá Díaz and Alexis Massol González stood on a stage in the rural town of Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, alone. They were trying to raise awareness on the irreversible harm of government mining projects, which would have destroyed 36,000 acres of forest, culture, and biodiversity in the name of gold and silver. 1 person showed up.
From that disheartening start, Casa Pueblo has achieved something incredible. After successfully protesting the mining projects, Casa Pueblo grew to help protect massive amounts of forest in Puerto Rico. I couldn’t tell you the exact numbers, but I remember the awe I felt when Dr. Alexis showed my travel group a map of Casa Pueblo’s reach — roughly a quarter of Puerto Rico’s land comprises all the forests that Casa Pueblo has successfully advocated for.
Beyond forest protection, Casa Pueblo is now focusing on energy independence. By installing solar panels throughout the Adjuntas community, Casa Pueblo promotes economic growth and hurricane resilience. Casa Pueblo also has an independent radio and an independent forest school and an independent coffeehouse and an independent music classroom.
For Dr. Alexis, it’s always been about independence. Independence from the corrupt systems of power that have oppressed rural Puerto Rico through all its colonial history. Recognizing the inability of the official political system to enact true change for the people, Casa Pueblo empathizes a bottom-up approach.
The organization has a formula: community + science = reform. Its rich history of art and culture to unify the people combined with solid data and connections to universities (for example, Yale) have enabled Casa Pueblo’s success.
Taken on their own, Casa Pueblo’s achievements are incredible. With the context of the group’s humble origin, they are exponentially more so. For its work in forest conservation, Casa Pueblo received the prestigious Energy Globe award. Luis Fonsi and even Nansi Pelosi have visited Casa Pueblo’s headquarters, all impressed by Dr. Alexis’s resolve.
Casa Pueblo presents a model of community self-management. Its basic formula of community and science, people and data, for change is applicable nearly everywhere in society. With Casa Pueblo’s track record, we’ve got a lot to learn from a humble organization in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico.