“It’s a magical place.”Hari Gopal’s eyes light up as she leans into her fiancé Tim Brag to tell me about Punta Mona, the permaculture farm on the southernmost Caribbean coast, which they now call home.
We are on the bus, wary of the time, because there are only two ways to get into Punta Mona: by boat or by hiking a steep, muddy trail through the jungle. You can’t count on arriving by either of them, as the safety of each is dependent on the weather and daylight.
The last time The Tico Times visited Punta Mona was for the third annual Bio-Cultural Gathering. The overarching goal of the sustainable farm is “to see the ideas of (Punta Mona) everywhere … making the world a better place. We are a global community, so let’s act as a global community,” says Jaze Duchene, projects manager.
Up until the last Bio-Cultural Gathering, held in January 2005, the focus had been to establish Punta Mona as a strong educational center. Most of the residents were interns who stayed for only a few weeks, so the very nature of Punta Mona was transitory.
Though that gathering succeeded in educating people as to what permaculture is and how the farm works, it was a fairly chaotic event, because it lacked the strong foundation of long-term residents opening up their home as hosts.
Permaculture has three goals: care of the land, care of the people and distribution of surplus (TT, Jan. 18, 2005). It also involves putting the “intention of community and permanency out there. Punta Mona is not going to be successful without both,” Duchene says. In this vein, they look to expand the farm into a community. Already they are constructing an eco-village that aims to be a fully sustainable, permanent community situated near the Punta Mona farm.
Neither Gopal nor Brag planned on living at Punta Mona. Yet the couple met a month ago and are as deeply connected to the farm as they are to each other. Just as they have committed to each other, they have committed to Punta Mona, and they aren’t the only people in the past couple of months to make a long-term commitment to the place. For the first time in two years, Punta Mona is fully staffed. This sudden influx of full-time staff is evidence of Punta Mona’s change toward establishing community and making the shift possible.
With the support of a full staff, Punta Mona was able to bring back the Bio-Cultural Gatherings, and held its most recent one in January. With the focus “more on connection, on bringing all the people working for alternative and sustainable solutions together,” explains Cristian Carranza, systems director and general support manager, they plan to host gatherings every two months, instead of annually, to bring more people in and build continuity of returning visitors.
The 2007 gathering was “much more organized” than in the past, says Gabriella Naranjo, a repeat visitor and farmer on Finca Exótica, across the country on the southern Pacific coast’s Osa Peninsula –though there were a few mishaps. A boat carrying the backpacks of a group of hikers didn’t make it to Punta Mona until Saturday morning, which meant that the hikers had nothing, so “everyone (residents of Punta Mona) gave out clothes, tents, sleeping bags … I gave out practically my entire bedroom,” Duchene says. “This is home, and now is the time to reach out, to relinquish our space to bring people in. It is time to build bridges and networks.”
And bring in people they did. Punta Mona hosted more than a hundred people from 22 countries, more than ever before, and also had eight hours of activities, lectures and classes, as well as performances and a DJ for Saturday night.
The performances began just after nightfall. Anuar Hassan, a rock climber from Singapore, led the night off with a fire dance.
Before beginning, he summed up the success of the gathering: “You all come here and share everything you’ve got as a family.”
Punta Mona is a magical place, especially now that the community is changing. It embraces everyone, pulling even newcomers in and teaching everything its residents have to teach.
For more information about Punta Mona, visit www.puntamona.org.