Uruguay (Sierras del Este)
Plant a seed, build a kite, and connect with the land at Aurora de Las Sierras.
Analaura Antúnez and her wife Lucía Kröger believe that bamboo has lots to teach. That’s why in 2017, they left the city and moved to their new 7-hectare heavenly space in rural Uruguay to found Aurora de Las Sierras, a “holistic academy that promotes ecosocial regeneration in action with bamboo as inspiration.” They had already been working with bamboo for years through Panda.uy, a design project that “uses bamboo as a social technology.”
Lucía tells us that although most people picture Asia and pandas when they think of bamboo forests, this versatile weed is naturally present in Uruguay. There are over 1,000 species of bamboo in the world but only some have the right characteristics for human use. Among them is Guadua Chacoensis, which can be found in Uruguay’s Rivera, Salto, and Tacuarembó Departments.
And yes, you read that right — bamboo is a weed, which makes it a remarkably renewable material. It grows extraordinarily fast, has a strong root network, and requires less water and labour when compared to wood fibres and crops like cotton. Plus, it’s tasty.
Possibilities are endless: from toothbrushes and diapers to paper, furniture, and whole buildings, there isn’t much that bamboo can’t do. However, like any productive crop, bamboo can also be grown unsustainably, causing deforestation, biodiversity loss, and soil degradation. The large-scale chemical processing of bamboo often practised in the fashion industry, moreover, can lead to toxic emissions and unfair conditions for workers.
Lucía says that bamboo should be seen as a “source of regenerative wisdom” — and not of intensive production — for the lands and communities that grow it.
“Bamboo in itself isn’t magical”, it’s only when you grow it in harmony with the rest of the ecosystem that you see its potential in ecosocial regeneration. According to Lucía and Analaura, bamboo can show you how you’re an essential piece of the global fight against climate breakdown.
Through the knowledge of bamboo, its life cycle and sustainable uses, people can learn “3 levels of regeneration: within yourself, with others around you, and with nature” and strengthen the alliance between individuals, communities, and nature.
Bamboo created economic and social opportunities for the people who live near the academy in the Sierras del Este forest, about a 1-hour drive north of Maldonado. Locals got involved in bamboo cultivation and carpentry and regularly attend Aurora de Las Sierra’s community sowing initiatives.
“We don’t plant bamboo only. We sow ancient and sacred seeds that have been part of the local knowledge for generations but are going lost now. Together with our sister project Más Yerba, we also organise Days of Yerba Mate, which is an enormously popular and heavily consumed plant in Uruguay, but is almost never produced locally.” Analaura and Lucía believe that bamboo can help humans harvest and recover the wisdom that is now hidden below the earth’s surface.
Everyone’s welcome to attend the school and learn bamboo wisdom. Analaura and Lucía work with school children, families, adults, and elders alike. Activities go from farming and building to meditation, communication and music classes, and circles of connection with the land. “Whether people work with bamboo or not while they are here, the importance lies within the heart and in the memories they create of their day at Aurora de Las Sierras.” Happiness is at the centre of Aurora de Las Sierras and Lucía and Analaura always ponder an activity’s “emotional reward” before starting it.
The couple is now ready to share some of their bamboo happiness with people near and far as they plan to collaborate with schools, universities, and design students to start bamboo-inspired projects around the world. They’ve already launched the first of their new children’s book series Bamboo Stories (Historias Bambuseras), designed to entertain and inspire kids with storytelling and fun bamboo activities.
AtlasAction: Get in touch via Instagram or Facebook with Aurora de las Sierras to learn more about their initiatives and Panda.uy, support the school, and get the Bamboo Stories for your kids, or visit Lucía and Analaura in Uruguay. They say that it would make them “very happy to weave relationship with bamboo as a tool for ecosocial regeneration and to deepen educational projects for the creation of Regenerative Cultures.”
Analaura Antunez y Lucía Kröger (Co - Guardians Aurora de las Sierras)
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