Casa Pueblo, Puerto Rico

Generated out of the resistance to mining operations, this initiative has strengthened community participation and education on matters pertaining the conservation of natural resources, living space and cultural heritage


Description
The United States government during the post-war period had the intention of industrializing Puerto Rico and using the available resources in the island to power the resurging economy. Operation Bootstrap, the name given to the package of political and economic policies implemented by the local government intended the exploration of ore and minerals by foreign actors for industrial use. The United States foresaw the potential of utilizing Puerto Rico as a locality for extracting raw materials for industrial development in the continental USA. During the period 1950-1995 there were numerous attempts to create a mining operation of the ‘open sky’ style to harvest the copper and gold deposits found within an area that has enormous ecological and cultural significance to Puerto Ricans. These projects would have nearly or completely obliterated the landscape found in the west part of the island making it unlivable for any human and nonhuman entities. These projects would have also generated significant amounts of sulfuric acid, damaging the southern and western rivers in the process, further harming the natural resources available for Puerto Ricans. All the attempts, namely in the years, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1992 were struck down by the local government because of the influence of community led organizations that sought to preserve the lands. For the 1980 attempt to explore ore and mining surveying described an increase of quantity of land to be exploited, namely, from 14000 hectares to 36000 hectares. The island of Puerto Rico is relatively small, comprising roughly 161 kilometers of width and 57 kilometers of length, a considerable amount of land, namely 5% of the available land would have been completely wiped if the 1980 project would have been allowed to be realized. Further, not only would have 5% of the land been completely unusable, but the health repercussions on the islanders would have been severe, not to mention the loss of cultural heritage sites.  Local scientists, workers and community members organized themselves in a way that set a precedent for future resistance movements.  The Casa Pueblo community makes a continuous effort to broaden the local and international community’s perspective on the potential damages of the neoliberal economic paradigm. Also, and more importantly, it provides sanctuary and growth to the People’s Forest (established in 1996) through different methods, such as promoting awareness social on topics such as economy, agroecology, and community organization, biodiversity research and training, forest schooling, community radio station and a store. This People’s Forest project was facilitated by mining law reform a realized by the government of Puerto Rico in 1995. A co-management agreement was reached with the government of Puerto Rico and Casa Pueblo, the latter is responsible for keeping and maintaining the area of the People’s Forest, roughly 16000 hectares, and the former is responsible for delivering a stipend so their efforts are materialized. The law was revised in 2014, so that other areas of ecological importance, not just only the People’s Forest, were to be defended and conserved against any type of privatization and exploitation efforts.
Basic Data
NameCasa Pueblo, Puerto Rico
CountryPuerto Rico
ProvincePuerto Rico
Site Adjuntas, Utuado, Lares, and Jayuya
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Specific CommoditiesCopper
Gold
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe project was not realized, therefore the natural resources were not extracted.
Project Area (in hectares) 14,148
Level of Investment (in USD)250,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population 500,00 - 1,500,000
Start Date01/01/1960
End Date01/01/1995
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Puerto Rico (Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico)

The Socialist League (Political Party)

The 'independentista' movement (Political Party)

Casa Pueblo, or, the People's House, founded in 1980 as a community led government effort. (Community-government)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCasa Pueblo, enviromentalists http://casapueblo.org

The Socialist League, a now defunct political party active until 1993, further reading found in http://www.isreview.org/issues/03/Puerto_Rico.shtml

The "Hostosiano Movement" the currently active socialist movement, http://minhpuertorico.org/
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Othern/a
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Othern/a
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Othern/a
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
Land demarcation
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Fostering a culture of peace
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of AlternativesThe alternatives were brought about by the Casa Pueblo ejo. Throughout the time that the mining and ore exploration requests by the United States government sponsored foreign corporations the community managed to appeal to official channels to stop the project completely. The area is now managed jointly by Casa Pueblo and the Puerto Rican government, these entities provide education, work and research opportunities for the local community and outside agents. The Casa Pueblo initiative has strengthened community participation and education on matters pertaining the conservation of natural resources, living space and cultural heritage.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The government discarded the project after continous efforts from the Casa Pueblo members. Also, other aditional areas were included into the originally proposed conservation space.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Ley del Bosque Modelo de Puerto Rico. 2014, This law contains the 1994 law that permitted the creation of the people's forest, also it contemplates the organization and regulation of different ecological zones.
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Ley de Bosques de Puerto Rico, 1975.
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References

García López, Gustavo A., Irina Velicu, and Giacomo D’Alisa. "Performing Counter-Hegemonic Common (s) Senses: Rearticulating Democracy, Community and Forests in Puerto Rico." Capitalism Nature Socialism (2017): 1-20.
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Links

Organization that actively seeks to conserve the areas of Adjuntas, Lares and Yauco.
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Local newpaper detailing the efforts to realize a new economic paradigm, Casa Pueblo is used as the main example.
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A newspaper column by Efrén Rivera on Casa Pueblo and its implications for the Puerto Rican economic paradigm, Professor of the University of Puerto Rico's School of Law.
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Article detailing recent struggles for the operation of Casa Pueblo, namely, infrastructure legality problems.
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Alexis Massol Gonzalez

2002 Goldman Prize Recipient
Islands and Island Nation
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Media Links

photo of area
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photo of area
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Other Documents

Bosque del Pueblo
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Logo de Casa Pueblo
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Other CommentsFor his efforts to the conservation of the forests and environment pertaining the planned open mines, Ing. Alexis Massol González won the Goldman award 2002.
Meta Information
ContributorEsteban J. Vizcarrondo Garrastegui, Universidad de Puerto Rico Recinto de Mayaguez, [email protected]
Last update06/06/2017
Comments