Translated with the help of Lucie Battaglia. Thank you Lucie!

As you may already know, Respecterre is part of an ecovillage called “La Cité Écologique”, located in Ham-Nord. Respecterre’s owners and most of its employees live in this ecovillage, which is also home to the Respecterre boutique and dressmaking shop.

“La Cité Écologique” is not the only example of an ecovillage, as there are several hundred similar projects around the world. Many of those have been visited by some of our residents here at La Cité. In this new series of articles, we will introduce you to these greatly inspiring alternative-living projects.

Huehuecoyotl—an Ecovillage in the Magnificent Mountains of Mexico

In 2013, I flew to Mexico with the intent of working on different farms and ecological sites. After spending two months on a construction project with organic materials, building an igloo-shaped house out of adobe, I decided to look for another project. This is when I came across the Huehuecoyotl ecovillage site. It was the first time I heard the word “ecovillage”, which sparked my curiosity right away. Hence, I contacted one of the members and agreed to spend the next two months there.

The site was an hour and a half away from Mexico City, the capital of Mexico and the most densely populated city in the Americas. I could hardly believe I was now in the high mountains of Morelos, in an environment strongly contrasting the urban jungle. A sign reading “Huehuecoyotl” greets us at the entrance, which means “the old coyote” in Nahuatl. I walked quietly, with my knapsack on my back, towards my host Tona’s house. The four-hectare estate on the mountainside was graced by a dozen houses, built ecologically and esthetically. Tona’s house was the last one, but also the most impressive of all! Decidedly designed by an artist, it was also surrounded by luxuriant vegetation, which grows all year long in Mexico!

Throughout the following weeks, I adopted her daily routine, also shared by the other members. I took care of the chickens and rabbits, tended her garden, learned the art of harvesting and processing coffee, and carried out many maintenance chores. I also had the chance to hear her tell me the story of their community. At the time, the residents were a traveling theater company, the Illuminated Elephants! Coming from all over the world, they traveled internationally in their bus to raise citizens’ awareness in regards to ecology and humanism. One day, on a trip to Mexico, they stumbled upon the village of Tepoztlán. Characterized by strong Indigenous traditions and marked by struggles and claims for the survival of their people and sacred grounds, this place quickly resonated with the travelers. In their search of a place to put down their suitcases and take a break from the nomadic life, they had discovered the mystical land of Huehuecoyotl.

The community was founded in 1982 and will celebrate its 35th anniversary this year. Formerly a group of young hippies, they now describe themselves as old coyotes! Years have gone by and they are mostly grandparents. What makes me a little sad is that they could not pass on their lifestyle to the next generations; in fact, a majority of their children and grandchildren have settled down elsewhere. The ecovillage is mostly inhabited by 70-year-old coyotes, along with a few young people who are mainly visitors, renting a house or part of a house. It is true that educating children and giving them a place to live is not the easiest thing, but the current age gap makes the community’s future uncertain.

How unfortunate, since the energy you feel whilst staying there is refreshing and soothing. The members have built ecological, innovative and beautiful homes and facilities. They are also very relatable individuals, with fascinating stories and life experiences. Ecology, social and art are their main values and are well represented at their ecovillage.

I can only thank them for this experience, because it made me discover the world of ecovillages and led me, upon returning to Quebec, to find another similar place that has been my home for the past three years. Maybe one day I’ll celebrate my 35th anniversary here!

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About the Author Charles Marceau-Cotton: With just a little more than a year of life in the ecovillage “La Cite Ecologique”, I’m the new room! Setting foot in such a community, and above all decide to settle here has its share of great moments but also challenges of all kinds. I therefore propose, through these texts, my views on various aspects of community life and personal observations of the gap that sometimes exists between the “mainstream”  life and the ecovillage life .