The name El Dorado immediately suggests dreams of vast, hidden fortunes and has mobilized people for centuries all over the Americas. Those quests created treasures of traveling experiences and very little else.
However, the name became a synonym of an unaccomplished, unattainable dream. Soon after my arrival at Santa Fe, I was invited to Eldorado, a tiny settlement twenty miles south of the city. Was the name misspelling a casual error, or did it indicate an attempt to change history’s course?
Before I could properly tour the place, we entered a vast, low house and I found myself with a steaming cup of coffee in my hands.
"What was the dream behind this Eldorado?" I asked my host.
"We want to be a self-sufficient community."
My question was in place. Suddenly my host was a blur of quick movements dragging me out, to the yard. I made a mental note: next time ask such a question only after finishing the coffee.
In the yard, while standing next to a monstrous 4x4 vehicle, my host tried agitatedly to explain all the dream’s details at once. Shutting off his voice, I relaxed and began looking around at the five or six houses arranged around us. Despite being part of the Santa Fe County, all the houses were built of thick adobe bricks and coated with a pastel-colored cement layer; as per the city’s regulations.
All the houses had a water collection system which led rain water from the roof into big black plastic tanks, which were tightly closed. Later, I learned this water was mixed with the one provided by the county and re-filtered before consumption due to the heavy and radioactive metals polluting the area. My host told me it there wasn’t enough rain in the area and thus they couldn’t be autonomous in that aspect.
Most houses had expensive photovoltaic solar panels. At $30000 each, they supplied all their electricity’s need and enabled selling the surplus to the county’s network. "It saves me $30-40 per month," my host said with shiny stars in his eyes. "It would take you a thousand months to cover the expense – I countered and continued – why don’t you use cheap thermal solar technology and cover the expenses within one year?"
He seemed puzzled by my unsophisticated, primitive, reaction. After a second or two, he replied slowly, so I would understand:
"Oh, that’s too old; we want to be on the technological edge," he dismissed my weird idea. I corrected his earlier definition: they want to be an ultra-modern self-sufficient settlement.
The houses were surrounded by huge yards; most of those were empty while others featured a few trees. I recognized young Ponderosa Pines, which held the promise of turning into majestic trees. On the sun spots among them, lazy lizards tried to shake-off the residues of last night coldness. "Why don’t you grow vegetables and create self-sufficient salads?" I asked while calculating the slim probability of taking a good photograph of the nearest lizard.
"Because they will be polluted," he answered patiently.
"I still do not understand – I continued nagging – how people live here. Do they work in Eldorado?"
"We have around five thousand houses and most residents work in Santa Fe or Albuquerque."
"Are you self sufficient with the gasoline or with the cars?"
"Even if there was oil under our land, it wouldn’t be ours due to the local laws."
At this time I decided to show mercy and drop the topic. After a quick meal prepared with products brought from all around the planet we toured the little commercial center by the settlement’s main entrance. The attractive garden at its center was half-covered by a wood pavilion and surrounded by several shops. Beyond the compulsory supermarket, the pizza and the coffee shops there was little else. What caught my attention was that local products and foods – like roasted chilies – were completely missing there.
From Canada to Chile, endless versions of El Dorado were founded, each fuelled by its own dream, which invariably turned out to be just another Utopia. However, in the era of the Global Village, we are all part of one vastly complex human matrix. Nobody is completely independent of society and society is – to some extent – dependent on each one of us.
No society is independent from the rest of humanity. Any gadget in our pockets enabling a dream of autonomy had been probably produced with parts designed and produced in a zillion factories. Enjoying the productive force of the whole humanity creates the responsibility to care for the weak parts of it.
Our fellow writer, SkewedStyle, is providing a fine example by caring about children in Malawi finishing their education.
The noble dream of self-sufficiency would never be accomplished while a single child across the earth cannot finish his – or hers – education, please visit our website and help transform that dream into reality.