As you approach the ridge of Blanco (Bonao, Dominican Republic), the virginity and pureness of the 600 meter mountain strokes your urban sensibility with layers of radiant vegetation and cascades that emerge from the rocks that put up this unique landscape. Once arrived at the Río Blanco Ecotourism Project, technology vanishes from your eyes while there is no escape from nature.
For the past 26 years, a federation of 200 farmers has protected some of the richness of the Bonao Borough and their own lives from the desire of foreign gold mining companies, which lavish the minerals at plane site. Esteban Polanco, father of five boys and married twice, is a college professor and the president of the “Farmers in Progress” Federation.
Intended to preserve the beauty of Blanco and improve the quality of farmers’ lives, Esteban emphasized the fundamentals that inspired this rural complex with bamboo workshops and rabbit warrens. “Our women were submitted to a traditional and exerting lifestyle, we weren’t capable of taking our children to be vaccinated, there were no more services than the ones provided by Mother Nature, so we decided it was time to create this rural resort”, he explains as he sips from a metallic dented cup with organic coffee produced by the farmers.
Very friendly and conscience, Esteban was a victim of a bombing attempt in downtown Monseñor Nouel (province) back in 2007. He was one of the leaders of the anti-mining movement that brought to closure the “devastation providing” project to be settled in the Yuna and Blanco riverbed. As a consequence, Esteban suffered third-degree burns in 70% of his body, for which he needed skin grafting within several operations.
This was not a motive to keep Blanco from catching up with development. “We have 80 families distributed in 2 communities nearby. This rural and ecotourism project was the only way to guarantee life in this mountain other than trees and insects. “We now teach our visitors about our lifestyle and take them on scheduled activities, with which we gain income, generated awareness and created a unique intercultural experience with people from Italy, United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, Germany and Australia that regularly visit“, Esteban said as he unbuttoned his shirt with his scarred hands.
At the ridge, visitors can take a swim in the cold waters of the Blanco River, go hiking in the 3 kilometer foot trail called “El Higo”, climb the mountain to “El Rodeo” Cascade to take awesome pictures and enjoy the delicate musical compositions that birds and waterfalls make just for you. A walk through the organic coffee plantations, take a look at sampling of the composting system and the day to day labor in the furniture making of bamboo at the workshop are just some of the rural life scenarios visitors are taken to presence. “The richest experience people take as they leave is the sharing of laughter and joy with humble farmers of these communities and the direct contact with these people and the way they live here”, Fino Caba said, who is treasurer of the federation and sleeps an entire week at the project’s installations to guard and supervise other farmers.
With the support of organizations such as the European Union, CODESPA Foundation, United Nations Development Programme and others, farmers near Blanco River have been empowered with new skills and technologies to take advantage of their roots and personal qualities. In a society where most people think in “what there’s to dinner”, far from the city, some communities work together day after day to build better opportunities and dignify their existence.
As the sun sets, orange rays strain through the window of one of the 8 dormitories in the in-house suite. Outside, clouds cuddle next to the mountain, while the wind dances with pieces of “wool” from the Ceiba Pentranda that floats everywhere. Dinner is almost done by the fireplace, looking pretty good, picture perfect, but not now. There is no service or time for technology here and the stars wait for your attention.