Posted July 18th 2011 at 8:59 am by
in Mondragon

From The Bronx to Basque Country – First Impressions of Mondragón

A group of American community and business leaders is posting from Mondragón, Spain, home to a 100,000 employee-strong worker-owned cooperative, from July 17th to 23rd.

“El Alma” of the “Old Town” in Mondragón is one that emanates independence — an isolated and peaceful independence, but even more importantly a collective independence.

This is what I saw as I walked: Everything stood out on its own. No building was exactly like the one next to it. Each one stood erect, claiming its individuality through color combinations and architectural styles. Each road had its own personality. Some were straightforward and went straight to business. There you saw the “Caja Laboral”, the pension fund offices, and the Union General de Trabajadores Euskadi. Other roads were creative and curvy. That’s were you saw the bars, the revolutionary signs and murals, and the stores. There were also open and transparent roads. That’s where the restaurants, the parks, and the festivals were. The music playlists were pretty broad too. I heard everything from jazz, to Jimmy Hendrix, to alternative rock.

But even though each individual aspect of this town has so much meaning, the whole is still greater than the sum of its parts. It is only day one, and I’m far from saying that I’ve experienced the “sum” of Mondragón, but already I can feel the synergy between all the unique knobs and cogs working together. I understand that the entire Mondragón Network (Cooperative and traditional structures) are what produces this “Alma.”

Truthfully there are no words to describe the feeling. It’s something that cannot be described with words. Something that is long OVERDUE in my hometown, the Bronx.

Post by Yorman Nunez of The Bronx.

8 responses to “From The Bronx to Basque Country – First Impressions of Mondragón”

  1. Rebecca Kemble says:

    I was in Mondragon last fall. Here’s a Facebook note I wrote after one interesting afternoon: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=433135281629 And my annotated photo album: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1401181272779.59911.1329739469

    Enjoy your tour and say hi to Mikel for me!

    Rebecca Kemble

  2. Bob Waldrop says:

    I was happy to find this blog about this trip. I encourage you to ask questions about how this structure can be transferred to the United States. We have just organized the Oklahoma Worker Coop Network to incubate worker owned coops here on the Great Plains, and are on the lookout for ideas and instructional materials.

  3. People here in Mondragon say that the coop is not a panacea and they are not angels, but they are trying to follow their values and those values sharply distinguish them from the major trends in the world that favor individual gain over any sense of public good. Yet who can argue with a system that prioritizes broad human and community development over gain for a very small number–and that actually works. The coops currently employ close to 100,000 people, are exporting to 140 countries and manufacturing in three beyond Spain, including the US.

  4. Alexa Mills says:

    Bob that sounds like a great effort. Do you have a website or any links to the work? Have you been able to come to Mondragon?

    Rebecca: I couldn’t open your facebook note, but if it’s not that long you could probably re-post your essay on this comments forum. I would love to read it.

  5. Bob Waldrop says:

    Our website is http://www.okie.coop . We have not been to Mondragon. We would obviously like to go, but it seems somewhat extravagant for us to spend that amount of money right now, money which we don’t have anyway so it’s kind of an academic question. SO “you’re there for us too” and we are all interested in what you see and ideas you bring back.

    We have been networking with our neighbors in Austin Texas, where they have an active organization, “Third Coast Workers for Cooperation”, which is online at http://thirdcoastworkers.coop/ .

  6. Rodney North says:

    Bob,

    We at our co-op, Equal Exchange, wish you great success with your efforts on the Great Plains.

    Are you going to either the worker co-op conference in Oregon in Sept. (see http://west.usworker.coop/ ) or the even bigger North American worker co-op conf in Quebec City in October (see http://www.canadianworker.coop/region/canada/quebec )

    Plus, as one of the larger ($40,000,000 revenues), older (25 yrs & counting) worker co-ops in North America we are now trying to proactively share our materials & lessons learned with the next generation of co-opreneurs.

  7. Ruvi says:

    I must say. It will be a great day for all of us if we can unite the members of our community in the Bronx and reclaim the power that inherently belongs to us. Considering the fact that we are an disenfranchised neighborhood, its about time WE started to work as a collective and make the change ourselves. This dependency on the system needs to end before we all get stuck in the Matrix and forget how to go back to Zion!

  8. Bob Waldrop says:

    Rodney, thanks for the good wishes. I am teaching in a permaculture design course in Oklahoma City in September and can’t go, and the Quebec event is probably not possible either. The others in our group are in similar situations. NEXT year, however, we want to make one of the national or regional conferences. We would be very interested in taking a look at your materials and lessons learned from your experiene. We don’t want to reinvent any wheels or flat tires if we can avoid it. If they are available in electronic format, you could email them to me at bwaldrop@cox.net .