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La casa de Juan

February 25, 2013

Meet Student Sustainability Blogger Emily Smith van Beek

By Emily Smith van Beek

Sustainability Blogger

Up atop a hillside in the deserted area of San Cristobal lies a house. This isn’t any ordinary house, it’s an Eco house. It’s Juan’s house. Juan Hidalgo Diaz and his family have purposely sequestered themselves from the hustle and bustle of the city to live a more peaceful, harmonious, organic and eco-friendly lifestyle. Because they want to be close with the rest of their family still, Juan has constructed this mini eco compound in the city, joining the rural with the urban. 

Everything at Juan’s house is recycled and repurposed. He believes this earth has limited resources, so we must use everything to its full potential. It is ever important to connect your body, mind and soul with the earth’s riches to live as healthy of a lifestyle as possible. 

Juan's House

Juan’s House

Juan's House

Juan’s House

Let me try and get your imagination running as I take you on a recounted tale of Juan’s casa. At the bottom of the slope are the bathrooms. In Mexico, it is common to have your shower and toilet all as one contraption. In my host family’s home in Chiapas, you could go to the bathroom and take a shower at the same time. For sanitation purposes, Juan has built the bathroom outside of his house, and has separated the showers from the toilets. 

Walk a bit further up the hill and you’re greeted by beautiful flowers. These are no ordinary flowers. When squeezed, the flowers produce a sticky sap-like substance, that is used like honey on hotcakes and to sweeten food. The flowers are completely organic; no pesticides are used to grow them. Beside the flowers is a tree whose leaves are left to crisp in the sunlight. When they’re practically burnt dry, the leaves are used to produce a salt-like spice, also used for cooking. 

In addition to the plants, Juan and his family have a small-scale fruit and vegetable garden. This is for the family’s self-sustainability only. They use a mixture of composted foods and worms to grow kiwis and pears, and behind the house is a garden with carrots, beans and cauliflower. 

The house itself is the epitome of environmentalism. All the materials were recycled. For drywall/insulation, non-food garbage was used. A mixture of clay and glass bottles is the strength that holds up the wooden structure. The wood is pieces of old furniture. 

Finally, one of my favourite aspects of the sustainability of this home is the view. The beautiful lookout to the Chiapas mountains ahead, and the city of San Cristobal below, would sustain my mental and emotional needs for years to come. I can only imagine waking up each morning to such beauty. You can’t help but to be happy breathing in the fresh mountain air and seeing such sights around you. 

Adios amigos,