By Rob Gray
The cry is not so much mine as it is Nature’s. The landmark, Gran Roca, is under siege and there appears to be nothing that can be done to defend it. So, I am asking for help from the community in saving this landmark from being defaced by a group of neighbors that don’t seem to care what is damaged as long as they get what they want. And the sad part is that it is really only one individual that has convinced this group to choose this selfish and destructive path. And it is a single word in a document that makes this whole sordid affair possible. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In 2014, I was lucky enough to have the privilege of purchasing an astonishingly beautiful, landmark property in the Yunguilla Valley, (about an hour from Cuenca).
I vowed when I purchased the property that I would, above all, protect the sanctity of the pristine landmark, Gran Roca, or as it is often referred to as “Aerolito,” because it was believed to have come from outer space. There are many myths and legends surrounding the rock and I envisioned creating a special place for locals and tourists alike with the unique combination of sustainably grown farm-to-table food and a fun and friendly family destination all in the shadow of Gran Roca.
What I didn’t know in 2014 as a newbie here in Ecuador was that a “friendly” agreement to allow water to pass across the property would become a nightmare that puts at risk the pristine beauty of the Gran Roca. What was agreed to by myself and the president of the water association was that the water was free to pass through, but lower on the property not near the rock. This was crystal clear and a path was agreed to by both parties.
Unfortunately, over time, there was a new president of the association and pressure by one member of that association to take the water across the rock. That member claims that the water needs to be that high to get it to that member’s property. We have since heard that engineers have recommended the lower route. What is even more frustrating was that we were never notified or given a copy of the engineer’s approval document to cross our land. That document included the word, “forzosa,” which enables the association to take the water anywhere on the land at their discretion, including digging a trench across the rock area, leaving a large scar with us having no legal or property rights to object. Sadly, that one member wanting to cross the rock informed my partner that as soon as the water comes to the member’s land, the land will be sold and the member will relocate to the U.S.
Once you’ve seen Gran Roca up close, it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to harm it. But what do I know, I was brought up with a respect for nature. In fact, we are developing a water project ourselves with similar challenges. But we are NOT crossing the rock. And, by the way, doesn’t nature have rights under the Ecuadoran Constitution? And, if so, who in the government is responsible for protecting those rights? We’ve already talked with Senagua, (the water authority) and they have not been able to help. We’ve also gone to the Municipality of Giron, who used a picture of Gran Roca in its 150 year celebration flyer and they have not been able to help. So, who can help? Reminds me of this lyric in the musical 1776. “Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?” If you know someone or someone who knows someone who can help, please let us know. Time is running out.
There is no disrespect intended to anyone connected to this matter, and no names are used. But if we fail, should we put up a BIG sign near the rock saying, “Scar courtesy of our neighbors, Senagua, and the Municipality of Giron”?
Rob Gray runs the Gran Roca Project, (www.granroca.net), a sustainable commercial permaculture farm in the Yunguilla Valley southwest of Cuenca. Rob sells his fresh picked produce, meats and eggs in Cuenca at a Wednesday Market and provides deliveries and pick-ups on Mondays and Fridays. He also publishes a weekly newsletter of the goings-on at the farm; you can sign-up on his website. He can be reached through his website, http://granroca.net