If your home was destroyed by lava, and the volcano was likely to erupt again in 20 years, would you choose to rebuild your home here?
On Fogo Island (belonging to the Republic of Cape Verde in northwest Africa) there is a village called Jadas Cadeiras (hereinafter referred to as “Jia Village”), where the residents talk about the volcano as if it is alive The individual, as if it is the god who dominates everything. If you want to understand this complex, you have to wait until dawn, when the cold wind blows over the highlands, there will be magical minutes-the shadow of the mountain is projected on the huge rock wall around the crater, and towards the village. The house moved slowly. On the surface that was not completely covered by the black lava, the buried white roofs and ruined walls were exposed, like the wreckage of a shipwreck, the culprit of which was the 2014 volcanic eruption. Volcano, however, is not a god to fear and anger, but a loving father. “Although it destroyed the entire village, it is because of the existence of the volcano that we live here.” Cecilio Montron said.
In 1975, the Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic Ocean became independent from Portugal and became a sovereign country. It consists of ten volcanic islands. Most of the submarine volcanoes that shaped these islands have been dormant. Only the “old man” of Fogo Island is still full of energy, erupting more than 20 times in more than 500 years. Today, the slopes are dotted with nascent craters that spew warm, sulfurous gases. It is estimated that the volcano will erupt again in about 20 years. We naturally think that such a place is not an ideal place to live. However, a century ago, the first residents of Jia Village were attracted by the fertile soil and precious water source, decided to settle here, and returned here after repeated volcanic eruptions, digging open the uncooled rocks , return to the buried house, and rebuild your home on the magma rock that just flowed from the earth’s core. They are children of volcanoes.
”I cried so much that day that everything I worked so hard for was lost in the lava,” said Marisa Lopez, 37. The penultimate eruption of the Fogo Island volcano was in 1995, in Before that, Jia Village was just an obscure and secluded village next to the volcano. The villagers barely made a living from agriculture and animal husbandry. The eruption of the volcano brought the village a booming tourism industry. Tourists from France, Portugal, Spain and Germany flocked to see the village. The village seems to have been blessed by volcanoes. From then on, the young Marisa started working at the fledgling hotel in the village until she became the owner herself. Eight years ago, she already ran two hotels. However, on November 23, 2014, the volcano erupted again. “Overnight, everything was gone,” Marisa said. She recalled the scene at that time in the newly built hotel with a solemn expression.
With a guitar on his back, Judis walked on the winding stone road, with hardened lava and newly built houses on both sides of the road. “I’m going to Ramiro’s!” he yelled excitedly. It is an indispensable bar in the local area, where neighbors often gather to play the piano and sing in the afternoon, and drive away their sorrows with spirits and locally brewed red wine. Ernesto Pina emerged from the ground and greeted Judith with his arms raised high. Pina’s house was flooded with lava, but the walls withstood the impact without collapsing, so he now lives underground. “I worked eight hours a day for three weeks to get the house cleaned out,” he said. His wife, Jennifer Diaz, shrugged and said, “We don’t want to move anywhere else. Unique.”
No one knows the volcano better than Cecilio Montrón. Over the years he has led many visitors to the crater along illegible paths through crevices in the cliffs. The 2,800-meter volcano occasionally resists their approach. Up high, strong winds blow and early morning temperatures can numb hands and sink feet in hardened volcanic ash. It takes four hours of climbing to reach the top, and the panorama of the village is unobstructed at the foot. The lava left by the volcanic eruption in different periods gradually shaped the huge crater into what it is today, all of which are shocking. “My home was destroyed by the eruption, but within a few days I was back here with my wife Elena. She was pregnant at the time and we made do in a tent for a few weeks while the volcano continued. ’” Montron recalled. That’s dangerous, and the police have tried to chase them away. “I climbed up the hillside, hid in the mountains, and came out when the police left. One day I saw a crow, so I knew the eruption was over,” he said.
The Cape Verdean government did everything possible to prevent residents from returning to the affected areas and freed them up in the hillside villages of Achada and Monte. The government ordered a ban on rebuilding Jia, but villagers returned to the village in February 2015, when the volcano was still active. “We’re scared. Many of us don’t have money. What can we do? We don’t know how to survive in other places,” Marisa said. She applied to the government to rebuild her two hotels, but got no response. “Construction started in April, and there were 40 workers on the site in May. At that time, I had already received hotel reservations for October, and I couldn’t stop working,” she said. Their relationship with the government was once tense. The police threatened to tear down the hotel under construction. Marisa’s husband Mustafa still remembers this vividly: “I told them that I didn’t want to cause trouble, and I didn’t want to do anything, and finally we convinced the police.” The warm floor is a symbol of Jiacun’s struggle.
The volcanic soil is fertile and loose, which can hold the insufficient rainwater, and one of the greatest wealth of the village also benefits from it. “Our wines are unique, produced in a very specific microclimate and extreme conditions of altitude, and the soil is rich in minerals,” explains David Montron, a local winemaker. A volcanic eruption in 2014 destroyed the old wine cellar, but local farmers organized themselves and within a few months a makeshift winemaking facility was built. For decades, Jia Village has been brewing by hand, and the wine produced is for drinking in the village, but today, the local wine is well-known and sold all over Cape Verde. Some vines are 100 years old, as old as the village and as tenacious as the villagers here.
As the villagers returned to the village one after another, the local government had no way out and could only announce the abolition of the decree prohibiting villagers from rebuilding their homes. In 2017, the government entrusted a company in the Canary Islands of Spain to plan and construct the Ecoregion of Macaronesia (composed of Cape Verde Islands, Canary Islands, Azores, Madeira Islands, etc.), fully considering the volcanic Eruption hazards and evacuation needs for residents. The Faculty of Art, Technology and Culture of the Mindelo International School of the Arts is also involved in the project and is responsible for the development of public infrastructure. “This is a challenge. We knew from the very beginning that we had to maintain close communication with the residents to understand their needs and propose solutions. The progress of the project in Cape Verde is very slow, and the local residents are very troubled by this.” Ming De Leo Lopez, Principal of Lou International School of the Arts said.
The project also assisted in the restoration of the residence, with remarkable results. The majestic silhouette of the volcano can be seen from every window of the new school. Local materials were used for the construction of the school, and local residents participated in the construction one after another. The school has also won the Holcim Award for Sustainable Architecture for its energy-efficient heating design. Kindergarten teacher Laurinda Correa said excitedly: “We finally have a school that can accommodate all children.” In 2014, the road leading to the village was destroyed, but now, a brand new gravel road runs through the village, There are also two safe routes for evacuation from the crater. Residents finally got their wish. The wound is slowly healing.
Luciano Montron, who was not yet 12, learned to carve volcanic rocks into statues and animal sculptures to sell to tourists. His elaborate masks now adorn the corners of many houses and villages. Standing on the balcony of his new home, he saw that the number of vehicles and tourists suddenly decreased due to the new crown epidemic gradually increased. “We’ve had a lot of trials and tribulations, but we’ve always moved forward,” he said. The weekend is here, and the residents of Jia Village are using their spare time to rush to build houses. Stones that once buried houses were used to build new walls. Marisa emphasized: “The volcano has given us everything, but it needs to take a breath occasionally.”