Positive Deviants: Julián López and Ana María Tovar
Company: Proyecto San Antonio
Location: La Calera, Colombia
“If I landed here from another planet, what would surprise me the most about human beings?
I guess it would depend where I landed.”
Ana María Tovar, together with her partner Julián López, know very well the contrasts between ways of life. Although they are self-proclaimed (and proud) ‘lab rats’ of their own Proyecto San Antonio, an initiative borne from their desire to live from and in abundant harmony with Mother Nature, they are nonetheless familiar to the ways of urban life. In fact, it is partly their familiarity with it that spurred them to leave urban centers and seek a life closer to the land.
A little over 5 years ago they made this purposeful transition, seeking a freedom that comes with aligning one’s values with one’s life. That freedom has been realized in Proyecto San Antonio, a laboratory of art and design located in the countryside about an hour from Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá.
Ana and Julián live happily in a remodeled bus-like Dodge of the 1970s. Actually, they have transformed this gas-guzzling symbol of industry into an idyllic example of their own dedication to a DIY sustainable lifestyle.
In this 20 square meters they have installed complete wood paneling, a bed, other amenities of a home, and can power electronic devices through energy provided by the solar panels they installed on the roof. For their water needs, they built a rainwater catchment system attached to the bus that is capable of storing upwards of 1,000 liters of water.
Outside, they have created a mini-paradise which provides what they need to live and to thrive. A garden, a small kitchen area, a dry toilet (they use what remains for compost), and other ecologically-minded wonders.
Their creations are not just a way to live, they are a way of life. It’s a positive deviance from the prevailing norms of our current systems. Ana reflects on this, “Our systems are not based so much on money, as on oil. It is all based on something that is finite. We thought, let’s do something different. Let’s build something different.”
In their move to a more bucolic world they have manifested their vision of, well, a bucolic lifestyle in which freedom means living out your dreams and teaching others that we need not depend on the stories we have been told about how to live. Indeed, they assert that it may be healthier and more beneficial to learn how to live more independently, off the land and with the land. Not only for oneself, but for the benefit of generations to come.
With this generational sentiment in mind, Ana and Julián offer work-stays and workshops to promote learning of permaculture, regenerative living, art, and more. Julián, in a different remodeled bus on their land, runs a tattoo parlor powered by another set of solar panels. They recently started an Artist-in-Residence in program as well to expand how they might use their space as a catalyst of culture and artistic empowerment.
Julián describes their journey so far, “An idea that we have been sold is that outside of urban centers there is nothing. We came here some years ago and have come to know a grand variety of powerful projects and people. They are young people like us from the city, from different areas of expertise, developing their own initiatives, working in community, thinking globally and acting locally.”
It has been a process of determined learning for the pair of changemakers. They didn’t necessarily arrive at this place with all the expertise needed to transform it into the self-sustaining container that it is now. What they did have was a clear vision, and from that, the motivation to learn and apply those learnings to make that vision a reality.
And what would they tell us, people with a determined vision to change the world? Julián urges, “Return to the land. The connection with nature is essential for any human being. We have been sold a model in which we think we can only live, exist in the city, a socio-economic dynamic of consumerism. Look for a simple life, with only the things that are necessary.”
Their call to others resonates because they have done it themselves. They walk-the-talk behind the philosophy that moves them and continue finding liberation embracing the human capacity to be independent. And truly free.
A call to positive deviance from Ana and Julián
They can be reached at: