The Island of Calm Souls
The harbour village at Roque Bermejo. Photo by Maria and Andrzej Górz

The Island of Calm Souls

A Unique Community on Tenerife
Maria Górz
time 16 minutes

Somos okupas – ‘We are squatters’. These words welcome us in Roque Bermejo, a village on Tenerife’s hardly accessible north-eastern coast. The members of this small community have found their own way of living in harmony.

My husband Andrzej and I believe in alternative lifestyles. We think that small societies are one of the best solutions to the economic and social challenges of our century: overpopulation, the climate crisis and the daily stress experienced by those who live in metropolises. For the past three years, we have been conducting research and working on building an intentional community in Poland. We did not suspect, however, that during our honeymoon we would witness the everyday life of one of the most interesting communities we have ever seen.


We set out too late. We decide to follow the trail even though we know we won’t make it before dusk. We are in a village called Chamorga in north-eastern Tenerife. This is where asphalt ends and hiking trails begin, leading up into the Anaga mountains, an isolated and picturesque corner of the Canary Islands, with unique wildlife and slopes that slide right into the ocean. We are headed for the ruins of a farm; according to the map, it will take us two hours to get there. We even leave our wallets behind.

After an hour of hiking we reach the crumbling buildings, once inhabited by shepherds. Our only companions are the ubiquitous mountain goats. Another half hour of walking uphill and we find ourselves looking at the Faro de Anaga, a lighthouse that was erected in 1864 as the first building in the area. The ruins of Hacienda de Anaga can easily be seen from up here.

Only later will we find out that the hacienda once belonged to the noble Ossuna family from nearby La Laguna, and was up and running till the mid-20th century. Now this land belongs to the diocese of Tenerife. On our way down from the Faro de Anaga, we catch a bird’s eye view of what is left of the hacienda: bits of stone outbuildings with caved-in roofs, outlined by the nearly invisible contour of terraced fields; a permanently-closed chapel and a few larger, abandoned buildings.

A short rest near the chapel. An old man is sitting on the concrete bench beside us. The sun is setting, and all three of us are looking at the horizon. After a few minutes the man leaves. Not another living soul around.

A few of the buildings on the shores beneath us seem occupied. A little further,


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Two women accompany each other in their transformation. They discuss the power of sensitivity, empathy, and how one’s room looks: a space in which you can finally tune in and listen to yourself. Monika Kucia and Natalia de Barbaro speak of the road to freedom and multi-faceted aspects of manifesting our true selves.

Monika Kucia: We have come a long way together. Were I to point out the most important aspects of this journey, I would say it was mainly about accompanying each other in the process of leaving and returning to ourselves. In your book Czuła przewodniczka. Kobieca droga do siebie [The Tender Guide: A Womans Path To Finding Herself], you wrote this path is rough and full of potholes, often leading us astray. You led me, even though you are not me. Sometimes, I find it hard to believe I was so distant from myself. Nowadays, Im learning not to wander off too far, even though it never happens definitively. How do you see it?

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