A hundred men, women and children of different nationalities have been camping since May 14 in the Portilla Valley, in the vicinity of Mansilla de la Sierra (La Rioja, 56 inhabitants). They are known as Rainbow Family (“Rainbow Family”, in English) and are part of the international Rainbow Gathering movement, associated with the lifestyle hippy, and emerged in the US in the 70s, they meet periodically in different parts of the world and this year they have chosen La Rioja, specifically a natural enclave a few kilometers from the border with Castilla y León. The Civil Guard has filed several complaints against the participants – who will presumably stay until June 14 – for camping in a protected area, for not respecting the security measures imposed by covid-19 and for providing false or inaccurate data during their ID.
Since their arrival, the Civil Guard has controlled the area and its surroundings almost daily, where around 200 people have gathered. One agent describes them like this: “They are very peculiar people, they only believe in mother earth, in her sacred fire; and all the laws do not concern them ”. The security body has filed several complaints against them for free camping in public mountains, lighting bonfires, parking in a prohibited area or for not wearing a mask. Some 70 participants left the site voluntarily and another 54 were unable to reach their destination due to the controls established by the security forces. However, another hundred remained in the area.
Civil Guard sources explain that the commune arrived on May 14 in the remote area of La Rioja without any permission. Between hills full of vegetation and the ruins of old stone houses, the members of the group have pitched tents and created common areas for recreation. A transparent tarp protects their groceries – large bags of wheat flour and baskets of vegetables – and everything they brought with them for the stay: blankets, pots, plates, cutlery and plastic water cans.
The greatest danger, according to the Civil Guard, is that a fire or serious accident may occur. “For any accident that occurs, bringing the medical equipment there is complicated,” says an agent, who explains that the participants do not have electronic devices to communicate and there is no coverage in the area. The exact point of the camping can only be accessed by walking the last two kilometers. The presence of minors also motivated their communication to the Social Services of the Government of La Rioja, not only because of the schooling, but also because of the appalling hygienic, sanitary and sanitary conditions. According to the agents, the group is not evicted because it is expected that they will leave the area next Monday, when the lunar cycle ends, which marks their activities.
To control Rainbow Family, the Civil Guard has mobilized the air service helicopter, the Citizen Security unit, the Nature Protection Service (Seprona), the cynological service – with specialist dogs to detect narcotics – and the Mountain Rescue and Intervention.
Rocío Menéndez de la Cuesta, owner of the rural house La Moniquilla, in Mansilla, says that she has met one of the participants in town. “I met a Portuguese man and a Galician woman,” recalls the businesswoman, who explains that from time to time they go down to town to have a drink at the bar, ask for information and to shop. “They came with their masks, very respectful. They told me they didn’t understand why they were being pushed away and the pressure to kick them out. ” Menéndez de la Cuesta acknowledges that they break the law, but also that their presence has brought visibility to the area. “That these peoples of the sierra come to know thanks to the hippiesWell, welcome. This publicity is good, because we are always very forgotten ”, he remarks.