Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Mondragón is an industrial city in the heart of the Basque Country. Founded in 1260 by Alphonse the 10th, also called the Wise King. Its name comes from Mont Dragón, the Mount of the Dragon, the lair of a mythical figure known in medieval times to require the yearly sacrifice of a young damsel. Now, on the same mountain, Murumendi, we find the headquarters of a benign giant--the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation, whose influence spans the globe.

We were very privileged to meet several who work there, attend a special presentation explaining the movement or "Mondragón Experience" as it is known, and even tour one of the local industrial plants--Fagor Arrasate. And our guide was the boss man, the manager of four plants--Jose Mari, one of the friends who took up the Tourmalet challenge along with our guys.

Mondragón is also the birthplace of our host and guide, Alberto. He is the only one of this group of friends that moved away from the hometown. The others jokingly won't let him forget that he abandoned them. But, of course, they stay in touch and continue to get together regularly. This is an aspect of Basque culture we so admired--the way they value and guard the bonds of friendship from childhood on. 

Today I was reading the story of Mondragón and the Cooperative Movement in the book that commemorates their fiftieth anniversary. I find it fascinating and there are so many things I'd love to share. Of course, you can go to the links I've included and read for yourself, but I am excited and hope to express some of the ideas and facts myself in the coming days. For now, a link to an article that includes a photo of what we saw them working on for a US client, the FORD company. 

I remember being very interested in the whole cooperative concept, asking questions as I heard bits and pieces when we were in Basque Country. The people we met were so fired up about the Movement, its global impact and their buzzword--solidarity.  I was reminded of how we felt about our involvement years ago in a movement that impacted our lives forever--Operation Mobilization.

To end the long day out, we dropped in on Alberto's Mom in Mondragón. She is such a lovely lady.

It was a long day. Alberto was so eager to show us everything, and there was still so much more. And like the Mondragón story, we were not able to take it ALL in. Looking back, remembering, reading, researching, I wish I could go back and spend more time. Perhaps I would be better prepared. For now I will just keep on exploring the memories. Join me on more Adventures in Europe.

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