Have you ever heard of conviviencia? The translation is ‘coexist,’ like those bumper stickers you may have seen on a car in front of you at a traffic light. The word convivencia comes from a Spanish historian, Américo Castro, who wrote in the 1940’s about a time in medieval Spain when Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived together and created a society that flourished.
Given this historical context and having visited various historical sites in Spain that reveal evidence of this coexistence, I also consider convivencia to represent the acceptance that there are multiple ways of seeing and doing things, and that there are multiple lenses through which we may see the world. Convivencia means respecting the traditions and beliefs of those around us.
Convivencia represents what the women at Casa de Paz experience daily. They live together in community, supporting each other, working through conflict and trauma. They have left their homes and now live with other women who may share their language, yet their cultural practices and beliefs vary widely. They don’t all eat the same foods, or necessarily use the same words for specific items, or share the same values. At Casa de Paz, they experience convivencia, navigating among various Spanish speaking cultures, and learning what it means to work toward a common good. This is not always easy. Living in community means considering the needs and desires of others and moving beyond individual desires that may hurt or disturb others.
How can we promote a form of convivencia in our own society and in our own lives? We might choose to spend some time with others who have cultural practices, perspectives and values that are different from our own. I invite you to consider sharing your time and talents with residents at Casa de Paz. Whatever interaction you choose, I encourage you to listen intently with curiosity, to understand another’s situation, feelings and challenges. Convivencia calls us to realize that our way of thinking and doing things is not the way, but simple a way of doing and thinking.