Update From Spain: Embracing La Convivencia

Buenas dias! Greetings to the EMU campus community from the cross-cultural group of Spain and Morocco 2013!

I am pleased to say that things have been going relatively well so far in our experience. We recently completed the first four weeks of our intensive language program and are beginning two more weeks of another level.

Our group has had the opportunity to visit many important sites in relation to Spanish history including Sevilla, Córdoba, and many right here in Granada where we have been living. We have spent time ad- justing to the Spanish culture, but look forward to experiencing Moroccan culture as well.

Continued prayers as we finish our time in Spain, enjoy our free travel, and prepare to travel to Morocco are very much appreciated.

In prepararation for this cross cultural experience, our group was introduced to a new word that quickly became a central theme of the trip: convivencia.

La Convivencia, or in English, The Coexistance, is known in Spanish history as a period in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians all lived peacefully together under Arab rule. Peacefully, of course, is relative in the sense that this span of approximately 600 years was not completely conflict free, but rather resulted in a time of more harmony between different groups than Spain had previously known.

Convivencia is a term that we have heard, will continue to hear, and can apply to the situations we have had and will experience on this cross-cultural journey.

While many American students do not have historical knowledge about Spain beyond ”In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” the rich history of this country is important in relation to the history of our world. And being that there is much history to be covered, many students learn more about the times of war and violence rather than times of peace and convivencia.

Yet the history of that period has influenced our modern lives in many ways that we may never know.

While the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages, Spain was flourishing under Arab rule. Córdoba, a city we have visited, was at one point the knowledge center for all of Europe, the Alexandria of the time.

The knowledge of medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and more, was centered in Córdoba, and has been a major influence in those subjects even today.

When historical influences such as these are not included in what we are taught, it is no surprise that being taught about times of convivencia is often missed as well. All of history, not only the times of conflict, can be lessons for the future.

As a group we are learning convivencia from a historical view as well as applying it to our experience here.

Everyday we are interacting with people of a different culture, living together with them and learning from them.

While living in Spain has not confronted us with drastic cultural changes, convivencia is still occurring. In a short time we will be going to Morocco, a country very different from both our native and Spanish culture.

We will encounter more cultural barriers and struggles than we have experienced thus far, but I have no doubt that convivencia will be strived for and reached during our time there.

Convivencia is applicable to our lives today, on an individual level and in relation to the world in which we live.

I believe that because of this cross cultural experience we can continue to strive for convivencia, both during our travels abroad and when we return home.

This may be a little cliché, but it has been said that history repeats itself. Let us learn from not only our mistakes, but also from the periods in history in which convivencia has existed. It is not a far off dream. It has happened and can happen again.

As long as we are continually working towards it, convivencia can be achieved in the future, globally and individually with the people we meet in our lives.

-Taylor Waidelich, Contributing Writer


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