By Andrea Zheng

The idea of convivencia is something that I learned both in and out of the classroom. Inside the classroom, I learned that the idea has roots in the bull fighting plazas that were typical in Spain. In these plazas, a bull fighter and a bull would be engaged in a dance for all the town to watch. Because everyone is in the same place, at the same time, experiencing the same phenomenon, this is an example of convivencia, the idea of joining together as one to live in the company of others.  

This idea is incredibly important in Mexico and is reflected in the emphasis that the city puts towards holding events that allow the public to engage in convivencia. There are many examples of this simply and beautiful idea of in Merida and I was lucky enough to experience most of them in my time there.

Merida in Domingo

Merida in Domingo is an event that is held every Sunday in the Plaza Grande of downtown Merida. During this event, there are many little vendors that are selling a variety of artisans, from Aztec masks to handmade dresses. It’s an amazing market that brings the town together to spend the morning meandering between vendors, haggling prices down and laughing and talking with friends. 

There are also dance groups performing which offer an opportunity to sit down and enjoy the show, as well as food stands around the perimeter to provide a snack when needed. This was one of my favorite events in Merida because you got to see people of all ages coming together with the simple mission of spending time with one another.

Events put on during the week

Every day in Merida, there is a different event that is put on by the city. For example, Monday nights, the event is named La Vaqueria, which is a performance of traditional folkloric dances. One of the best dances is when they dance with a beer bottle on their head, balancing this while gliding across the stones of the Plaza Grande. For someone with two left feet, watching this mind-blowing. The fact that these performers are willing to share this passion to unify the public perfectly demonstrates the idea of convivencia to me.

The other days of the week, there are light shows of the history of Mexico projected onto a building, re-enactments of the ancient ball game where players hit a ball into the hoop using only their hips, and bike rides down the famous Paseo Montejo. The fact that something is organized by the city every day shows the importance that the city places on events that bring the public together to enjoy a common experience.

Meals with our mamá

When our amazing mamá made us meals, she would often sit with us regardless of whether or not she had eaten already. This was because she wanted to interact with us, asking about our days and filling us in on how she was doing.

I would see this also when our mamá invited her family over to her house. When it came time for food, the conversations would continue long past when the food was finished. This really showed me the importance of quality time with loved ones and demonstrated the importance of family and a support system to people in Mexico.

I chose to write about convivencia because it’s one of the most important things I learned while in Merida. Sometimes people can get so caught up in their busy lives that they forget the small things like checking in with friends or having a meal where the phone is off and all the attention is on dedicating time to spend with others. I find myself guilty of this at times, but being able to experience convivencia in Merida reminded me that I need to make time to spend with those that I love because nothing can replace those in-person interactions.

Andrea Zheng studied abroad in Merida in Summer 2019.