“If music be the food of love, play on!”
-William Shakespeare

While the term ‘convivio’ is generally understood to mean ‘banquet’ or ‘feast,’ its Spanish roots bring us a little closer to understanding what Casa Marianella is going for with each month’s convivio celebration. Taken from the verb convivir—which translates to ‘live together’—our convivio is a gathering of otherwise disparate people celebrating the lives they’ve built—together—here at Casa Marianella.

The Christmas 2019 convivio was truly one for the ages. If 2019 was marked by the implementation of a litany of new laws making resettlement in the US more challenging than ever, then our year-end convivio returned that serve with a celebration of life of equal proportion and zeal. It was the Fearless Girl facing the Bull; the flower held up to the tank.

In less dramatic terms, we enjoyed the highest attendance of any convivio on record! Over 200 people were counted. Aster’s Restaurant, long time friends of Casa, provided wonderful Ethiopian comfort food. Additionally, new friends from the Austin Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Youth group as well as the Austin chapter of the Sisterhood Salaam Shalom graciously donated their time and money by bringing and serving more fantastic East African fare. A Mexican community member also whipped up piles of delicious food in the Casa kitchen.

Oh, and the MUSIC! We had initially planned an open mic of sorts, to feature various members of the Casa community taking turns performing various songs. We ended up with a dance party of trans-continental proportion. Our beloved Tekle, a current Eritrean resident, invited a friend who brought along a keyboard. Former resident Glody, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, donned a shimmering three-piece suit and bowtie. Backed by a thrown-together band of residents, staff members, and even an ESL teacher and his son, these two dyed-in-the-wool performers sang their hearts out. Their enthusiasm and relentless energy were irresistible. Residents, staff, and friends from all corners of the community erupted into conga lines, hip swings, and utterly uninhibited improvisational dance until well after the agreed upon end time of 8 PM.

To take in the scene was to behold some small, unlikely miracle. Those at the center—the singers and dancers flashing faces streamed with sweat—shook their bodies together in spite of facing an eternally stacked deck. By whatever chances, they united to collectively lay down the burdens of separations and removals and erasures, in celebration and in hope. The voiceless sang and the lame danced, government-issued ankle monitors notwithstanding. Like the insuppressible Juniper, thriving on the sheer face of some soaring Mediterranean cliff, the Casa Marianella family laughed, sang, and danced with no small mirth in the face of the unknown.

Casa Marianella sends its thanks to all the donors, volunteers, and staff who made this possible!


Photos by: ESL Coordinator