Camas, so much more than just a library
By Cristobal Guerrero Guedel.
We received this letter from Cristobal Guerrero, a Spaniard, with his testimony of brotherhood in the city.
My name is Cristobal, I was born in the South of Spain, in Arcos de la Frontera (Cádiz). When I was 12 years old, I moved with my family to Seville, and during my university career, I got to know the ideal of brotherhood from some classmates.
I was attracted by the opportunity to put the Gospel into practice, because I realized that those words were full of life.
A sentence by Chiara Lubich, in particular, addressed to us young people of that time, struck me deeply: “To give one’s life for one’s own people” – to spend our life for those who live close to us. It was, and still is, a lifestyle that allows me to be what I am, that is, to be free, to identify myself in others and be recognized by them as a brother. Since then, wherever I am – at work, in the family, in the parish, in my city -, I have always tried, with all my limitations, to bear witness to unity as a feasible and concrete reality.
I was living with these words in my heart, when I began to work as the director of the city library of Camas, a town near Seville. This happened in 1982, I was 27 years old.
I began to work by listening to the community that I served, identifying myself as much as possible with it, thinking of the library as a place open to all, attractive, and full of life. A library, in fact, as a place of culture, acquires its fullest meaning if it is open to the city and the lives of its inhabitants. Culture builds the identity of people and contributes to their real life.
Reporting about the library of Camas, therefore, is to speak above all of people, including children who are its main characters. Through them, their parents came to the library, but also their teachers who were taking part in the various movements of pedagogical renewal of the time. Over time, we could build relations with other community structures, such as schools, health-care professionals, parishes, confraternities, and various civil associations. The library eventually became home to all, a service to the entire community.
That is why the “Passion for Camas” project came about, following a request from the oldest confraternity in the city, the Confraternita Sacramentale (Sacramental Confraternity), to develop a “cultural” program for of a special event in the city.
We began a journey of analysis to “take the measures of the city.” We wanted to bring to light the critical issues, the hardship of the neighborhoods, the crisis, the challenges, and the potential of each area. We realized the need to give hope in many contexts characterized by discouragement, social fractures, and the lack of a common project.
The challenge was to break down an urban structure made of independent neighborhoods, each of them living its own life, where people frequently sought limited solutions and dividing factors often became symbols of identity. We tried to reverse the course, by opening paths of communion and mutual agreement.
We set up a social action committee to deal with situations of hardship, unemployment, and poverty. We involved in this initiative representatives of the three parish sections of Caritas, the “five bags of charity” of the Confraternities, the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul, associations, three parish priests, the mayor, and other city delegates.
For example, there is a high level of unemployment in the city, and we might wonder: what can a library possibly do to solve this problem? The fact is that such “cultural” events have given us the opportunity to get to know projects and proposals for creating jobs, and to develop a map of common resources in view of a more orderly action.
The resulting network has led to the sharing of needs and resources: when the members of the “bag of charity” of a Confraternity heard about the needs of a Caritas section of another neighborhood, they decided to collaborate by providing food and other goods. We also organized a common center for the collection of food and clothing together with all the forces involved in the initiative.
As far as I am concerned, I received the gift of getting to know more about my own city. I learned to “read” it, to listen to its voices and needs, and dream of it according to the ideal of brotherhood.
Every little action taken by the library staff spreads like the waves that the fall of a stone provokes in a pond: it helps to give life to a new culture that transforms the city, the neighborhood, or the street where you live. But you need to believe it.