February 10, 2011

Santiago de Compostela, Spain. October, 2009

I live in New England, so it’s hard for me to shake the idea that all pilgrims don’t dress in cover-up black and big hats with buckles. Visiting Santiago de Compostela, I was quickly disabused of this notion. Pilgrims have been arriving here since the 12th century, shortly after San Tiago (Saint James) himself is said to have shown up. Or at least what was left after the infidels in Jerusalem had had their way with him. His bodily remains, legend holds, arrived here in a stone boat, were buried properly, and his resting place provided the location for an early church. Several centuries and several churches later, he’s still a big draw among the devotional crowd, most of whom sport some scallop-shell ornamentation to mark them as followers. Nowadays some 100,000 pilgrims arrive each year, the majority of them making their way along the camino from the Pyrenees at the French border. Hikers mostly, they dress for the road. And if that means a backpack, an iPod, a cell phone and an I’ve-seen-it-all insouciance like this lad here has, well so be it. I admire his faith.