Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

The United Nations of El Camino

May 28th, 2018 · No Comments · Pilgrimage, Spain

The pilgrimage to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is one of the modern world’s great multinational cultural/religious events.

Nearly two-thirds (64.7 percent) of the 22,067 peregrinos who reached Santiago via the Camino in April of 2018 were foreigners, according to statistics kept by the Pilgrim’s Office.

Spaniards provided a numerical plurality, with 35.3 percent of the total number of pilgrims. These are people who never have to leave their homeland to reach Santiago, which makes things a lot simpler.

Meanwhile, people from all over the world walked the Camino to Santiago in April 2018, with Germany the biggest contributor of foreign pilgrims, 2,509 — but at only 18 percent of the total.

The others in the top eight, in April of 2018?

2. Portugal, 2,129 (14 percent)

3. Italy, 1,323 (9.3 percent)

4. United States, 974 (6.8 percent)

5. Ireland, 918 (6.4 percent)

6. United Kingdom 664 (4.7 percent)

7. France 565 (4 percent)

8. South Korea 420 (2.9 percent)

Previous tabulations of visitors to the Camino include significant numbers of Brazilians and Australians, with peregrinos from those countries ranking in the top dozen countries called home by pilgrims. Canada also is among the top 11, in recent statistics.

The Pilgrim’s Office concluded that people from 194 countries finished the Camino in 2017. That is a very high fraction of the world’s nations. To wit: Only 208 countries are recognized by Fifa, international soccer organizing body.

It makes for an eclectic crowd of people moving west step by step toward Santiago.

A friend of ours had a colorful exchange with a Korean couple who are riding bikes to Santiago.

I saw a Japanese couple on the trail the other day, identified by their rising-sun flags. As well as a trio of Filipinos. It is not hard to find a Brazilian or an Aussie. We spoke at length with a young man with Cuban ancestry who is walking alone.

Typical topics include: “Where are you from? ” Where did you start your walk? How many days have you been on the trail?”

English is the predominant language on the trail, mostly because significant numbers of Americans and Britons travel to Spain for the walk, but also because many other foreigners use English as a second language.

Also, the number of Spanish pilgrims might be down a bit, at the moment, because they are likely to be aware of the wet weather Santiago had been getting through last week.

What most pilgrims do is hail each other while passing. “Buen Camino”, which translates to “have a good walk”, is often heard, as is the simple Spanish greeting, “Hola.”

Most of us try to memorize key words from other languages common on the trail, but I have been choking under pressure, in many cases.

I find myself saying things like “bon Camino” (French); “bom Camino” (Portuguese); “El Camino” (the name of a junior college in Torrance, California); and other greetings that are essentially gibberish.

The key is to smile when you are speaking nonsense to your fellow travelers from around the world.

Next up? The difficult walk to Arzua, which ends with several punishing uphill stretches. If a peregrino is thinking of dropping out … this may be where it happens.


0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment