February 12, 2004

Hospitality in Recent Years

Let us turn now to the recent history of Jacobean hospitality which has emerged with the revival of the Camino de Santiago which has taken place over the last few years since the middle of the 20th century when the image of the pilgrim had almost disappeared. It is significant to note that during the entire 19th century little more than 20,000 pilgrims were recorded, and we have to suppose that the majority were people from localities near Santiago who made the pilgrimage during the Compostelan Holy Years 1.

If pilgrims almost disappeared, we can say that what did completely vanish was the hospitality network on the Camino which remains only as a historical reference for scholars or as a distant memory in the collective memory of the towns. In the current revitalization of Jacobean hospitality, there is a process similar to what we saw take place at the beginning of the pilgrimage. With the return of pilgrims, hospitality begins once more. As in ancient times, the first hospitality extended toward pilgrims takes place in parishes and monasteries that begin to offer occasional hospitality which slowly becomes commonplace. More sporadic, yet real, is the welcome that these early pilgrims received at individual homes. This has left a lasting impression on the memories of the pilgrims’ stories, and, although it is not continued later, this hospitality represents real hospitality even though it is not institutionalized.

But it is also evident that many of these first pilgrims stayed in regular hotel establishments.

Soon after, many small municipalities began to contribute by lending the use of unused old school, the small free space below the town water tank, or even the municipal jail, as in the case of Estella, where more than one pilgrim has found rest during the Camino. Finally, we must also mention the private refuges which have increased in number in recent years, more or less of a commercial nature, and some with an obvious Jacobean sense about them.

1 See the study by Carmen Pugliese “El Camino de Santiago en el siglo XIX” (The Camino de Santiago in the 19th century), La Coruna 1998.

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