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Camino pilgrims assist rural Spain’s emptying villages survive

Camino pilgrims assist rural Spain's emptying villages survive

TERRADILLOS DE LOS TEMPLARIOS, Spain (AP) — Amid the vast cereal fields of Spain, a medieval house of God stands retain protected from danger over the handful of adobe homes where some 50 people exist — with every one other accompanied by twice while numerous travelers down the Camino de Santiago pay not here the darkness this summer.

Terradillos de los Templarios, with every one other accompanied by dozens of villages exist fond of it, were built to host medieval pilgrims walking the 500-mile (800-kilometer) way across Spain to the Apostle James' tomb inside Santiago de Compostela. Today's Camino travelers are lessening them from disappearing.

"This is existence for the villages," said Nuria Quintana, who manages one of Terradillos' set of two pilgrim hostels. "In winter when no indeed pilgrims go nearer through, you could stroll into and not here of the village 200 times with every one other accompanied by see nobody."

In this hamlet named following a medieval knightly order founded to retain protected from danger pilgrims, with every one other accompanied by all down the route, the return of travelers — following pandemic-related disruptions — is helping reinstate the livelihood with every one other accompanied by vitality of villages that were steadily losing jobs, population, flat their communal fabric.

"If it weren't for the Camino, there wouldn't flat exist a café open. And the bar is where people meet," said Raúl Castillo, an agent accompanied by the Guardia Civil, the rules and regulations enforcement agency that patrols Spain's roads with every one other accompanied by villages. He's spent 14 years based inside Sahagún, eight miles (13 kilometers) away, from where agents cover 49 hamlets.


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"The villages following door, off the Camino — they build you cry. Homes falling in, the turf sprouting on the sidewalks up to here," he added, gesturing to a tabletop.

From the Pyrenees Mountains at the border accompanied by France, across hundreds of miles of Spain's sun-roasted plains to the mist-covered hills of Galicia rolling in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean, once-booming towns of farmers with every one other accompanied by ranchers started hemorrhaging inhabitants inside recent decades.

Mechanization drastically reduced the need for farm laborers. As young people moved away, shops with every one other accompanied by cafes shuttered.

Often, so did the magnificent churches filled of priceless artwork — the inheritance of the medieval with every one other accompanied by Renaissance artists brought inside by prospering town burghers, said Julia Pavón, historian at the University of Navarra inside Pamplona, the Camino's earliest large city.

But starting inside the 1990s, the Camino regained international popularity, accompanied by tens of thousands of visitors hiking with every one other accompanied by biking it every one spring, summer with every one other accompanied by fall. After a solemn dip amid the pandemic inside 2020 with every one other accompanied by the begin of recuperation accompanied by mostly Spanish pilgrims inside 2021, 2022 feels exist fond of the "at last" year, while Quintana place it, accompanied by additional than 25,000 visitors inside May all alone on the most orthodox route, the "French way."

With done every one day visitors outnumbering residents tenfold inside the tiniest hamlets, the impact is huge.

"Now all that works (in town) is the hospitality industry," said Óscar Tardajos, who was born on a farm down the Camino. For 33 years, he's managed a innmotel with every one other accompanied by eating place inside Castrojeriz, a hillside village of stone buildings that was a center of the wool commerce centuries ago, when its fifty per cent of dozen churches were built.

The Camino helps create jobs with every one other accompanied by carry on accompanied by the ethnic heritage, said Melchor Fernández, professor of economics at the University of Santiago de Compostela. "It has place the brakes on depopulation," which is 30% higher inside Galician villages off the Camino.

While most pilgrims pay not here only around 50 euros (dollars) a day, it stays local.

"The bread inside the pilgrim's sandwich is not Bimbo," Fernández said, referring to the multinational company. "It's from the bakery following door."

In Cirauqui, a hilltop village inside Navarra, the lone bakery survived since dozens of pilgrims place an extremity to by it daily, said baker Conchi Sagardía while serving a pastry with every one other accompanied by fruit liquid to a pilgrim from Florida.

Aside from pilgrims, the main customers of these shops are older residents of the villages, where few younger adults live.

"In the summer, the grandmas sit down down the Camino to watch the pilgrims go by," said Lourdes González, a Paraguayan who for 10 years has owned the cafe inside Redecilla del Camino. Its only road is the Camino.

Her be about — shared widely down the way – is to retain that distinctive pilgrim spirit living flat while the Camino's popularity leads to greater commercialization.

In growing instances, the signature yellow arrows lead to bars or foot massage businesses while an alternative of the Camino. One recent earlier to noon inside the town of Tardajos, Esteban Velasco, a former shepherd, stood at a crossroads pointing the correct way to pilgrims.

"The Camino wouldn't have a source to exist lacking pilgrimage," said Jesús Aguirre, president of the Association of Friends of the Camino de Santiago inside Burgos province. "One tin do it for different reasons, nevertheless you retain imbuing yourself accompanied by something else."

For many, that is a non-material or devout quest. The inducement to retain churches not shut for pilgrims revitalizes parishes, too, inside fast secularizing Spain.

The 900-year-old house of God of Santa María inside Los Arcos is one of the Camino villages' most magnificent, accompanied by a soaring belltower with every one other accompanied by intricately sculpted altarpiece. Pilgrims regularly dual the numbers attending weekday Masses, said the Rev. Andrés Lacarra.

In Hontanas, a bunch of stone houses that become visible straight away inside a dip following a trek into and not here of the wide-open plains of Castilla, there's only Sunday Mass, while is regularly the instance where one priest covers multiple parishes.

But on a recent Wednesday evening, the house of God bells tolled rapturously — the Rev. Jihwan Cho, a priest from Toronto on his following pilgrimage, was readying to commemorate the Eucharist.

"The fact that I was intelligent to commemorate Mass … it made me really happy," he said.

International pilgrims exist fond of him are making some towns increasingly cosmopolitan.

In Sahagún, the English teacher instructs Nuria Quintana's feminine child with every one other accompanied by her classmates to shadow pilgrims with every one other accompanied by practice their language.

In tiny Calzadilla de la Cueza, "people have become a a large amount of additional sociable," said César Acero.

Fellow villagers called him "crazy" when, inside 1990, he opened the hostel with every one other accompanied by eating place where, on a recent afternoon, set of two farmers on tractors got a fast joe following to a category of bicyclists riding from the Netherlands to Santiago.

"Now you see people that when I was little I never saw, of all nationalities," said Loly Valcárcel, who owns a pizzeria inside Sarria. It's one of the busiest towns on the Camino since it's fair past the distance needed to be paid a completion "certificate" inside Santiago.

Far fewer pilgrims lay clasp of the of long ago Roman highway into and not here of Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, where while a child Gemma Herreros helped feed the sheep that her family tended for generations.

She runs a bed-and-breakfast accompanied by her Cuban husband, a former pilgrim, near the town's open-air museum portraying the history of the of long ago road. Herreros hopes the village will carry on accompanied by to thrive — nevertheless lacking losing entirely the "absolute freedom with every one other accompanied by solidarity" of her childhood.

In Hornillos del Camino, a one-street village of honey-colored stone houses, Mari Carmen Rodríguez shares similar hopes.

A handful of pilgrims came by when she was little. Now, "the quantity of people almost makes you frightened to go into the street," she said while she stepped not here from her eating place to buy go fishing from a truck — a ordinary fill-in for grocery stores inside numerous of the villages.

But she fast added, "Without the Camino, we would go just spine to disappearing."


Associated Press trust coverage receives support into and not here of the AP's collaboration accompanied by The Conversation US, accompanied by funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely in charge of for this content.

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