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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Walking 1

DZel just returned from the Camino de Santiago, a walk I intend to accompany her on in years to come. I am familiar with the traditions surrounding Santo Santiago on a personal level. My father Manuel (pictured above), who hails from the small town of Moyahua, Zacatecas (also pictured above) is intimately involved with the custom on an annual basis, assuming the role of the Santo Santiago in the re-enactment. In fact, he is in Moyahua with my sister right now, as I type, celebrating las fiestas. Below is a first person account of DZel's recent experience:

Several years ago I made a promise to the patron saint of my father’s hometown in Zacatecas, Mexico; my promise to Santo Santiago committed me and my father to walk from Huentitan, Jalisco to Moyahua, Zacatecas. A total of a bit over 70 miles in 30 hours, my father and I completed one of the roughest, yet fulfilling walks of our lifetime. While walking over the dense mountains that divide the states of Zacatecas and Jalisco and stomping on the steaming asphalt two-way road that joins the two regions, I learned lessons beyond the classroom or lecture halls of all the prestigious educational institutions I ever studied in: commitment, loyalty, character, presence. The value of the lessons I learned as I walked for hours under the blazing sun with my father outweighed all the pain I endured during the grueling walk, inspiring me to commit myself to another walking journey in my near future.

Without thinking twice about the physical challenge, I decided to do the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. Of course, this time I was a bit gentler with my legs, and walked a total 176 kilometers over 8 days. The first three days were incredibly challenging since I didn’t listen to friend’s advice and packed a 30 pound backpack! Ahh, the shoulder pain! In fact, I believe I lost some height due to the weight of my backpack; I measure 170cm and on the second day of carrying the weight I measured 166cm! I was getting shorter by the day! In fear of becoming a midget by the end of my trip I took the easy way out and like many other pilgrims I sent my pack along using a taxi service. Thank goodness I was not the only fool who over packed; it seems that many first timers had the same problems, making this backpack taxi service a lucrative business for local Galicians.

Putting aside the pain, I must say that the entire experience is one of countless blessings. Each step offers a new view, a new experience in life. Feeling the crisp air at dawn… saying “til tomorrow” to the morning fog and greeting the new day. Passing the rural villages and greeting the locals who’ve started the day hours before dawn. Attempting to imagine what their lives are like on a day-to-day basis. Fantasizing over the simplicity of their lifestyles and secretly wishing to seek refuge from the overwhelming complex society I now live in.

At one point, I did stop to research more about the rural lifestyle that the people along the Camino de Santiago lived. Perhaps I would discover that all my fantasies about how great their lives were would be confirmed, convincing me to leave the big city and seek work as a farmhand or who knows what in the Spanish countryside of Galicia. Seeking someone to share their life with me, I met Carmen, a warm and loving 60 year old woman who reminded me of my abuelita, Emilia Tello. Carmen stopped to ask me how I was and inquire about my pilgrimage thus far. Her mannerisms and physical aspect warmed my heart as I felt that I was again with my paternal grandmother who passed away when I was a young. Carmen invited me into her home and fed me some crepes with sugar and a warm hot chocolate, stirred using a wooden “molinillo” just like the one my grandmother used in Mexico. It had been a long time since I had felt so warm and close to my father’s family.

While I enjoyed my sugared crepes, Carmen, explained to me how strenuous country life was for her and other women in the village. She explained that even after retiring she worked with her son raising cattle from dawn to dusk seven days a week. Feeding the cattle, rounding up the cattle that graze on the hills, cleaning the barns, making cheese, milking the cows, and what sounded like never-ending housework. Alas, Carmen left me with the impression that country life would kill me physically within a week or less! The truth is that living in the city we are so disconnected from nature and rural society, the birthing grounds of all that we consume, often taking for granted all the hard work that goes into getting to our tables the nutritional delights we enjoy.

More stories to tell will be posted soon ...

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I'm an LA transplant now living in Brooklyn. I develop film projects by day, write at night, and have a dangerous predilection for vintage Robinson Golluber scarves- this blog serves as a tiny window to everything else I do when I'm not satisfying those first three passions. I'm trying to blog more and tweet less @annabelleqv. What about you?


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