Continuing the Dialogue with the Government of Spain

In previous posts on this blog, I published the letter I wrote last autumn to three ministries of the Government of Spain (Development; Culture and Sport; Industry, Trade and Tourism) concerning the Camino de Santiago. Over the next few months following my letter, I received three replies from Spanish government officials. I also posted copies of those three letters, as well as a translation of each of them.

To recap, the first letter, from Ricardo Mar Rupérez, an advisor to the Minister of Development, simply acknowledged receipt of my letter and let me know that he was passing it to an official in another office within the ministry.

The second letter, from Amparo Hernamperez Martin, also with the Ministry of Development, answered a question I had posed in my letter: which ministry was the responsible entity for the Camino de Santiago? Ms. Hernamperez Martin let me know that a coordinating committee called the Consejo Jacobeo (Jacobean Council)—composed of representatives of several ministries plus provincial representatives and chaired by the Minister of Culture—was the entity I was seeking. The purpose of the Consejo was “to facilitate communication” about the Camino among all of the federal and provincial governmental bodies represented on the Jacobean Council.

The third letter came directly from the Jacobean Council and was penned by Adriana Moscoso del Prado Hernández, who is the Secretary for the Council’s Plenary and also the Director General for Cultural Industries and Cooperation. In that letter, Ms. Moscoso del Prado Hernández explained the Jacobean Council more fully and added the information that the Council can also request the participation of civil entities, such as religious, cultural, and academic leaders. She also cited two websites with information about the Camino.

While all three letters were cordial, none of them answered my series of questions except in regard to the question of which entity is in charge of the Camino. That answer did let me know to which entity I should have addressed my letter, the Consejo Jacobeo, but it did not really answer the question of which entity is responsible for the various issues I had raised. While designating a coordinating council is a great idea, who ultimately is responsible? The Consejo coordinates, but which governmental body, for example, is responsible for the signage along the Camino? Who approves the design of the signs? Who decides where to place those signs? Who decides if additional signs are needed, and where? Who goes out and plants those signs in the designated spots?

In response to the first two letters I received from Spanish officials, I recently sent individual replies thanking the senders for their letters and enclosing a copy of my book, Savoring the Camino de Santiago. In response to the third letter, in addition to thanking the sender and enclosing a book, I asked for a further response to four of the questions from my first letter.

Here is my most recent letter.

Ltr to Jacobean Council page 1 5-30-20

Ltr to Jacobean Council page 2 5-30-20

The Camino Provides

Today, I received word that my book has been awarded a silver metal in the category of Travel Essays by the judges for the eLit contest, a prestigious annual competition for books published in a digital format. How happy this makes me!

eLit logoMark1

The award is given for the overall excellence of an eBook–its writing, layout, design, illustrations, cover, topic, relevance, etc.

I have to admit that this spring has not been the best time for me. First, I was very ill for six weeks. Also, my spring marketing plan for the book was shot to kingdom come due to the coronavirus situation. Scheduled speaking dates were cancelled, and any ideas about scheduling in the future are tentative at best. So I was feeling pretty down a week or so ago. In fact, I had one of those “should I give this all up because it doesn’t seem like it’s working” conversations with my co-editor at Bayou City Press.

There is a saying among Camino enthusiasts: “The Camino provides.” I have to say, the Camino has come through for me today! I couldn’t be more thrilled.

And I couldn’t be more grateful to all the folks who contributed to my book: my co-editor, my traveling partner, my cover designer, my illustrator, all my friends who encouraged me to write the book, all my writing group colleagues who had to listen to early chapter drafts. With their help, I wrote and published my book about my Camino journey.

I think I have a bottle of Cava in my fridge, and I think it is going to be popped open tonight! Buen Camino to all my readers!


More from the Gathering of American Pilgrims on the Camino

In previous weeks, I posted an overview of the 2020 Gathering, and then highlights from the Gathering. I’d like to add a few more highlights.

One of the funniest moments, for me, was when the principal coordinator of the Gathering, Sara Gradwohl, and her partner-in-crime, Carmen Marriott, donned a unique sort of homage to the Camino. At once hilarious and a bit surprising, they were the only others at the Gathering besides myself that I remember donning a “costume” of any sort. Their get-ups brought to my mind the classic number in the musical “South Pacific,” when coconuts are used to cover the relevant parts. Maybe one year the organizers of the Gathering could think about holding a costume contest and see what our inventive group can come up with?

Sara in Cockle Shells

I am also still in mini-shock about having been caught in a snow storm. I included a photo of the dock at the Zephyr Point Conference Center in an earlier post, taken on the first day, when the sky was clear and one could see across the lake to the mountains on the other side. The only touch of snow at that time was on those mountain peaks. Then the snow started. Here is what that same dock and view looked like on Sunday. The mountains across the lake are completely invisible.

Dock in Snow

Everyone who reads my blog and/or book knows that I love history. The talks at the Gathering that included Camino history were the most fascinating for me. One talk included a number of slides showing posters used to promote past Holy Years. Here is a photo of one of the slides.


I can’t wait to see what the image for Holy Year 2021 will be!

Our meals during the Gathering were prepared by the Zephyr Point Conference Center staff. Meals were abundant with a lot of choices.  There was always a salad bar option. On our first day there, the staff made a special effort and prepared these special Camino cakes, with the St. James cross on the top. What a treat!


Before the Gathering started, many of the organizers went to great lengths to prepare for it, bringing trunks-full of snacks and other items. One decorative point in our meeting room was the sign below. Sitting in the room each day looking at it, I would wonder, which of these routes should I attempt next? It served as a good reminder that our journey along the Camino is not finished yet!



I mentioned in my last post that the two concerts by Australian singer Dan Mullins were a highlight for everyone. Coming from Texas, I particularly enjoyed hearing Dan’s version of the Willy Nelson classic “You Were Always on My Mind.” Although my own singing is so bad that my toddler son used to beg me not to sing along to “The Wheels Go Round and Round,” I couldn’t  help myself from joining in with Dan. You’ll faintly hear my frog-like voice at certain points of the video. Sorry, Dan!

I also previously mentioned that when Dan launched into “Kumbaya,” everyone stood up and joined in. I was equally enchanted with his song “Somewhere Along the Way.”


Let me end this post with something I brought home with me that I will treasure. In participating in the Silent Auction, I managed to win a fantastic photo of the nave of the church at Roncesvalles. As those who have read my book know, Roncesvalles was one of my favorite places along the Camino–so I am particularly pleased to be the proud owner of this photo. I am going to hang in my Bayou City Press office, near the cockle shell I carried along with me on the Camino, and beside my many books on the Camino and Spain. My photo of the photo doesn’t do justice to the original, but it will give you a sense of the beauty of the original.

Roncesvalles Nave I

I hope these three posts on the 2020 Gathering have been entertaining for those who attended the Gathering, and informative for those who couldn’t make it. Buen Camino to all during this period of the Coronavirus Plague!



Highlights of the 2020 Gathering

In my last post, I wrote about the challenges facing the organizers of the 2020 Camino Gathering—coronavirus multiplied by a snow storm. Those two factors made for a very different Gathering from previous years, a fact that the president of the board of American Pilgrims on the Camino, David Donselar, remarked on, as did others who had previously attended Gatherings.

Despite the challenges faced by the organizers, and the difficult decisions that each of us had to make–such as about whether to go at all given the pandemic underway or about how long to stay given the snow storm—I found the Gathering very worthwhile. Now, some seven weeks after the close of the Gathering and having passed through a very bad six weeks of being ill, I am still glad I attended.

The beautiful schedule arranged by the organizers had numerous, sometimes overlapping events beginning Thursday, March 12, at 3:30 pm and lasting until noon on Sunday, March 15. Unfortunately, a lot of the announced schedule had to be scrapped.

Thursday Highlights

Group Photo: It seems a bit funny to say that having a group photo taken was a highlight—but it was. The number of attendees at the Gathering was at its maximum for the photo, and the jokes and comradeship while we organized ourselves for the photo made me feel the Camino spirit.

Group Photo
Emilio Escudero took this photo, and Dan Donselar shared it

Zephyr Point: The weather was at its best on Thursday and Friday morning, and views of Lake Tahoe were spectacular. The location itself became a character in our Gathering drama.

Zephyr Point
Before the snow began, we had sunshine and clear skies. Across the lake snow-capped mountains are visible.

Putting Faces to Names: It was great to be introduced to the board of American Pilgrims and to begin to match their faces with their names. The board members would be an important resource throughout the following days. They all clearly put their hearts and souls into making the Gathering a success, despite the challenges. All hail the organizers!

Dave Donselar
Dave Donselar, president of the board of American Pilgrims on the Camino.

Friday and Saturday Highlights

By Thursday evening, it became clear that the weather was not going to cooperate, so Sara Gradwohl (the Gathering Chair), Dave Donselar, and other organizers tore up the published schedule for the following days. Their announced goal was to cram as much as possible of the more popular talks and activities into Friday. Friday was accordingly  jam-packed with great activities, and many attendees indeed departed at some point during the day or after the evening’s activities.

I can’t really remember what activities happened on which days, since sessions were being cut and added and there was no printed schedule, but here is my personal list of favorites

George Greenia: Spoke once each day, and both of his talks were great. His first talk, on silence and sound along the Camino, was wonderful. His second presentation focused more on history, and I loved that one, too.

George Greenia
One of many beautiful slides that accompanied talks

Yosmar Martinez on Camino Food : My mouth was watering at each photo.

Barbara Zang and Linnea Hendrickson on the Via Francigena: It was great to learn about a different Camino route, and to hear about its history.

Lynn Talbot on the Camino during the Franco Dictatorship: I love history, and I found this to be a fascinating look into religion in Spain and the Camino as a political tool.

St. James as Avatar
What a lot of history was packed into this talk!

Father Steve Rindahl on Warriors on the Way: I was so glad to learn about this fascinating organization, which uses travel on the Camino as a way to treat post-tramatic stress disorder of veterans.

It was so wonderful to learn about Warriors on the Way

Raffle and Silent Auction: What fun this was! I didn’t do too well in the raffle, but thanks to the Silent Auction I managed to obtain a beautiful photograph of the nave of the Collegiate Church of Santa María in Roncevalles, which I cherish.

Dan Mullins, the Singing Pilgrim: Dan performed both Friday and Saturday nights, and truly both performances were outstanding. His theme song, “Somewhere along the Way” was fabulous. When he actually started singing “Kumbaya” on Saturday night, everyone still in attendance got up to sing and sway. Dan had walked the Camino with his guitar on his back, which is exactly what my son did—so I felt an instant connection with this marvelous Australian who came to share our Gathering.

Dan Mullins Photo
In addition to singing, Dan told some great stories and jokes

I know I am forgetting a lot, so I will probably post again about the Gathering next week.

Buen Camino!