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Conversations with a pilgrim

By Alejandro Gonzalez Flores | 13/11/2019


The stage is being passed by water. It doesn't matter the slightest because of the colorful spectacle with which the fall gives us these necklaces. Maybe they're even more intense by water.

The beauty of this path is not to believe. A luxury for this Pilgrim is to walk through these towns and old roads with the only company of himself. Something uncommon lately in the Camino de Santiago.

I get a message from him on my phone. "I hope you in the bar of the castle in case you want to take something, from there to Vegarienza you only have two kilometers left."

I accept the send and in an hour I spend flying I am there.

The bar is full of hunters who, after an unsuccessful day, take their meals talking out loud about their bad luck and, of course, of time, which does not improve.

Among them is the one. We speak for a short time because my feet are tired and totally wet do not allow me to stop for a long time and we are only two kilometers away from there, in Vegarienza, where there is an old food house.

Stage end for me.

The Pilgrim who has made the way of the Savior or the Forgotten Path may also have seen or coincided with him, in person or by phone, or by the Internet. In a hostel or in a section of Camino.

I met him long ago when he ruled the pilgrims' hostel in Bodenaya and he began to leave his time, capital and life to try that the pilgrims would not be lost doing the Camino del Salvador.

Today, after many years, it continues to do the same. It is only now that there are two ways in which the Savior and the Forgotten can live. Every day less in oblivion.

I just arrived at Vegarienza and I give myself witches with Maxi house, they say it is the oldest bar in León, of course I single has a time. You breathe history on all four sides.

I look between the glass windows of the old store door and there he is, Jose Antonio Cuñarro.

The shop bar is packed today Saturday. We are invited to wait for a free table in the dining room and of course we accept.

I change clothes in a backdrop and with other "pintas" we go to the dining room where they put what remains, since we are the last to eat and our predecessors ended almost everything.

The framework is incomparable. The company is the best.

In the entire millenary history of the Camino de Santiago there were characters that magnified it, nowadays there are people who open hostels, create associations, volunteers who leave themselves part or all of their vacation to make hospitable and thus return to the road part of what it gave him. And then he's sister-in-law, who already raised from his lethargy to the path of the Savior and is doing the same with the Forgotten Path.

Today how with him, with Jose Antonio Cuñarro.


Pilgrim: What was your first contact with the Camino de Santiago?


Cuñarro: My first contact was in the year 2000, and it was from León to Santiago, taking advantage of some of the holidays I had. It was the first time I did the Camino. relatively not as long ago as others.


Pilgrim: What has changed both better and worse on the road to El Salvador?


Cuñarro: The road to El Salvador so far remained a minority road for people who had already made other roads, but this year I am already beginning to see that there are people who understand the road as a cheap holiday, yet in El Salvador they have it simple because being just five days on their way, many people come taking advantage of those five days who have "cheap" vacations and have turned it into what it was not. After being a journey of pilgrims to be a journey of tourists, and this has been a year to year. I personally have not noticed that change in previous years, I have noticed this year.


The first dish comes, I lie, he pulls experience and asks meats from the house.


Pilgrim: How long do you spend a day on the road to Santiago?


Cuñarro: If you speak with me, I tell you that little, if you speak with my wife, she will tell you that all day. Today, for example, in the morning, I've been making maps that have taken me about three hours. And now I eat with pilgrims, so good, I'm happy on the Camino.


Pilgrim: How do you see the progression of the road to El Salvador in the short term?


Cuñarro: For in the short term I see it complicated, because we are not at the point where private initiative can appear , so we will have serious problems next year with infrastructure. In the long term, I think that is good, because other roads such as that of El Salvador have grown in such a way that it gave way to private initiative and from that point on I believe that it can be taken forward. But let's be now a couple of years, especially in the summer, that we're going to have problems.


Pilgrim: If there were mistakes or something went worse on the road to El Salvador, which can be done not to stumble with the same stone on the Forgotten Road?


Cuñarro: I really do not think there have been errors, I think it is that kind of "pilgrim" that is being confused between what is a pilgrimage path to what are holidays. There are no solutions on the Forgotten Road, nor are there for the Savior's Road. It would have to change people's mentality a little bit, it would have to change the concept of path, and we would have to go into educating, that people who really know that it's the way and that it's a pilgrimage start educating, instead of starting to boast about how many roads they did, and how good and how great pilgrimage I am, they should teach the values of a pilgrimage.

I think we lack a little teaching, what happened in the past, the pilgrim who taught you, the pilgrim you met is now being lost. I believe that pilgrims are increasingly speaking less to novice pilgrims.


I'm a second solomillo, lamb.


Pilgrim: Do administrations help or can they be asked for more?


Cuñarro: The administrations specifically for the road to El Salvador have offered the help they have offered to be "zero". None. At the level of the Junta de Castilla y León cero, at the level of Diputación cero and at the local level, they started very well but at the time when they did not. It should also be taken into account that at the local level, which is where they helped the most before, the areas through which these two roads pass, both the road of El Salvador and the forgotten road, were mining areas, they have gone too far and they cannot be asked much because it does not give as much as it does. It would have to be at national and provincial levels, but at those levels they are only interested in one path, the French path. The other roads don't count.


Pilgrim: How do you see the evolution of the pilgrim, on roads like that of the Savior and the forgotten that has grown so much in such a short time?


Cuñarro: The pilgrim we are seeing now is very similar to the pilgrim on the French road, winter pilgrim and summer pilgrim. In the winter it is noted that PILGRIMS begin to come, and when the summer comes those pilgrims stop coming and people looking for cheap holidays start to come. This year we have had more influx of people but there were fewer "pilgrims".


Pilgrim: Are you also a pilgrim?


Cuñarro: Yes, although I used to make more roads than I am now, it is known that I am getting older. This year, I only did two, when I was about four.


Pilgrim: What advice can you give to the pilgrim who is considering making the way of the Savior or the Forgotten Road?


Cuñarro: Both one way and the other, although it can extend to everyone, if you come to the road to enjoy "The Way" you should think a little bit about where you are and what you are looking for. Then you might find something else you haven't been looking for, but if you come to these roads call them minority, and you come looking for that, because you don't ask for a lot of infrastructure, because there's not, you don't ask for big facilities, because there's not, and go a little bit to the place where you are. I would ask you to know beforehand where they come from and not to pretend that the road adapts to them, but that they adapt to the particular road. That's the advice I would give you.


Pilgrim: Do you see yourself for a long time at this level of involvement?


Cuñarro: We must think that I have spent many years between the Savior and the forgotten, and perhaps if, because what is drawing my attention is not to continue with these roads, but to discover new paths. I like this and I'm very drawn. Seeing them be born and seeing pilgrims start to come, I'm very drawn. I don't know if I physically endure a lot in these conditions, but as long as the body withers, I think I do.


We leave the dessert to one side and go straight to the coffee, puchero, and accompanied by a bottle of spirits that we did not touch but if we look, at least I, with sorrow, because we have to drive, he to his house and I to mine.

We leave this charming establishment and continue to rain. I turn my eyes towards Santiago, as I try to guess where the road follows for the day that I have to take it back.

I leave Cuñarro with a sincere hug and a THANK.

Thank you from all the pilgrims.

Perhaps in a distant future you will be recognized for your work and remember how today we remember characters of the height of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, San Juan de Ortega or Don Elias Valiña himself.

I would at least like to see his work recognised today. I know that many people do. At least I do.



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