Chapter 8 Modern Influences along an Ancient Way: Pilgrimage and Globalization

In: Pilgrimage as Transformative Process
Sharenda Holland Barlar
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Globalization has provided more opportunities for travel and, with technology usage, the Camino pilgrimage is no longer seen as a sacrifice or penance. What are the main reasons for doing the Camino de Santiago in Spain today? Are pilgrim objectives still primarily spiritual in nature? Are they increasingly personal? Do pilgrims experience a “sacred” transformation along the Way? It is clear from a series of interviews with modern pilgrims that globalization and technology have changed the way they view the Camino and concrete examples in this paper will offer evidence of these findings. The historical implications of the Camino are relevant today when one observes the contemporary applications of the pilgrimage. Arthur Paul Boers, a pilgrim historian in The Way is Made by Walking, points out that much like past pilgrims, current ‘peregrinos’ see their journey as a spiritual exercise in meditation and discipline, while others simply enjoy the physical challenge and cultural experience. During the Camino, pilgrims stay in ‘hospedajes’ or shelters and live in community with other pilgrims. This, along with the opportunities for solitude and contemplation while walking to each stop, provides a first hand view of history and culture. Although most pilgrims still use the traditional paths, shelters, and landmarks, the juxtaposition of ancient and modern alongside sacred and secular presents a unique experience to the modern pilgrim. The official Pilgrim Office of Santiago states that the primary reason that pilgrims walk the Camino is spiritual; however, data that I collected while walking the Camino in 2015 indicate that this is not the case. Informal interviews conducted with approximately 35 fellow pilgrims during a Summer 2015 Camino experience reveal compelling evidence that technology and globalization have changed the way pilgrims reflect on their journey and experience the ‘sacred’.

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