Compostela, Holy Year 1965.
On August 7th, 1965, four young pilgrims arrived in Compostela after 45 days on foot. Joaquín, Luis, José and Javier left their hometown of Granollers when they had just turned eighteen with the illusion that they were going on an adventure that would open the doors to a new chapter in their lives. A St. James Way that began as an experience shared by four friends and ended with the illustrious welcome from Cardinal Quiroga Palacios himself to Compostela and a reception at the office of Manuel Fraga, then Minister for Information and Tourism, who met her Accompanied a hair’s breadth to the Pazo de Meirás to visit Franco.
This was a pivotal journey, the end of an era that of schoolchildren in the Piarists of Granollers and the beginning of adult life that would lead them to various destinations. But in those fifty-six years the memory of an unforgettable experience was cherished in his memory. So much so that Joaquín plans to hike the St. James Way this Jacobean year 2021, this time with his wife.
Around 350,000 pilgrims came to Santiago in 2019, and without the Covid pandemic, those numbers would follow the upward trend they have seen since the Holy Year of 1993, the turning point in promoting this route. Since the 1980s, when Elías Valiña, “the Cura do Cebreiro”, developed the yellow arrow signaling system, it has been a slightly less complicated adventure to reach Compostela on foot. But leaving from Granollers on the other end of the peninsula in 1965 with little more than the illusion of four friends is an entirely different matter.
Given the advances in technology and communications that we have seen in recent years, it seems difficult for us to remember what the world was like in the 1960s. Imagine it. To do this, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of four eighteen-year-old friends planning the vacation for that summer of 1965, a summer that is different from all the previous ones and also different from all the others that would come later. The summer in which they finished their school stage and began their studies.
Summer like this should be celebrated and done in an unforgettable way. For this reason, the Joaquín, Luis, José and Javier all came up with the idea of going on a route on foot that led them from Granollers to Santiago de Compostela. More than a thousand kilometers, ten times the “minimum distance” to Santiago to get the Compostela. A great opportunity to celebrate the Holy Year of 1965 and, without a doubt, an adventure that should be exciting and that met the expectations of the four friends far exceeded.
But the challenge wasn’t just starting the hike. It was necessary to obtain the necessary financial support for a route that was not only long and exciting, but also very uncertain. In addition to the fact that neither the current signage nor the documentation of routes and maps were available, the dense network of hostels and hotel facilities that we have today was far from being established. However, Joaquín, Luis, José and Javier neither lacked ideas nor initiative. They made a request to the Granollers City Council for financial assistance. The latter not only responded to their unique request, but also provided them with the pilgrim’s IDs. To this institutional support, they added a grant from the local newspaper to send it a chronicle of their adventures on the Camino de Santiago. The initiative was very helpful in realizing her dream of making a pilgrimage to Compostela.
From Granollers they made their way to Lleida without an official route, then to Saragossa, from there to León and Astorga to join the French route to Compostela. The tents, their first chance to spend the nights, did not last the first kilometers of the route. A few days after the start of the route, they had to ask for them to be picked up. They were too heavy to carry on their backs on such a long journey. Because, no, at that time there was no transport of rucksacks between the stages.
As a result, pilgrims had to not only look west for the best ways to advance on their journey, but also find places to stay overnight. But if there is one thing that has been a common denominator on a route of the St. James Way from the 9th century to the present day, it is the hospitality of its people. So Joaquín, Luis, José and Javier not only received accommodation during their trip, but were also provided with food. And not just in private homes, they even slept in such “special” places as the Arzua prison. And no – they hadn’t committed a crime. 😉
As they approached Santiago, in addition to the hospitality of the residents of the cities they passed through, they also met other people who were also on their way to Compostela, albeit by car. By then, the four friends’ adventure had already been featured on the radio and other travelers were eagerly awaiting to meet them on their journey, stopping for a while to chat and share a meal with them.
On the more than a thousand kilometers that they covered from Granollers to Santiago, they met few other pilgrims who walked the Way of St. James to the tomb of the apostle, contrary to today’s route, on which the pilgrim flow is constant and had to do Solitude is more of an exception.
Arrival in Compostela.
If there was one ecclesiastical personality dedicated to pilgrimages and the Jacobean phenomenon in the 20th century, it was Cardinal Quiroga Palacios. Convinced of the potential of the route and its ability to put Compostela back on the top of the map of Europe, he tried to ensure that the holy years he had to organize had an annotation outside of Galicia, such as the holy year 1965. At the When the four Catalan pilgrims arrived, he received them warmly in Compostela and made sure that they were accommodated in the Burgo de las Naciones.
Manuel Fraga, the Minister for Information and Tourism at this time, was also responsible for initially providing them with a grant of five thousand pesetas for their expenses and later inviting them to his office in Coruña, where he received them a few days later. He even suggested that they visit the Pazo de Meirás to meet Franco, who would be happy to meet them. However, they had to decline this invitation. It would take Franco two more weeks to reach Galicia and Joaquín, Luis, José and Javier would have returned home by then.
Back in Granollers, their neighbors organized a parade to welcome Joaquín, Luis, José and Javier. Many media outlets were also interested in the four friends’ adventure, and even Spanish television interviewed them at the Miramar Studios in Barcelona.
Back on the St. James Way ..
Joaquín, who tells us this exciting story, is now retired and lives in the south. He plans to return to the St. James Way this year 2021. It’s the holy year again, just like summer 65. On this occasion he will cover the route with his wife. Without a doubt she will have the best guide and will be told first hand memories of what the landscapes and their people looked like fifty-six years ago and of course what the 4 friends were like back then.