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Day 11: Azofra-Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Day 11: Azofra-Santo Domingo de la Calzada (la Rioja, Spain): Camino de Santiago (last day)

Click here to hear a song sung in an overpass with great acoustics, yesterday

Click here to hear a spoken version of today’s blog

Santo Domingo de la Calzada moment of arrival, Santo Domingo de la Calzada

I am now a couple towns past my purported, final destination of Logroño. In Nájera, west of Logroño, I went to a photographic exhibit of photos from the turn of the 20th century in Spain.  And after completing the exhibit, I ended up talking with the docent for a good 45 minutes about how the face of Spain is changing. But what was beautiful about this conversation is it was not the typical lament that you hear in many places, especially smaller towns across Europe, about how things are changing and they'll never be the same and a nostalgia for the past. This focused on this change and isn't that interesting? And how do we stay open to change especially when it happens quickly and in small towns aren't prepared for it. For example, large influxes of immigrants from Venezuela, Uruguay and Brazil into rural towns in Spain. And he went on to talk about the differential ways in which welcome is framed in a contemporary Spain in which other people from Europe or from South America or really anyone that identifies in some way historically or in the present is Christian is welcomed in a very different way than folks from North Africa and Morocco, for example, or anyone that practices Islam, or even is believed to practice Islam, is welcomed, even if folks don't know the particularss. He made these really beautiful distinctions himself as a Spaniard, and as we had the conversation I started wondering what a contemporary ethnography of the Camino de Santiago as a microcosm of a changing Spain might look like. In other words, are the changes that we see along the Camino for example, in the service industry, where around 90% of the food that's been cooked for us on the pilgrim menus in the bars where we are is being cooked by South Americans and not by Spanish Abuelas as many Pilgrims might think. And where small towns like Arzua, where I slept last night, that are growing smaller and smaller, are in some ways being supported by or bolstered or buoyed by the Camino and the industry, the business that 440,000 pilgrims coming to northern Spain and walking the Camino each year brings. (As a side note, I love these little taxi stickers that you'll see in strategic places, like places on the camino where it's really hot and exposed or where local folks know it's the end of it that are close to the end of a tapa or “stage”. And so some people might just be at their wit's end or super super tired. Suddenly you start seeing this outcropping, little stickers on sides of the road on fenders and partitions).

The thing that the docent brought up that I thought was really interesting was the changing nature of the Camino itself and the changing demographics of the Camino. So he mentioned the massive number of South Koreans that now walk the Camino as their own form of Mecca, or religious pilgrimage to an important site for primarily Christian-identified South Koreans. South Americans, I have met a lot of South American cyclists. For example, a number of men from Colombia, who bike the Camino, and the Spaniards who walk the Camino, but many of whom will do the final 100 kilometers as a sort of rite of passage, and who also put it on their CV and then other Spaniards who will just walk maybe a week a year, like the men from Central spain named diego that I walked with this morning, and then pick up where they left off the next year, and sort of make it a project that spans over decades. As as I was talking to the docent, I also started thinking about what it would be like to actually do fieldwork, interviews and conversations, ethnographic stuff in Spain, in Castellano (I am saying Castellano because I’ve been corrected a couple times when I have called it ‘Spanish’). And as I was talking to him and the conversation grew deeper and more complex, and more nuanced— I think that's what excited me about this conversation—there was this raw honesty and nuance, and I kind of felt like I was doing an interview. I felt like I was doing fieldwork. And I started thinking yeah, I think I could  think of doing fieldwork in Spain. Especially if I had some time to really, really get my Spanish up and running, or my Castellano up and running. 

So that’s not actually what I set out on this walk to do on this portion right from Pamplona to Logroño and beyond. Today, I will end in Santo Domingo de la Calzada that is two days further and then I'll be taking a bus back to Logroño because my body wanted to keep on walking and I honored that. So, it's not what I set out to do. But it's kind of born itself into me. And that combined with meeting some fabulous colleagues at centers for Advanced Studies across Central Europe, this month, has planted this question and this seed of what that could or might look like. To base myself in Europe and particularly in Spain, in that way, on the Camino at large. 

In addition, when I attend the beautiful annual gatherings of pilgrims held across the US each year and teach songwriting workshops there and play solo shows, as I did this year, I see a need for more nuanced, US-based understandings of Spain and of the Camino. And of course, there's the superficial things. But there's also the need to go a little deeper and there's also the tremendous divide I see on the Camino between pilgrims who speak Spanish and pilgrims who don't. And this determines a lot of who socializes with whom, but it also determines a lot of the kind of engagements that pilgrims are able to have with people in small villages in particular, for example, bar owners, cafe owners, grocery store owners, pharmacists. And for me those are some of the most pleasurable interactions. For example, yesterday I hung out with this woman at this very small, crowded grocery store in the village where I slept, and I kept on forgetting what I needed and buying things for other people. Because there was a man that was really sick in bed. He had food poisoning and he couldn't walk. So I bought him a peach, and then I went back later and bought him some Gatorade and a banana, but what's funny is that I kept on forgetting to buy things for myself. And so I would come back in when I remembered to buy the thing I needed for myself. And then I left my polls outside her store, and she was incredibly gracious, but also super funny. So she would make these quips: she's this older woman probably in her early 60s. I don't know if that counts as an older woman, but at any rate, she was in her early 60s, and she would make these quips or comments about life or about me or about the rain, or about the lightning storm and we would just burst out laughing. We would crack each other up. So all three times I left that store,I was just laughing my pants off. It was such a joyous exchange and so as much as so many Americans I have had the deep pleasure to connect with in Albuquerque and nationally, as much as they take from a love the Camino, and as much as it has become a very potent and powerful part of many people's lives, I do feel like those that put in the time to deepen and advance their own knowledge of Castellano  have the immense pleasure of going much deeper and that is its own reward. For me it's profoundly motivating.

 -singing in the ‘hermita’ in santo domingo de la calzada-

Our Albergue host last night, Pedro, took it upon himself to teach me some new vocabulary words around wine. wine opener? Decanter? And then the bar owner taught me a bunch of new vocabulary around red wine from La Rioja. And as I now understand it is terminology that applies across Spain, but it's completely different then how we order and talk about wines in the US and very clear and very helpful, with a demarcation of wine in relationship to age. So I am sharing it with you here. So, if you go into a bar and you don't specify otherwise, and you ask for vino tinto, which is red wineor vino bownco (white wine), you  will generally be given the newest vintage which is called “del año,” or of the year meaning of this last year. Otherwise, if you want something with a little bit more flavor of the, then you asked for a ‘crianza’ and that by definition is two years or older, and then there's two more categories, bear with me :) And then after that, you can ask for ‘reserva’ which is typically four years or older. And then the mack daddy of them all isthe ‘grande reserva, which as he explained it is seven or eight years or older. And so for each of these so I asked him to give me a price schema and in sort of your average working class non ‘bougi’  not fancy bar. So this is across the board for white and red ‘de año’ is going to be two euros. A ‘crianza’ is going to be

€ 2.50, and ‘reserva’ is going to be between three and four euros, by the glass of course, and ‘grande reserva’ is going to be four euros onwards depending on the vintage, which kind of blew my mind. So, the most expensive wine you can basically get in that setting—and typically these are vineyards that you're actually looking at as you're drinking it, so like literally from around the corner— is about four or five euros or between five and $6 USD. So I tried a white Crianza with my lunch yesterday of incredible garbanzos. These are large Spanish garbanzos, larger than what we know in the US or that we see in the canned chickpea cans, and they're tender and they're plump and it was served with what down south is called fat back, with a little bit of fat back and a little bit of Spanish chorizo, and I drizzled a little olive oil over the top.

one of so many cairns made by pilgrims along the way

 It was almost transformative with that wine. And then I started with a salad a fresh salad with carrots and tomatoes on a bed of lettuce but what was lovely is I asked for a little more protein and so he cut fresh slices of queso de cabra (goat cheese) like rounds from a log and it was pretty strong and very fresh and a little musty tasting and

and then he gave me balsamic vinegar and olive oil and salt of course to put on the top. One of the best salads I've had in quite a while. Which was so, so good. 

And then last night we cooked a beautiful dinner with other pilgrims at the Albergue at the municipal where I stayed, and we shared a bottle of a red Crianza which actually was from 2018. So it was an older one. And as I understand it, what happens—this is me and my novice wine nomenclature but which I love learning about as I'm walking on this land through this soil and through countless countless vineyards—is that that the older let's say a red wine gets, the fuller bodied it becomes, the deeper  and the richer. I had an amazing Crianza-my first glass— in Logroño, offered to me as a gift by my host and that one had notes of chocolate and even coffee. It was quite rich and would have you know paired amazingly with a cheese for example maybe like a good cheese like shavings of Grana Padano or something that's full bodied and has a decent amount of salt in it. And then the final thing I learned is that a ‘rosado’ or what in the US we call a Rosé, in this region is referred to as a ‘clarete.’ So clarete is a rosé but from the region known as La Rioja.

 All right friends. Have a beautiful day. May each of you be happy, healthy and well, and may you have have the opportunity to listen to some exquisite birdsong somewhere in a field surrounded by vineyards as I am doing right now as I finish dictating my message to you.

disclaimer: All posts written on the camino are written from my cell phone from transcriptions of a recording, and therefore have very minimal editing. They are meant to be a snapshot/soundscape and a representation of daily life while walking, rather than a polished publication. Please take that into account when reading.

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I love these early ideas toward new ethnographic work! And I love the look of those garbanzos.

kristina jacobsen
kristina jacobsen

yippee, gracias raqueli :)


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