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Plan for the socio-cultural revaluation of the essence  of the Camino de Santiago 

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WE ARE ON SAINT JAMES WAY, FOLLOW THE ROAD WITH US THROUGHOUT THE NETWORKS

Amazing travellers, what noble stories
We read in the deep oceans of your gaze!
Show us your memory's casket, and the glories
Streaming from gems made out of stars and rays!

We, too, would roam without a sail or steam,
And to combat the boredom of our jail,
Would stretch, like canvas on our souls, a dream,
Framed in horizons, of the seas you sail.

 

What have you seen?

     CHARLES BAUDELAIRE, THE VOYAGE, The Flowers of Evil.

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The Saint James Way is probably the most international treasure we have in Spain and one of the most popular and cosmopolitan sacred routes on the planet.  

 

Nowadays, this dualism is embodied by the contradiction of human heritage turned into a tourist attraction and making it coexist with the original magic of adventure and the spiritual.

 

However, although the Way has been walked with different meanings throughout the ages, we can still believe that its idiosyncrasy as a great journey of transformation and transcendence has survived until today.

 

Therefore, with the aim of saving and caring for its original and spiritual attributes, we propose to create a space for reflection, debate and artistic research about the cultural essence of the Camino de Santiago, affected in its aesthetic, environmental and social dimensions by the complex phenomena of the XXI century.  

 

This cultural revaluation plan is the best way we have found to help the Camino to continue being a Grand Tour, a Journey to Ithaca, in which the light of the stars can continue enlightening and guiding the true seekers through the contemporary fog. 

THE PLAN

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The project was born as a new hope of La Maya Lab cultural workshop, whose goal is to revive the Iberian and Mediterranean cultural essences and to serve as a container for the oral traditions and knowledges, which now are endangered heritage.

 

Many entities with a rich experience in their field have joined our mission, and we couldn't imagine to have reached this point without them: The Ecological Refuge for Pilgrims Ave Fénix, the cultural manager Espacio de Arte / Espacio Abierto, the creative Coworking Space Codocóncodo, the Folclore Audiovisual producers, Berkori producers and the publishing company Chimenea y Manta.

 

The plan we present here is based practically on the realisation of 

7 cultural proposals with a considerable artistic scope. Each one of them implies a deep research and a total immersion in the Way to rescue and safeguard its original values as an infallible antidote to the difficulties that challenge it today.

To carry out all this, a provisional Art Workshop has been hosted at the Ave Fénix Refuge in Villafranca del Bierzo in its different editions of 2019, 2020 and 2021 - the I, II and III Cultural Days of the Camino de Santiago and the VII, VIII and IX International Meetings of Visual Arts. The other initiatives hope to be managed before 2022.

CREATIVE PROPOSALS

ARTISTIC PRODUCTIONS

1 . DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE ORAL TRADITIONS OF THE WAY

(2020-2021)

2. TRAVEL JOURNAL ABOUT THE ORAL TRADITIONS OF THE WAY (2020-2021)

3. DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE VETERANS AND RURAL HOSPITALITY OF THE WAY (2022)

4. JOURNAL ABOUT THE VETERANS AND RURAL HOSPITALITY OF THE WAY (2022)

 

5. MONOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTARY ABOUT JESÚS JATO (2021 -22)

 

6. MONOGRAPHIC BOOK ABOUT JESÚS JATO (2021 -22)

 

7. ARTISTIC GUIDE TO THE WAY AS A RITE OF PASSAGE (2022)

 

8. PROJECTING AND MAKING OF THE SCULPTURES TO REPLACE THE DISAPPEARED HERITAGE ON THE WAY

SOCIOCULTURAL INTERVENTIONS

 

9.  I, II, III CULTURAL DAYS ABOUT THE WAY (2019/2020/2021)

 

10. VII, VIII, IX INTERNATIONAL ENCOUNTERS OF VISUAL ARTISTS (19/20/21)

 

11. CONSTRUCTION OF AN ART STUDIO IN THE AVE FÉNIX REFUGE  (2018)

 

12. CREATION OF AN ARTIST RESIDENCY IN THE AVE FÉNIX REFUGE (2021)

 

13. CREATION OF A CONFERENCE SPACE IN THE AVE FÉNIX REFUGE (2019)

 

14. SCULPTURE WORKSHOPS CONNECTED TO THE CLEANING OF ILLEGAL LANDFILLS ON THE WAY  

 

15. SUSTAINABLE GASTRONOMY PROGRAMS HELD BY OLDER PEOPLE

 

16. CREATION OF A BRAND OF ORGANIC PRODUCTS MADE IN THE AVE FÉNIX REFUGE

I, II and III Cultural Days about the Saint James Way

VII, VIII, IX International Encounters of Visual Artists

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The Cultural Days are built on the exhibition of contents related to the Jacobean culture through the voices of some of its greatest experts and veterans to proceed to their shared study, their artistic development and their dissemination.

 

Among the attending public there are the artists who participate in the International Encounters that occur at the same time and a large part of the international community built around the Way, as well as numerous residents of the rural or urban areas of the Way in the surroundings.

 

One of the pillars of the philosophy of La Maya Lab is to keep alive the cultural legacy of the local communities, helping, on the one hand, their sharing of the intangible heritage and thus its natural conservation. On the other hand, enacting the collaboration of the artist as new neighbors, which contribute with their creative processes, to continue generating expressions of collective meaning. For this reason, one of the cornerstones of these Cultural Days is the collective work of the artists, experts and the community on the knowledge presented during the conferences, that is enabled throughout the workshops. Another cornerstone is the space dedicated to an open forum and debates to be help after the presentation of contents, so that the community can have an individual voice. Also, live performances of artists close to the Way can occur. Throughout the weekend the meals are shared by all attendees, and also a queimada - a celtic ritual from thousands of years ago that is still celebrated in Galicia Region with fire and grape liqueur- takes place.

 

The I, II and III Conferences took place at the Ave Fénix Refuge.  

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This meeting is itinerant, meaning that it happens in different places, and aims to promote the exchange of experiences to create a dialogue on artistic and cultural creation. In its previous editions it has been located always on Saint James Way: Viana Do Castelo (Portugal, 2013 and 2014), Oporto (Portugal, 2015 and 2016), Comillas (Santander, 2017 and 2018). Important artists of different ages and nationalities have been represented (from Portugal, Spain, Holland, Honduras, Japan, Great Britain, France, Poland, Taiwan, Australia…).

 

Since 2019 the meetings have been held at the Ave Fénix Refuge in Villafranca del Bierzo, where the alignment of an International Encounter with the internationality of the Way has enriched even more the potential creative and communicative exchange. The exchange and dialogue happens because the artists live and work in the hostel itself (also spending the night in a nearby hostel on foot), revolving around the Art Studio, a suitable space for its various plastic disciplines: painting, sculpture, video, photography, installation. In this way, the artist are able, among other things, to expand through their art the reflections born within the Cultural Days.

 

Meetings are held with local creatives and the invited artists, as well as visits of artistic and cultural interest take place. A selection of Residents' works gets to be part of a traveling collective exhibition, which begins in Villafranca and ends in Madrid, in the Codocóncodo and Espacio de Arte / Espacio Abierto spaces of the founder of the Encuentros, Javier Aguado. 

Documentary and Book: Popular Rural Hospitality and the Veterans of the Way

Documentary and Monographic Book of a contemporary Jacobean legend: Jesús Jato and the Ave Fénix Refuge

Documentary and Book: Oral Traditions on Saint James Way

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These works (52 'FULL HD esp / ing / por) are meant to be a tribute to the tireless work of those who have rescued the Saint James Way from oblivion since the 50s, and to those who practiced and still practice popular rural hospitality on the Way. People of towns and villages along the Way have shared their meals and their homes with pilgrims of all times. This widespread altruism and kindness has allowed the Way to survive throughout the centuries.

 

We judge that there is not enough acknowledgement nor recognition for the present circumstances, not even by those who have benefited the most from the Compostela phenomenon. Within the reflection on the Way we intend to make, we cannot ignore its evolution from the origins until the contemporary resurgence.

 

By the 50s and 60s, a small group of "crazy people" struggled in total uncertainty to recover the Saint James Way, now considered as a Site of Cultural Interest, the First European Cultural Itinerary and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1993.

 

For this reasons, we consider essential to save the legacy of this little group of people, recollecting and recording the voices of those who are still alive as cultural heirs of the hospitality values of the Way.

 

To do this, we plan to embark on a research trip, emulating the journey of Saint James, carrying the sailboat La Maya, which represents the main driving force of the collective work of La Maya Lab. The narrative thread of the documentary and the publication will follow this trip from Venice to Fisterra. Along the Way, town to town, we want to screen our Documentary about Oral Traditions on the sails of La Maya, creating a shared public space around the boat. Our intention is to use this open space to invite the Way's veterans of the 50s to talk about the Jacobean hospitality. Everything that will happen along the way of La Maya during its stops, screenings and interviews will be the material of the Documentary about the Veterans and Rural Hospitality and its related book.

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With this short film (28 'FULL HD ing / esp / por) we want to continue bringing to the spotlight popular rural hospitality along the Saint James Way, this time via the figure of Jesús Jato. He represents a cultural heir of the Way keeping it alive through the various talents and activities he has consecrated to the pilgrim all his lifetime (as hospitalero, healer, stonemason, builder, botanist, gardener, queimador, dowser, thaumaturge, cook…).

 

Jesús Jato has picked up a centuries-old family tradition as his grandmother Generosa already hosted pilgrims at home out of sheer altruism in the 1890s. From her he learnt solidarity towards the pilgrims and the knowledge to cure their pain with hands and herbs from the field.

 

Jato was clearly marked and inspired by that "meiga" and still today that same energy can be felt when entering at Ave Fénix, the emblematic refuge he runs just beside the Church of Santiago in Villafranca del Bierzo.

 

Generosa's dream was to build a hostel for pilgrims, something she could never do in her lifetime. However, his grandson Jato bought a land right where the San Lázaro Pilgrim Hospital and Santo Domingo Hospital were located in Middle Age (the last one still standing).

 

The Ave Fénix Refuge is a benchmark to consider both on a social, aesthetic as well as environmental level. On a social level, it provides food and accomodation for more than a thousand poor people per year. On an aesthetic and cultural level, it has been chosen as a cultural attraction by the Bierzo Tourism Board. On an environmental level, the refuge is ecological both in its construction and in its philosophy of life. The story of the Phoenix Bird, raised by the pilgrims to return Jato's solidarity after a fire devastated the place, would deserve a movie.

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One of the pillars of La Maya Lab's philosophy is to keep alive the cultural legacy of local communities, on the one hand helping them to share their intangible heritage, meaning their oral knowledge and traditions. On the other hand, La Maya Lab works for the artists to collaborate with local communities as new neighbors, contributing  through their creative process, to continue generating expressions of collective meaning.

 

The subject of this proposal (58 'FULL HD gall / ing // esp / por) is the collection of popular oral narratives along the French Way in Maragatería, Bierzo and Galicia regions.

 

The narrative thread is constituted by the Way that Irene and Jato travelled

accompanied by a donkey and a cart for almost 3 months throughout the fall / winter of 2020, in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, being practically the only pilgrims with all hostels and bars closed.

 

Since rural areas are the

places where this tradition is still alive, we consider them as the main source. At the same time, we didn't disdain the urban centers, where the rural areas had continuity.

 

Specialized research in oral and marginal literature, studies on the popular tale, proverb, riddle, or songbook, etc. are added to the field work in situ. Also, the experience of our team (with experts in archives such as the historian Javier Aguado) has been essential to select the best texts and the best storytellers.

Book: Artistic guide to The Initiation Path of  Santiago

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The Camino de Santiago has existed for thousands of years as a sacred route and has served as an experience of self-knowledge and transcendence for millions of pilgrims who sought "the end of the Earth" in a ritual of rebirth. Despite the fact that the Camino is currently affected by some contemporary phenomena that make the spiritual sense be forgotten, the forces of the Way are still alive and its magic acting through it. For this reason, the historical hospitalero Jesús Jato and the artist and pilgrim Irene García-Inés have decided to write together a very special book to help today's walkers continue to experience the Way as a spiritual journey.  

 

Currently there are millions of guides for pilgrims but none focuses on the most essential of the Camino: how to live it. Actually, most of them describe which bars are the most recommended or which hostels can be found in which places.

 

However, the work presented here digs into the very roots of the Way and allows it to be fully experienced as a different adventure, a tool of personal alchemy. For this reason, its format is artistic and interactive, as the result of an intense field work carried out in situ along the French Way. Plus, the extensive experience and heritage of Jesús Jato, who wishes to transmit his 80 years of friction with the spirit of Santiago, is joined to the sensitive vision of Irene García-Inés, trained in artistic techniques that coincide with the ancestral rites that were held at the emblematic points of the Camino.

This work consists of the production of artistic works meant to replace those heritage pieces that were part of the most genuine Jacobean inventory but are now disappeared for one reason or another. An example is the modeling of the sculpture of Santo Domingo, patron of the Way, to replace the one that was stolen from the medieval Hospital of Pilgrims of San Lázaro, in Villafranca del Bierzo. This work is in charge of the artist and pilgrim Irene García -Inés.

 

The execution proceeds by a deep investigation and a creative process built in the 3 levels proposed by La Maya Lab to guarantee a comprehensive attitude: aesthetic, social and environmental.

 

Therefore, we would differentiate the shared community heritage from the private collection of artistic-historical-archaeological pieces. Through participatory practices of democratization of the processes of generation and management of culture, the work is shaped in a collaborative way and the artist is preferably part of that community. An example of this generation and resistance of common heritage is the proposal of the emblematic Jacobean town of Muxía to replace the Virgen De la Barca statue which was burned during the last fire.

 

With these types of proposals, La Maya Lab seeks to stay firm in its purpose of helping local communities to defend and practice their sociocultural sovereignty.

Production of Sculptures and Artistic Heritage disappeared from the Camino

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Books that accompany the proposed Documentaries on the Camino

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These publications consist of the continuation of the artist's notebook begun by the artist and pilgrim Irene García -Inés during her last journey from Saint Jean du Pied de Port (2017), a notebook from whose reflections this project "Por Amor al Camino" was born.

Irene develops her artistic work and her thesis through her journeys, using The Artist's Travel Notebook as a tool of investigation. She has grown a deep experience about this practice to the point that one of her Travel Notebooks obtained an honor degree for her research work.

 

Her various fieldwork from the west to the east of the Way have become true pilgrimages in search of its ultimate essence as an initiatory and unique adventure. Irene has collected that essence and continues to collect it again in her notebooks through numerous chronicles and drawings, made with watercolor, tea, wine, graphite, and other spontaneous materials provided by the day-to-day adventures. In some cases, the chronicles of these trips are transformed into a true historical document, such as those that collect the pilgrimage of Irene and Jato during the autumn / winter of 2020 through an empty Way of which they were exclusive witnesses, while looking for the oral Jacobean traditions out of the voices of the elderly of the rural world.

 

Another book comes out of the documentation of the trip made from Venice to Muxía with the sailboat La Maya to collect the testimonies of the Jacobean veterans about popular rural hospitality. The graphic and literary invoice are taken care of to the maximum, trying to preserve at the same time the characteristic freshness of the travel notebook.

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If you share our love for the Way and  you want to support our project, we would appreciate your donation! To give you thanks, we will name you in all the credits of our publications.

Thank you very much for betting on independent art!

MAYA LAB IS AN INDEPENDENT ORGANIZATION THAT IS FINANCIALLY SUPPORTED BY THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN THE PROJECT. THANK YOU.
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