The Camino de Santiago in northern Spain today that follows the medieval pilgrimage along the Pyrenees west to a miraculous site in Santiago de Compostela is trod by millions, many of faith, many of no apparent faith. 

I say “apparent” because faith is a curious thing. It can start with awe over the beauty of nature, and end with awe at the Creator of it all. In any case, it’s an opportunity for a spiritual upgrade. 

The magic of the Spanish Camino de Santiago in the Old World could become part of the California Camino. I propose a spiritual and history-marking walkway from Loreto (Baja California) to Sonoma, or even more appropriately, from Mexico City to Tepic to La Paz to Loreto to Sonoma.

This journey on foot would have several purposes. For those of a spiritual bent, it would be the cause for meditation, prayerful hiking, worship of the Creator, and a Franciscan-like wayfarer’s trust in strangers on the road. 

For those who also respect history, the Camino in California (or the Californias) could have mini-exhibits along the way of treatment in the missions — pro and con — and of Native American testimony in every shade. 

For environmentalists, they would have a walk in some of the most beautiful land and sea and mountain in the world, and an opportunity to raise awareness of the threat of global warming and the erosion and warming of the seas. Many might be drawn by all three perspectives.  

As my friend and celebrated author Richard Rodriguez, wrote in his book “Days of Obligation”: “Have I, like the California Indians, sought some refuge from a world that can no longer make sense to me?” 

From the nuclear shadows of our world, from the terrible addiction to energy that is killing us, from the fear of the Other, let the Camino give refuge. And let the mission bells bend gently over that road.


Gregory Orfalea is a historian, poet, and novelist, and has taught at the Claremont Colleges, Georgetown University, and Westmont College in Santa Barbara. Currently, he is at work on a novel on Syria and baseball.  

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