We have been in Spain for 36 hours!
We have also been in Portugal, checking out a fortress that was built 700 years ago in the city of Valencia. It is just across the Minho River, so some of us straddled the border being in both countries at the same time. I have crossed into Spain five times in my life (all happening yesterday🙂). There use to be fortresses built on both sides to protect the countries from each other. The fortress we saw in Portugal was very large, the walls were five kms long. The Iberian peninsula was the spot of many wars between Portugal and Spain, it was our privilege to walk across a river on a bridge and enter into the country with no need of showing passports, or even seeing a border guard. How times have changed.
Portugal had a much stronger navy and shipping reputation in the 15th Century, however they chose not to support Christopher Columbus, the Italian who wanted to find a trade route to orient. He found a country that would support him when talking to the Spanish crown and in 1492, set sail to the west. Spain and Portugal made an agreement that the Tordesillas Meridian would divide the lands between the two kingdoms. Everything explored west of the meridian would be claimed by Spain, anything discovered east of the line, belonged to Portugal. That is why Brazil is Portuguese, being the land furthest east of the Americas and the Tordesillas Meridian runs right through it. The Pope that made this decree at the time was originally from Valencia, the town we just visited.
From the late 15th Century to the beginning of the 17th Century was the Spanish Golden years. The wealth that was brought back from the new world by Spanish conquistadors/businessmen was significant. The empires of Latin America were decimated by diseases brought over by the explorers, which allowed for relatively small Spanish armies, who had the advantage of guns and horses, to quickly conquer the Caribbeans and Latin America. Jesuits, Franciscans, Augustinians and other Catholic Orders were the missionaries that brought the church to the new world at the same time. It’s very interesting to be in the country that has impacted the land and culture of Mexico and the rest of Americas so much. We have been on numerous trips to Tijuana to build houses and now are in the land that changed the language, people, and culture of Mexico.
It is great to keep this in mind as we walk through Spain on a pilgrimage. We started today by visiting the Tui Cathedral and spending some time in solitude and prayer. There were also many Christmas displays showing an impressive manger scene and then many smaller ones from all over the world. Other cultures were represented through the figurines used in the nativity scenes. It was quite remarkable.
We walked over 20 kms today, 28,153 steps, through residential, forrest, industrial, small towns and more. Declan was todays leader and did a great job making sure we were on the Way of St. James, or simply, El Camino (the walk). We met many people along the way who would always say Buen Camino (good walk) to us. By the end of the day, our feet were a little sore, and we were very happy to have a meal of pasta together.
We have only 99KMs left to walk!