May 2nd, 2014: Today was Day 1… Surreal and Sad

By Eric

A Man In Lourdes

I can’t help but wonder how much of a circus this place must be during peak tourist season. I’ve been told, that Shannon and I have come to a holy place. A very holy place. I remember hearing the stories as far back as my earliest memories allow me.

Who we are is heavily influenced by where we come from. Where we come from is influenced by generations of history that are completely out of our control. And in Latino culture, as in many, that history dominates our lives.

Which conquistador slaughtered and pillaged- and where- helped to pave the way for where we eventually landed. That may float around subconsciously somewhere in the back of our minds. Fledgling banana republics surviving fascist leaders and/or communist dictators created many a diaspora for generations, which was a recipe for passionate and heated dinner conversations throughout my childhood.

But my history is steeped in influence by more than simply the politics of geography and the geography of politics. It wasn’t so much a subtle influence, as it was a jostling of the soul – literally- the religion, that hovered over every part of our adolescence. And in that religion, in my family’s culture, comes the influence that coalesces to our present by establishing itself in our past.

Namesake to a religious influence is practically a birthright in my culture. What is your feast day? Huh? Silly, who is your patron Saint? Everyone I knew, at least in our Cuban community, was named after a saint, or a religious place, or both.

In my mom’s case, her namesake was chosen after a place, and one of the holiest in the Roman Catholic Church. And that namesake was a heavy part of my childhood tradition. By genetic default, my mom’s history became my history.

And my history has brought me here. I said that my mom’s name “was” chosen after a place, because, at least in a physical sense, my mom is no longer amongst us. This place. This most holy of places, that I can’t help to wonder, given the fact that we are here, even before peak tourist season, that it already seems like a circus.

It’s reminiscent to a carnival show- but at 5am. You can see the carny’s waking up from their hangovers, painting happy clown faces over whatever shadows lie beneath, and setting up their junk to sell to innocent passerby’s looking for something better to do with their day (their soul?)

This holy place I have heard so much about, which I SINCERELY believe means so much to so many, also seems to have a slight film of grease around the edges. The inevitable outcome of most things in this world that start off pure and beautiful, but influenced by commercialism, turn into something else- something akin to a Ringling Brothers Act.

This place is where I am, because of my mom. Because of her history, which I now own. My mom died exactly one year ago today. Her name was Lourdes. And now, for better or worse, I am a man in Lourdes.

Distance: Not calculated today, since we have not started hiking yet
Location: Lourdes, France

Feeling inspired by our journey? Please consider donating to The Passport Party Project. Your contribution will help 10 young girls, get their first passport and go on their first international trip! Go here to donate and find out more.


2 Responses to May 2nd, 2014: Today was Day 1… Surreal and Sad

  1. Michele says:

    The timing of this is perfect. I read your post just after posting the importance of our heritage and why it is important to know where we come from. Memorial Day is coming up. And you will be hiking the El Camino in memory of your mother. Wonderful.

    PS I hope the trail is more well marked now. Wish it wasn’t so commercialized though.

  2. joanna says:

    It must be a meaningful journey for you Eric, and to remember your mom on the road.. just started reading and I appreciate people sharing moments on such a unusual trip. When it comes to commercialism, it is unavoidable.. and as long as no living thing is harmed it may be ok. or are there?

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