A Day in the Life of a Hospitalero

Find out about the work of a hospitalero in a pilgrim hostel.

The day ends, another begins (2018)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

The work of a hospitalero doesn't end until they have waved off the last of the pilgrims to have stayed with them overnight. And then the work begins anew: getting the hostel ready for new arrivals, and being on hand to provide help once again.

When the job is a verb (2013)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Airing, sweeping, washing up, taking out the trash, reusing things … this list will be etched in the memory of any hospitalero throughout the day. Later, the list will include welcoming, asking questions, giving advice, praying, and laughing or crying. Domestic tasks take up most of the morning and show the welcoming spirit of these volunteers.

The fraternity between hospitaleros is essential (2010)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

There is not much time in the day for standing around chatting, or for planning community work. Specific times need to be set aside for this. The fast pace of the morning's work doesn't allow for slacking. Pilgrims will expect to see the door already open for them on their arrival.

Backpacks as numbers for the shift at the supermarket (2014)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Sometimes the morning's tasks haven't been finished, and pilgrims might have to wait to come in. They mark their place with their backpack. Inside, hospitaleros add the finishing touches to their work, freshen up, and take a deep breath before opening the doors.

Enter / enter; host / accolligere; rest / requiescere (2006)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

In the peace of the monastery, stamping the Pilgrim's Passport, and providing company for every pilgrim until they can rest for the night, are part of the hospitalero's ritual. Sometimes, those involved do not exchange words or even glances. There's no need.

And they keep coming (2014)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

A steady stream of pilgrims arrives well into the evening. Pilgrims on foot, pilgrims on bikes, pilgrims with additional needs … The Camino de Santiago shows us the very essence of human diversity.

Throw the rest (2013)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

The effort expended by pilgrims is not something that should be measured, but there are certain pilgrims who really push themselves. They tend to reach the pilgrim hostels later, and need more care and attention when they get there. The people who are with them need the same amount of rest. They are the pilgrims' pilgrims.

The task never ends (2012)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

When evening falls, and the pilgrims are settled in their accommodation, life in the pilgrim hostel follows its usual routine, and the hospitaleros carry on with their tasks. The daily work is never-ending.

Exceptions (2011)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Pilgrims arrive in all sorts of ways: on foot, on horseback, or by bike. Some pilgrims are heading home, while others amaze their co-travelers and strangers with their fancy vehicles.

Culinary arts (2019)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

When evening falls, it's time to make dinner. The hospitalero is the conductor of an orchestra, while his musicians—the pilgrims—put their cooking skills to use in the kitchen. Everything in a pilgrim hostel is shared, and pilgrims contribute what they have brought with them in their backpacks.

The meaning of a shared dinner (2012)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Sharing feelings. After dinner, hospitaleros explain what it is that drives them to put on these dinner-table gatherings, and what it means to them. Pilgrims are traveling companions, and they share their bread with whoever happens to be in a pilgrim hostel that night.

Multitudinary dinners (2012)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

In some pilgrim hostels, outdoor dining is a requirement in summer. Outside, there is room for everyone.

Dinners in petit comité (2008)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Other hostels are very small. Just one table is enough to seat the pilgrims and the hospitaleros.

Estimate. Everybody counts (2008)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Before night falls, hospitaleros provide everything that the pilgrims need for a good night's sleep. When the beds are ready, the floor is covered in sleeping mats. There are always enough for everyone.

Credits: Story

Federación Española de Asociaciones de Amigos del Camino de Santiago
www.caminosantiago.org
Jorge Martínez-Cava
Pilar de Luis Domínguez
Hospitaleros Voluntarios
hosvol@caminosantiago.org
Ana Isabel Barreda

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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