Centuries ago along Spain’s Camino, there were physical reminders of the Christian perspectives. A peregrino would walk past churches and cathedrals, stone crucifixes marking crossroads or town squares, past nuns, monks, priests, and knights of the Order of Santiago. All of these visual reminders reinforced Christian religious perspectives that motivated the peregrino and that provided the means of interpreting his or her experience. During the Middle Ages, the peregrino might walk the Camino for penitence or physical healing. Art in the form of paintings and sculptures of the Last Judgment or Christ as Pantocrator, as an all-powerful judge of the world adorning these churches and cathedrals, helped situate the peregrino as being on a journey that culminated in facing God at death.
Today, I would suggest that the power of those past physical reminders has been replaced, by graffiti! What a change! Graffiti is instantaneous. Unlike a century to build a cathedral, graffiti is written in seconds. Unlike being the work of one master artist, many ordinary individuals have left their mark on the Camino. Unlike the great cathedrals which have lasted for centuries, the graffiti is temporary. Because road underpasses have been repainted and signs replaced, I do not see some of the graffiti that I saw two summers ago. Finally, the canvas for the graffiti and street art is open to all languages and modes of expression. Graffiti artists have expressed themselves in Spanish, English, and in many other languages on the Camino.
Nevertheless, graffiti is expressive. The words sometimes simply are a person’s “credo” for how he or she walks the Camino.
Of course, graffiti on the Camino often continues to reflect Christian perspectives.
Graffiti seeks to influence peregrino’s current feelings, usually in ways that seek to be helpful and motivating.
Sometimes the graffiti provides information.
In addition, graffiti and street art reminds us of the world beyond the Camino.
Graffiti and street art on the Camino are sometimes, but not exclusively, Christian. The graffiti may simply express one’s person’s perspective.
Peregrinos on the Camino will walk by churches, cathedrals, and stone crucifixes. Those same peregrinos will see and create even more graffiti and art on the Camino.