Most pilgrims discover something special on the Way of Saint James. A lot of them tend to repeat the pilgrimage at least once. But in the case of Luis Gutiérrez Perrino, new president of the Spanish Federation of Societies of the Friends of the Way of Saint James, the thing goes quite further: he has been working for the Camino since the early nineties as an active member of the Friends Society in León.
From now on he'll have to juggle his work in the local society with his new responsibilities as president of the Federation. We wish him lots of luck and spirits in this new path.
El Camino Con Correos: Tell us something about yourself for those reading this to get to know you better as a person. Where are you from? Where do you live now? What do you do for a living? What do you like to do in your free time?
Luis Gutiérrez: Even though I was born in Valladolid because my mother gave birth in her own mother's home, we moved to León when I was 2 months old. This is where I've lived all my life until today, so I consider myself Leonese. Professionally, I work in Education as a teacher. I have taught in rural schools and have been head teacher and director of two other schools. In my free time I love to walk, read, play sports and meet people.
ECCC: We assume that you've walked the Way of Saint James a few times. What sparked your curiosity about it? What did you experience for the first time when you decided to do it?
Luis G.: Many times, and I don't want to forget any because I have done 4 large tours from France, from my own home and with my beloved Society of Friends of the Camino of Santiago de León, "Pulchra Leonina". My curiosity began in 1993 in El Burgo Ranero when visiting the pilgrims' hostel with my students, since it was next door to the school. And the truth is that it was a huge discovery for me. The experiences and sensations I had were so enriching that I discovered myself more and more involved in the Camino.
ECCC: At which point did you decide to become involved with the Society? When did you begin to work with them and what were your reasons for doing so?
Luis G.: After my first Camino, I became a member of the Association and later worked for 6 years with Beatriz Gallego Martín on the Board of Directors. Now I am in my fifth year as Chairwoman. The reason was very clichéd: "return what was given to you by the Camino.”
ECCC: Generally, what are the goals of these Societies of Friends of the Way? What specific actions do you undertake on the Camino? How has your work changed in the last few weeks?
Luis G.: The main work of an Association is to serve the pilgrims, assist the pilgrims' hostels, maintain signage, take care of cleaning of the roads, spread the "Spirit of the Way", organise activities for our members, organise Jacobean Sessions.... Getting organised is easy since there is a division of tasks with a number of collaborators within the Board of Directors. The activities we undertake are the work of the Association. The change in our approach in recent years has been determined by new communication technologies and by the need for our message and ideas to reach all Institutions.
ECCC: As our fans and followers already know, you were recently elected President of the Federation in the last election and we would like to personally congratulate you. We're sure that many people, especially pilgrims, would like to know more about this organisation from the President himself.
Luis G.: Our work emanates from the purposes that appear in the statutes of all of the Societies and in those of the Federation, which are no more or less than to take care of the pilgrims, take care and maintain the state of the Caminos, to assist in the practice of hospitality, to work together to denounce abuses and attacks on the Camino and to make sure that all the Societies in the Federation work together in the same direction, respecting the particularities and autonomous work.
ECCC: At a personal level, what would you like to achieve during this stage? What are your objectives?
Luis G.: To build bridges and open doors to the non-federated Associations in order to integrate them into the Federation to work together in the Jacobean Spirit. Another objective is to achieve unified signage on the Camino, with the neutral scallop shape and yellow arrows marking the pilgrim's way; also, to maintain Hospitality as a fundamental virtue of the Camino de Santiago and to strengthen the presence of the Federation in as many forums, meetings and institutions as necessary, taking into account the goal of the sepulcher of the Apostle in the Cathedral of Santiago.
ECCC: There are many ways to collaborate with the pilgrims and with the Camino de Santiago itself. What would you recommend to someone who wants to help, but does not have a clear idea of where and how?
Luis G.: The first and fundamental step is to belong to a Society and within that you can develop anything that would be helpful to the pilgrims.
ECCC: Is there anything you want to add? We leave you with the final word!
Luis G.: Buen Camino! For the Pilgrims, for the Societies and for the Federation.
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