SAN ANDRÉS DE TEIXIDO (GALICIA-SPAIN): A ROAD TO TRAVEL IN LIFE
San Andrés de Teixido is an area and a network of roads, with an extensive cultural, natural, and historical value as well as a great symbolic and spiritual significance. For centuries pilgrims, mainly from Galicia and Portugal, went on pilgrimage to this area to venerate the saint, accompanied by customs, beliefs, and rituals that are deeply linked to the Catholic worship. The path, sanctuary, and pilgrimage also contain important pre-Christian traditions, such as journeys beyond the grave, the doors that led to the afterlife, the arrival of gods by the sea, legends of mouras and charms, the fountains, and sacred rocks. Countless beliefs persist in Galicia, as an example of the many reminiscences still present.
Some authors, such as Usero (1992), collect and make a reference to the belief that the souls of those people who have not gone on pilgrimage to San Andrés de Teixido when they were alive, will do it once they are dead and possibly in the shape of an animal. As the well-known popular saying puts it: “A San Andrés de Teixido, vai de morto quen non foi de vivo ».
All these beliefs constitute the essence of the sanctuary in a unitary way, and it is necessary to preserve them as part of a whole to avoid the identity deterioration of the site. In addition to this, livestock and tourism are the main economic activities of the territory. An environment with a predominance of natural and scenic spots makes that the type of visitor whose motivations go beyond religion. One day visitors have become one of the main typical profiles there. Despite all, the path is not as valued as it should, so it is urgent to understand both their roads and destination as heritage spaces of global interest (geographical, historical, ethnographic, sociological, natural, geological, tourist, economic, and spiritual) (Pérez, Lezcano, and Muíño, 2019)
My proposal is an in-depth study of the value and meaning of San Andrés de Teixido and its pilgrimage roads, paying special attention to heritage and tourism. Among the most relevant results, it is worth mentioning the enormous potential they have and a recent increase in the interest of the local community. The study also reveals a lack of coordination and interest by some of the public administrations.
AREA OF STUDY
The sanctuary of San Andrés de Teixido is in a valley in the Council of Cedeira in the northwest province of A Coruña (Galicia-Spain). Different paths, which used to be accessible on foot in the past, lead to this place. Although this research focuses on the so-called « traditional road to Teixido », a vertebrate axis to which other alternatives are joined, there are other variants that need further study.
Qualitative research techniques were used for this study, such as a review of primary and secondary sources, fieldwork based on observation and inventory of natural and cultural resources, as well as in-depth interviews.
The analysis aims to show and highlight not only the importance of historical, artistic, ethnographic, and natural aspects which are worth preserving in their true essence but also their interpretative potential and their value as the backbone of a territory. It is important to note that, despite this, it is not a space protected by certain figures. It is not contemplated as a unit, although it interacts with SPAB, SCI, and Biosphere Reserve areas and is expected to become a future Xeoparque (RIGS) as well. Very few cultural assets associated with it are provided with legal protection. Some parts of the route are connected to the English way to Santiago.
Some efforts have been made by the administration and the private sector to consolidate and develop it as a product, but they are incomplete and unconnected. The sanctuary’s value as a destination is undeniable, in contrast to the road.
The route studied is signposted but lacks services, maintenance, and homogeneity. Some initiatives developed in recent years by local people are known, such as the project of dynamization #eufundevivo or some collaborative actions and common actions between the local population and stakeholders. There are also some companies that organize tours around this environment, but the study shows that the passing years have not resulted in an improvement in their management and coordination.
In view of the findings above, the enormous potential of the place and the roads that lead to this place is unquestionable. These elements are a sign of identity and authenticity for the Galician population, but the risk of abandonment or mismanagement is high, with the consequent loss of tradition and authenticity.
It would be advisable to get greater involvement of the local population and to assess the opinion of the actors involved. It is necessary to avoid the mistake of framing this area into a single tourist typology. Quality management and serious planning need further development.
Heritage interpretation is proposed as a suitable tool to achieve the correct use, conservation, and dissemination of this destination.
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