In January, I went to Santiago de Compostela (Saint James of Compostela) , in the Galiza (or Galicia) region, Spain. No, I did not go in pilgrimage, as nowadays´ fashion among the Brazilians (they are third in the pilgrims´ ranking to Santiago – blame it on Paulo Coelho, Bill Clinton´s favorite esoteric charlatan writer, who turned a faithful journey into a “must” to the neo-pagan esoteric new-age crowd). I went there using regular means of transportation and regular roads. Thanks to the low-cost entrepreneurs..
So, when I crossed the Spanish border from the north of Portugal (through the Minho river) I came across some warnings of what I would find there: the welcome billboard, that says “ Bienvenidos a España” was vandalized, so “Spain” was changed by a graffitied “Galiza”. Yes, Galiza is one of the Spain´s region that struggle for its independence But let´s go ahead.
Coming to the beautiful – but uncared – Saint James´ Cathedral I was astonished by its dimensions, its statues, the pilgrims that was coming through its seven doors, its architecture and by its history. I´ve learned that that Apostle James (Major). His name in Spanish came from the name “Yacob”, later “Jacobo” (Latin) .Other Latin variance was “Iago”. Together with “Sant” , became “Sant Iago”, finally “Santiago”. For the French is “ Saint-Jacques” and for the English, “Saint James”.
The (hi)story told us that James wandered from Jerusalem to the point known as “Finnis Terrae” (Galicia) after the death/resurrection of Jesus Christ. There he continued his work preaching the news of the Kingdom. Back in Jerusalem, years later, Mary becomes sick and feels that her death was on the way. She asked to the angels to get the apostles together in Jerusalem; She appeared to James over a pole in Saragossa (the site became famous in the Shrine of Our Lady of Pillar); James returned to Jerusalem; Mary dies; Saint James is arrested and beheaded by Herodes circa 44 DC.; His followers moved his body back to Galicia, through the Mediterranean Sea, where he was buried; Many years later his body and the vault is found; The Cathedral is built; The pilgrimage started, specially from France, so the most famous of the “Way of Saint James” was created. But there are other ways, even here in Portugal.
But there´s a special chapter in Saint James´ history: the transformation of Saint James into the Santiago “Matamoros” (“Moor Slayer”).
During the Muslim invasion of the South of Spain, Saint James appeared to the King of Castela, guiding him to freed Spain from the Muslims invaders. His appearances kept the Spanish morale´s high and they kept winning. Sometime later, James “Moor Slayer”, became the symbol of the “Reconquista” and the new Spanish unity.
So, I was there inside the Church when I saw the famous statue of the “Matamoros”, but there were no Muslims there. They were covered by flowers. Back in the hotel, I could see the original statue on a postcard. Could Santiago have became a victim of the “politically correct” syndrome?
But I found much more than this.
By the newspapers, you can have a larger view of what is going on. The warrior apostle, the Moor Slayer, is not only inconvenient by being openly an anti-Islamic symbol and thus susceptible to “hurt other´s religion feelings” - according to the declaration of the committee in charge of the Cathedral´s administration. He is inconvenient because he is the Spain Patron, a thing that nationalists from all regions disgust.
The Andalusian nationalists, allied to the Galician, claim for the withdrawal of Saint-James´ spade providing that the “Moor Slayer” profile of Saint-James to be forgotten.
This vision is not modern. There´s been a long time that Catalan, Gallegos, Andalusian and – mainly – the Basque, claim for their independence from Spain and to destitute the “Moor Slayer” as their Patron is their goal. They are a kind of “Renconqista” revisionist, cause for them, there was nothing “nothing to be reconquered”.
In this way, it is clear why Basque terrorist group ETA join their efforts with Al-Qaeda: they are in the same fight, cause the victory for nationalists only could be made if Catholicism and its symbol, Saint-James, could be weakened. It is difficult to understand why many people, even inside of Catholic Church in Spain - specially the so-called “progressives” - fell into this trap.
But fortunately they did not win, at least partially. Some years ago, rumors said that the Moor Slayer image will be withdraw from the Cathedral After a chain of protests, debates, they reached a Salomonic choice: they did not withdraw the image, but hid Muslim figures behind the flowers. You can see the images above. The Politically Correct attack against the Apostle, added by the inflation of a new-pagan-esoteric frenzy on the “Ways of Saint James” - that praises the path, not its real meaning – wants to change a Christian and Spanish symbol to its opposite.
Forget Paulo Coelho´s “ Pilgrimage”. It´s the old “Moor Slayer” that we need.