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A Camino Angel Passes On

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Time of past OR future Camino
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Paca Luna Tovar, a Sahagún matriarch and a friend to pilgrims, died yesterday in a Leon hospital. She was 82. Paca is remembered by hundreds of Santiago pilgrims as leader of a small group of Sahagun residents who walk 3 km. each afternoon to the Hermitage of Our Lady of the Puente, a tiny chapel on the camino route into town. In good weather she and her friends opened up the chapel and greeted visitors with cold drinks and homemade biscuits, jokes, songs and stories.

Paca had a deep dedication to the Virgin de la Puente. Her grandmother was employed at the church when it was still staffed by a religious order, and her mother was born at a now-vanished monastery building there. Pilgrims have been cared-for at the chapel since the pilgrimage began, Paca said -- it also was the site of a skirmish in the Peninsular War, now known as The Battle of Sahagun. The image inside the church is not a great work of art, but it is precious to the local faithful. Paca bragged that she donated the Virgin´s beautiful head of black hair, which she cut from the head of her own little daughter.

Travelers lucky enough to pass by the chapel on the virgin´s feast day (San Marcos, in late April) will remember seeing Paca twirl and dance to the pipers´jota tunes... right through her 82nd year. She was a dear friend and supporter of Sahagun´s nascent pilgrim expat community (Elyn Aviva and Gary White, and Rebekah Scott and Patrick O´Gara.) Her niece is Ana Condé, a hospitalero trainer for the Federation of Amigos del Camino de Santiago. A funeral Mass was celebrated this afternoon, in the snow, at the church of San Juan de Sahagun, with Paca´s beloved image of the Virgin de la Puente on hand.

Rest in peace, Paca.
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Thank you Rebekah.

Stories like this give us a window on the lives of the local faithful.
We owe them a great deal, and they are not to be forgotten.

David, Victoria, Canada
The Camino Angels are so important, aren't they?

I pray that Paca may rest in peace and rise in glory,

Go in peace and joy, Paca.

I posted this snippet from my Camino journal in an introductory thread but I though it would be appropriate here, too:

"Camped out next to the abandoned building at Ermita Virgen Del Puente. Had a bath in the river and was pestered by mosquitos all night [I had shucked my tent by this point]. No dinner because I didn't have any food. Tomorrow's etapa [to Mansilla] should be a big one."

It struck me as a special place and I remember my night camping there fondly (despite the mosquitos). Sometimes you can feel a place is special, but only learn why later in life. I feel this is one of those moments for me.

I never met Paca but I wonder if I sensed her benevolent spirit while I spent a few hours in a place that was special to her.

Thank you, Paca.
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