In 2023 the largest nationality outside of Spain to receive compostelas was pilgrims from the United States. The surge of Americans is due in part to factors that have led to an overall growth in Camino pilgrimage. Tour and trekking companies have discovered the Camino as a source of business. There is an abundance of new online and print resources. There is a pent-up desire to travel after being confined during the Covid.  The pandemic caused people to realize that there are deeper dimensions to life with which they want to connect through pilgrimage.

American Pilgrims on the Camino has both contributed to and benefited from the increased popularity of the Camino. With 60 chapters throughout the United States, the organization provides opportunities for new pilgrims to learn about the Camino from veteran pilgrims. Chapters provide information sessions, tertulias where pilgrims can share their experience, hikes to prepare for the rigors of the Camino, and shell ceremonies to send new pilgrims off with the support and encouragement of their friends.

American Pilgrims on the Camino has a web site that provides current information and links to help pilgrims prepare for their journey. It maintains strong relationships with other pilgrim associations around the world so that members are in touch with the latest developments in the pilgrim community. American Pilgrims on the Camino is the only association in the United States authorized by the cathedral in Santiago to issue credenciales. Many people learn of the organization when they order their free pilgrim passport. The quarterly online journal La Concha conveys compelling stories, poems, photos, and artwork that inspire current and future pilgrims. There is a strong social media presence, including a Facebook community of over 30,000 participants.

When people return from their pilgrimage, they often want to give back to the Camino. American Pilgrims on the Camino provides opportunities to do that. In addition to participating in chapters and contributing to La Concha, the dues and donations of members underwrite the grants program which supports local associations and donativo albergues in Spain, France, and Portugal. Members can receive training to serve as hospitaleros or they can serve as volunteers in the welcome service in Ribadiso or in the pilgrims’ office in Santiago.

By supporting the infrastructure of the Camino, gathering pilgrims together, and providing information and encouragement, American Pilgrims on the Camino seeks to inspire all who seek the spirit of the Camino to connect with the global community of pilgrims.

Steve Lytch

Past Board Chair of American Pilgrims on the Camino