Since 2013, I have lived in Brewster full time, only crossing the bridge to the “mainland” for consulting and higher education work. As a university administrator, I became exposed to theories multiculturalism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. I worked as an “ally” for decades to create and sustain programs and services that would meet the needs of all students. Starting with a Master’s degree program at UMass Amherst in the early 1980s, and continuing throughout my career, I sought to understand the systems I was a part of, and to change them for the better. What I had been doing, however, was woefully inadequate, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way.
Camino Way Beginnings
“Pilgrim has its roots in the Latin per agrum, ‘through the field.’ This ancient image suggests a curious soul who walks beyond known boundaries, crosses fields, touching the earth with a destination in mind and a purpose in heart.” -Phil Cousineau, Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred
In the summer of 2020, the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing coincided with the murder of George Floyd and months of antiracist actions across the U.S. Our country struggled through the most divisive political dynamic since the Civil War. The COVID-19 pandemic crept into our lives, infecting thousands, then millions, and changing every aspect of daily life.
Here on Cape Cod, the historical, political, and social context mirrored that of the country: divisiveness; complacency and complicity in perpetuating a system of economic and racial injustice; an aging population with a strained health care system; and a sense of isolation from the “mainland.”
I decided to walk the towns of Cape Cod as a pilgrimage in the spirit of the Camino Way. Hence, the Cape Cod Camino Way.
An Idea Becomes a Reality
Over time I became more curious — and more agitated — about what was happening all around me. Out of this period of incubation the kernel of an idea was born: instead of traveling to another country to experience their culture, history, and social condition, I could walk the full peninsula of Cape Cod—all 15 towns—and learn about the local peoples and their stories, especially those largely unknown to me. I decided to undertake a walking pilgrimage through every town on Cape Cod to better understand issues of racial and social justice locally.
The Original Camino Way
The Camino de Santiago, better known as the Camino Way, is a UNESCO World Heritage site in northwest Spain dating to Medieval times. Today, hundreds of thousands of people walk the routes as a personal spiritual journey.
I consider myself a perpetual learner, always seeking deeper knowledge. I questioned my own understanding of my world. What do I know? How do I know this? Where did this understanding come from? What influenced me? What do I not know? Where can I seek a wider understanding of an opinion or belief different than the one I hold? How can I share this experience and knowledge I’ve gained with others?
All of these questions spun in my head after the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, and I began to conceptualize the series of walks that I eventually titled the Cape Cod Camino Way.