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Galicia Prepares for Jubilee Year

December 10, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox

Located in the northwest corner of Spain, Galicia is known for its lush green mountains, misty forests and dramatic seascapes. But this quiet region will be particularly lively next year as 2010 is a Jubilee Year (when July 25, the feast day of the city’s patron saint, Saint James, falls on a Sunday). Tourism officials in Galicia have designed a year-long celebration and will lay out the red carpet for some 10 million visitors during Xacobeo 2010 (pronounced "ya-ko-bay-o.") 

Since the 9th century, the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia’s capital has been the destination for pilgrims following The Way of Saint James or El Camino de Santiago. They traveled on foot, horseback and more recently, on bicycles, lodging in albergues de peregrinos (accommodations offered free of charge to pilgrims) until they reached the stately Cathedral of St. James, said to hold the remains of the apostle.  Legend has it that anyone who traveled to Santiago during a jubilee year were absolved of their sins.

Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, Santiago retains its medieval air with beautiful golden granite mansions, impressive public buildings and many beautiful churches. Stone streets are porticoed to protect against passing showers.  Considered one of the world’s great squares, the Praza do Obradoiro is dominated by the 11th century Cathedral and surrounded by many of Santiago’s historic buildings such as the Antiguo Hospital Real, the Palacio de Rajoy, the College of San Jerónimo and the Gelmírez Palace.

As part of the 2010 Jubilee Year celebrations, from January through December visitors to Galicia can attend hundreds of music concerts and opera performances, art and photography exhibitions, classical and modern dance, theater, animation and film, sports competitions, conferences and symposia.  Among the events are:

Pope Benedict XVI has been invited to Galicia, and religious events focusing on the spiritual experience of the Camino will be staged.

– Photography exhibitions created for Xacobeo 2010 include "Candida Höffer: Libraries and Archives of the Camino de Santiago"; "Cristina García Rodero’s Galicia and the Sea"; and Pierre Gonnord’s "Dialogue of Landscapes and Souls."

– Theatrical performances will include Cirque du Soleil’s Saltimbanco; Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s “Nearly 90,” and Mayumaná’s “Momentum.”

– Champion long-distance swimmer David Meca will cross the Camino as he swims the Ría de Arousa, and a circuit of women’s races will benefit breast cancer charities. The celebration's spirit of solidarity will be reflected in “For a World Free of Malaria” featuring sports exhibitions by star athletes such as tennis champion Rafael Nadal and soccer goalie Iker Casillas.

– Galicia hosts some 300 food festivals annually to celebrate its seafood (includingysters, octopus, sea urchins, eel, tuna and shellfish), and festivals featuring trout, goat, chestnuts, mushrooms, pancakes, empanadas, faba beans, androlla sausage, cheese and Galicia’s prestigious wines.

– Various events, audiovisual exhibitions and TV programs will be geared to children.

– For music fans, the Xacobeo Festival will feature performances by Inma Shara, pianist Lang Lang, mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, conductors Zubin Mehta and Vasily Petrenko and composer Alberto Zedda.  The Via Stallae Festival will feature 100 concerts alone.  Xacobeo Pop will present Sonar Festival, an international electronic music event.  The MTV Festival will showcase Spanish and international music stars. The 40 Principales Festival will travel through the region and Mark Knopfler will present his “Get Lucky” album. In Xacobeo Importa, the U.S. will be represented by the folk band Vetiver and the Seattle grunge group Mudhoney.  And in Xacobeo Roots – Galician music will take center stage with home-grown talent like: Berrogüeto, Luar Na Lubre, Susana Seivane, Cristina Pato, Bonovo, Fuxan Os Ventos and Leilía.

A particularly festive time to visit is during the Fiestas for the Apostle, July 19-25, which culminates in a display of fireworks, Fuegos del Apóstol, in front of the Cathedral in the Plaza del Obradoiro on July 24.  

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