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Thousand-year-old Spanish pilgrimage upstages Hollywood stars at academic colloquium

Discussing the pilgrimage

Discussing the pilgrimage:  Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez with George Greenia.

An academic colloquium is not usually where one would expect to see Hollywood stars, but the Camino de Santiago is said to have caused greater miracles to happen.

The thousand-year-old Spanish pilgrimage is the setting for The Way, a new film written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring Martin Sheen. Thanks to the efforts of William & Mary Professor George Greenia, the two Hollywood stars screened their film in February at Georgetown University, kicking off the Workshop on Pilgrimage Studies, co-hosted by William & Mary and Georgetown’s department of Spanish and Portuguese.

 “The historic trek to that World Heritage Site is a unique example of a universal urge to leave home to find yourself,” said Greenia, a professor of Hispanic studies. “From the Ganges to Ground Zero to Graceland, we are all pilgrims on the way.”

Greenia, who has travelled the 500-mile Camino every year since 2005, said that plans for the pilgrimage workshop were almost complete when organizers learned of the Estevez’s film, which had premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and in Spain.

With the assistance of The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday, Greenia connected with Estevez and asked whether the actors would be interested in screening the film at the workshop.

“He graciously said yes,” said Greenia, “and a studious academic affair immediately turned into a Washington event.”

President Taylor Reveley noted that William & Mary faculty have been teaching on the Camino for nearly two decades and that Greenia has led students on the journey for each of the past six summers.

“Their research projects conducted on the 500-mile trek have spanned a host of disciplines,” said Reveley. “As George has described in the brochure tonight, the rhythms of the walking offer a stark contrast to the immediacy of modern travel. Though an individual person takes each step along the Camino, there are many partners in the journey.”i