Follow the Yellow Arrow
Follow the Yellow Arrow: How Not to Get Lost on One of the World’s Most Famous Pilgrimages
You may not know Mr. Elías Valiña Sampedro - even the people familiar with El Camino may have never heard of him - but you should know his most famous creation: the yellow arrow pointing the way along El Camino.
Mr. Elías (1929-1989) was the parish priest in O Cebreiro in Lugo and studied the history of the St James Way pilgrimage to Santiago in depth, writing many documents, articles and even a thesis on the Camino de Santiago for the University of Salamanca.
He was a bit of a visionary and a Camino leader: after years studying the Way, he was convinced of the importance of this ancient trail and set himself the challenge of reviving the route we call the French Way. In 1984, he put in motion a mission to rescue, clean and mark the trails along the Camino, starting in Roncesvalles, in the Pyrenees.
He also started painting the iconic yellow arrows to indicate the right way at the various tricky crossroads along the trail. Legend has it that he drove across the whole north side of Spain on his Citroën GS packed with yellow paint, painting arrows leading to Santiago.
He also promoted the creation of groups and associations to revive and maintain the different stretches of the Camino; and traveled to other European universities and conferences to explain the importance of El Camino de Santiago as a space of communication and understanding for people of many nationalities.
He contributed greatly to the popularity and understanding of the Way, and has quite literally “left his mark” on this great pilgrimage. If you want to give El Camino a try yourself, here’s one way you can join in on the fun.