Las Últimas Noticias
René Alvarado crosses this country to get to Santiago de Compostela
"Barefoot" Chilean Doctor Astonishes Spain
Ariel Diéguez
Saturday, May 8, 2004

"I do it simply for pleasure (walking barefoot)", explains the doctor.
He walks 30 kilometers a day barefoot and explains that "wearing boots would be like wearing earplugs and not hearing the birds."

Renato Alvarado Vidal isn't just a wanderer. He's a barefoot-walker. [Note: this is a pun in Chilean Spanish; "wanderer" is patiperro while "barefoot-walker" is patipelado.] The 56 year-old doctor specializes in medical imaging, but appears more like a monk or a wizard. Because of this, in Chile, his native land, he is called "Machi". Today he lives in Puerto Montt, and it's been a little more than a week since he left there for Spain to visit Santiago de Compostela, just like thousands of other pilgrims do each year, on Sunday, July 25, the day of the festival of the namesake apostle of this city.

He left from Roncesvalles, on the border with France, and expects to arrive at his destination, on the other side of Spain, on the 29th of May, more or less. For this he must walk 30 kilometers (19 miles) daily, like the other pilgrims, but his trip is different: he walks on bare feet.

"Wearing boots would be like wearing earplugs and not hearing the birds as I walked. I go barefoot because that way I feel the texture of the road and, besides, I always walk without shoes," says the doctor in "The Daily Navarra."

The periodical writer Myriam Munárriz, author of the article, says that the doctor has awakened curiousity in the area, because it seems he is following a quest, but that is not the case. "Most believe that it is a type of penance and when I tell them that I am a complete atheist and that I do it simply for the pleasure, they remain perplexed," explains Alvarado.

Some rocks have complicated the trip, but his resistant feet remain intact. He relates, matter-of-factly, that walking in Chile is much easier. "There, rocks are rounded while here there is sharp gravel, so I have to shift my weight," explains "Machi" in the Spanish article.

"This is not craziness. He has always walked like that," Virginia Berríos, Alvarado's wife, recounts in the article. She recalls that in Puerto Montt her husband walked barefoot thirteen or fourteen kilometers (8 or 9 miles) two times a week, no matter what the weather, and that only a few times did he use light sandals or very thin shoes. Even when she met him the first time he was barefoot.

During those moments that all couples have when their feet touch under the sheets, Virginia Berríos says that she is always surprised that, in spite of so many long trips, her husband has very smooth feet.