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Racial discrimination on the Camino

KCarole

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning on walking the Camino in April 2018
#1
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
 

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Camino(s) past & future
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
#3
Zero problems what I have notised. Wishing you a great time!

Buen Camino!
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x4), Fisterra/Muxía(x2), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham,
C inglés. 2019? Who knows! ;-)
#4
I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
Hi @KCarole and welcome! I would say absolutely none at all.
Buen camino.
 

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Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 will be Camino #14.
#6
I've walked with several people of African American descent and I've never seen any discrimination on the Camino. On the contrary. Also, in my experience, including with my own mixed race relatives in the Azore Islands, people of color in Europe and the UK are less likely to experience discrimination than in the USA.
 

mvanert

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona - Santiago 2014, St. Jean to Estella June 2016, Estella to Santiago April 17, 2018
#7
One of the best attributes of the camino I have found after two Caminos is there is no class or social structure. Not once did I encounter discrimination, very much the opposite, we are pilgrims, period. And since you are going in April as am I perhaps we'll meet.
Enjoy!
 

Rick M

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
April ('16,'18)
#8
Racial discrimination takes root in the hearts of individuals, not in a Camino. Where its widespread in some area, it can come out of the closet and be in your face. I don't live in a place like that, but maybe you do. I've certainly visited a few. You won't find this in the rural Spain you are walking through, the people are wonderful. Unfortunately, you may run into some pilgrims who carry this malady, I met one in particular on my Camino. Fortunately, they are likely to be much rarer than you are accustomed to. Step forth boldly pilgrim, you will be welcomed.

Buen Camino
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#9
Unknown. How can that question be answered?
That being said, the Camino is certainly no utopia devoid of human emotions and flaws, but in my observations on several Caminos walked I never saw any discrimination. Everyone was just a pilgrim.
You will love it. Cheers and buen Camino.
 

Karl Oz

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
Portuguese
Piamonte
Aragones
Elizabethpfad
#10
I think that it's probably difficult for a person of European descent to be sure that there is absolutely no racial discrimination on the Camino.
Very possibly, but the question was put without qualification, and answers have been provided as such.

I haven't observed any overt discrimination on the basis of colour, but I freely admit I have met perhaps one African-American during my Caminos. On the other hand, I was once subjected to an unprovoked offensive remark because of my nationality, so you can never discount running into a bigot.
 

rappahannock_rev

Anglican Catholic Priest
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes, Burgos & SdeC 77 (by train); Frances 12, 15 & 17; Finisterre 17; Lourdes, Aragones 18
#11
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
Zero, I suspect. And thanks be to God for that!
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#12
I think that generally pilgrims have good motivations for walking the Camino, and that usually extends to their behaviour and how they treat others. All nationalities are present on the Camino, "from every land they come", and that is one of the great joys of the path. After a few days sharing dorm rooms and bathrooms and kitchens, we become friends. So within the pilgrim community I hope you will not encounter any discrimination.

It is not fairy-land. If people have not had much contact with those who are different - then they may hold preconceptions. Wherever we go, there is always the possibility of someone who is bigoted or ignorant.

I suppose one of the good things is that on the Camino we are moving all the time, so if we do have a problem with anyone, we can leave that person behind us, or let that person move ahead.
 

oursonpolaire

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
#13
I've spoken with three Canadian and one US pilgrims of colour over the years as, when doing Camino101 workshops, this is a question which has been put to me on a few occasions. The consensus appears to be that, on the Camino, there are no noticeable problems. One Haitian-origin Québec pilgrim told me that many people assume that he is from Dominica-- I knew him from the Public Service as having frequently given race relations and anti-racism workshops, and has his antennae in such matters-- but that in two Caminos he encountered no trouble. A Chinese Canadian pilgrim told me that, in both Barcelona and Madrid, she overheard people making fun of her, but encountered nothing untoward on the Camino.
 

Iriebabel

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April (2018)
? route TBD for April (2019)
#14
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
I have been to Spain a few times in the past and have never experienced any discrimination. I will also be starting around the same time 1st or 2nd of April and the thought never entered my mind. Not to say that people don't have their personal prejudices, especially with so many people from varied backgrounds, but I think you wont have any problems with that. After all we are walking the way of Saint James I hope everyone is or will be tolerant and kind. There might be one rotten apple but we cant let it spoil the brunch Buen Camino! hope to see you.
 
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WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Camino(s) past & future
2015 & 2016 (partial)
#16
In areas near the Camino, it is possible you may sense some hostility based not on your skin color but on not being a local. But even this is rare. I was once, near but not on the Camino, confronted with a grumpy, "I've never seen you before; you're not from around here!" But as soon as I answered in Spanish, I was no longer one of those irritating invaders who don't have proper manners. :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#17
Warmly welcome, @KCarole!
As a white woman, there's no way I could know from experience how to answer your question. I know what I'd like to be able to say, which is "none," but that may or may not be the case.
What I can say from experience on the Camino is that it feels like pilgrims are pilgrims are pilgrims. Among other things, whether people snore or not, (and how they are doing in general) are much more of concern than the color of their skin.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#19
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
You might encounter a very small degree of racism, if you should be unlucky enough to encounter some racist individuals. (even we white men are occasionally subjected to racist or sexist attitudes, in Europe)

But I seriously doubt that it would constitute "discrimination" as such, of the sort whereby you might be denied lodgings or denied custom (though I've been discriminated against myself for my nationality on a couple of occasions, so there's no guarantee either -- though none of those occasions were on the Camino).

Mostly though, you can just expect to stand out a little from the crowd, as there are not many blacks on the Camino (larger numbers of asians though, and I can't see that they were suffering from any bad attitudes towards them).
 
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JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Via de La Plata (spring, 2019)
#21
I would hope zero. But hard for a white male to really know. I thought we had zero in Australia but my wife (Asian) tells a very different story sadly.
But I’ll still bet on zero for a Camino ;);)
Exactly. This is not a question a Caucasian can personally answer, folks.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#22
Exactly. This is not a question a Caucasian can personally answer, folks.
One part of my way back from my last Camino, mostly hitching but with about an extra 200-250 K hiking, involved walking through the entirety of the Arab quarter of Marseilles (about a 3 hour walk) -- the racist attitudes directed towards me were palpable, including some looks of outright overt hatred.

Don't make the mistake that white folks are never the victims of it.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
#24
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
KCarole,

This is the type of question women pose about safely walking camino alone. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred I say, yes it is safe to do so and buen camino. Initially, I was going to give a pat answer: No prejudice and buen camino. But, sometimes a little more exposition is okay too.

Answer, is there prejudice on camino: Yes. On my first camino I had so many time constraints, I walked quickly, shepherded my mom, and experienced so many camino angels and miracles that was pretty much it. No time for reflection or much else. My schedule was: eat, walk, sleep, camino miracle repeat.

However camino number two was the most miraculous and fun of my five times on pilgrimage. My time was my own. I was a sola peregrina. But....

One day I was walking with three white American guys. They entered a store in one of Spain's many small towns. I waited outside soaking up the sun. After exiting the store guys asked me did I experience prejudice on the way. I asked: why ask? Apparently the proprietor gave them flack for walking with a morena. And, twice kids hollered Negra to me. Quite often locals smiled and told me I was a beautiful morena. Just threw that in for a feel good moment.

When I first volunteered as a hospitalera occasionally I'd hear remarks. One time a pilgrim told my fellows the albergue would lose customers due to my presence. Said pilgrim, said, pilgrims would look at me and keep right on walking. Even though that conversation was in Spanish I understood completely. All those years of Junior high, High school, and college Spanish stood me well.

While enjoying the sun, Brazilian pilgrim jokingly told me to get out of the sun because I was already too Black. His joke. My response: tight-lipped.

I could cite a few more examples but you get the gist.

Now, was my perma-tan a barrier to albergue admittance: no. Did my dark skin preclude wonderful friendships formed: no. Nothing about being an African-American woman seemed to stand between me and a glorious experience I've sought five times over from 2001-2014. And praying to repeat as often as time and money will allow.

When I volunteered a second time a young Black guy from Chicago was shocked to see me working as a hospitalera. There's just not that many Blacks on camino.

And, on that note. One of the three white guys with whom I was walking, on camino number two, wondered aloud how come so many pilgrims knew my name and gave me hugs and kisses after only a few days trek from SJPP. I laughed. Then we all laughed. I am quite gregaroius... but my personality is not.... Again, there just aren't that many Blacks of any nationality on camino.

A lifetime of being African is all the prep you'll need for any and all "interesting" moments on the way.

Buen camino.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
#25
Amongst my favourite books about the camino is a book called No complaints...Shut up and walk by Emmett Williams. It taught me heaps. It was written by an older African American who walked the Camino Frances with his wife who was also African American. It’s a great read especially for new pilgrims, whatever their race or creed. Not sure about now but they were active on the American Friends of the Camino and loved helping fellow pilgrims.
 

amorfati1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014_Caminho Portuguese (Lisboa to Santiago_4 weeks in May)
#26
Ignorance has no monopoly as to race , location , social class, etc.
You will find humans with fear and resulting devisions in their heart everywhere.... and who act accordingly.
Ages ago, traveling alone in India, people have thrown stones at me a couple of times. I might have been the first white woman traveling alone they encountered, who knows?
Europe has they own issues with discrimination (ask some what they feel/ think about “gypsies”) .... all that being said, and not knowing where you reside, wharever you might encounter, it is unlikeley to be anything as toxic and vicious and skincrawling that i’ve encountered/ witnessed in the US for e.g.
I would say that on camino, fellow pilgrims respond more to specific behaviour exhibited than to skincolour.
If one acts like a moron, chances are... one will “hear” about it. Either from fellow pilgrims or hospitalieri etc. in that case though the trick might be to not make it about race, but about recognising where o nes behaviour Was out of line, inconsiderate.
I’ve encountered great hearts on the camino, and a few i actively avoided. Just like it can happen anywhere n the camino of life... but overall... the kindness, warmth... it can blow open ones heart and leaves you with tender tears of gratitude.
Be not deterred, proceed with confidence and take along heaps of common sense.
Bom caminho...
C
 
Camino(s) past & future
C. Francés (2004-), C. Portugués, C. de Madrid, 1/2 V. Plata, 1/8 Levante, hospitalera Grado 2016.
#27
When I was living in Madrid, one of my acquaintances, who was a fairly light-skinned woman of part African, part Spanish descent, habitually expressed strong prejudice against people who had much darker skin than hers. My encounters with her were the only times I've heard racial prejudice openly expressed in Spain, but I'm a pale outsider and can only speak from my own experience.

On the other hand, I'm a Norwegian and got my part of cultural profiling from strangers, too: "You're from Scandinavia? Then you'll have sex with me, yes?"

It's WONDERFUL to have aged out of the most desired demographic.
 

jefferyonthecamino

http://www.barrerabooks.com/ - Guidebooks
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (1994)
Camino Francés (2013 - 2017)
Camino Portugués (2015 - 2017)
#28
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
Spain is (unfortunately) a fairly ethnically homogeneous country, especially in rural areas. This means that you will stand out a bit more than your average Caucasian pilgrim. This does not mean that you will encounter racism but that you may feel a bit more oberserved by the locals - If anything I would call it curiosity; however, this also depends on your own perception. Best of luck and Buen Camino
 

tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Frances (2015)
#30
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
I have walked with pilgrims of all races, colours and creeds and never heard a one complain about discrimination from other pilgrims, albergue owners or people in the street. The only person I ever heard abusing a pilgrim, me, was a con man trying to part me from my money. He was nice until he realised he was getting nothing
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2013
Camino del Norte a Chimayó (USA), 2015
Camino Portugues, 2017
#31
This whole thread has caused me to go deeper than the original question and to re-examine some of my attitudes towards others who are unlike me in skin color, nationality, politics, social/economic status, etc. Are my attitudes based on prejudice or stereotype? Is there a difference? Is one more benign? Perhaps this is a question for another venue.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#32
This whole thread has caused me to go deeper than the original question and to re-examine some of my attitudes towards others who are unlike me in skin color, nationality, politics, social/economic status, etc. Are my attitudes based on prejudice or stereotype? Is there a difference? Is one more benign? Perhaps this is a question for another venue.
Well, it's a question for the heart, for all of us to investigate honestly in our day to day lives. We may not like what we see, but that's what makes for positive change and communal harmony.
Good on you, @jmcarp !
May it be so for all of us.
I actually don't think this is off topic, because if there is one thing that the Camino is about is breaking down the barriers in the heart that separate us from each other. And racism is a huge wall, not just a barrier. So we all have to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves and work with what we see first inside...and then outside.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#33
Such a shame that the question had to be asked, but it is reality, there are sad inadequate folk out there. Carole, expect to be looked at but only because you will be a rarity, an exotic, not because those looking think that you are somehow 'less' than them. I really think that it won't but should discrimination happen I would suggest that you retaliate (peacefully) but loudly - I guarantee that every other pilgrim will come to your aid.

Such a shame you aren't a chap - you could really mix things up by wearing a kilt ;).

Sure, there are still nasties around but I do think that the world is more like this now ... this is Portguese


Buen Camino KCarole - Buen Camino!!! p.s. April 1st is both Easter Sunday and, well, a Sunday so do get any supplies in the day before.
 
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JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Via de La Plata (spring, 2019)
#35
One part of my way back from my last Camino, mostly hitching but with about an extra 200-250 K hiking, involved walking through the entirety of the Arab quarter of Marseilles (about a 3 hour walk) -- the racist attitudes directed towards me were palpable, including some looks of outright overt hatred.

Don't make the mistake that white folks are never the victims of it.
No question about it.

However this question was from an African ancestored person about walking the Camino. No need to feel defensive. As white pilgrims, we will never be able to specifically respond to this question or to answer it for pilgrims of color.
 
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Walking Lover

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CdS from Leon to Santiago, June 16, 2016 to June 30, 2016.
#36
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
Never saw any indication of discrimination. I would hope this would never be the case.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, (2013)
Camino Frances, (2014)
Camino Frances, (2015)
#37
I have been in a mixed race relationship that actually started on the Camino three years ago. I honestly never gave the issue much thought because I rarely came face to face with it in my daily life.

Now racism is a prominent part of my life. I saw the first signs of it on the Camino. Two pilgrims who were very talkative and friendly from SJPP to Pamplona suddenly became more than subtlety hostile after I started walking with a woman of color. Thankfully my partner is a strong woman filled with grace.

Racism has no common identity. We have encountered it from men and women. Blacks and whites. Young and old. Conservatives and liberals. We have encountered it in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Iceland, the Netherlands, and the United States. It takes many forms. Most is subtle but on a few occasions it has been outright outrageous.

Each incident takes takes a piece of my heart.
 

Iriebabel

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April (2018)
? route TBD for April (2019)
#38
I have been in a mixed race relationship that actually started on the Camino three years ago. I honestly never gave the issue much thought because I rarely came face to face with it in my daily life.

Now racism is a prominent part of my life. I saw the first signs of it on the Camino. Two pilgrims who were very talkative and friendly from SJPP to Pamplona suddenly became more than subtlety hostile after I started walking with a woman of color. Thankfully my partner is a strong woman filled with grace.

Racism has no common identity. We have encountered it from men and women. Blacks and whites. Young and old. Conservatives and liberals. We have encountered it in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Iceland, the Netherlands, and the United States. It takes many forms. Most is subtle but on a few occasions it has been outright outrageous.

Each incident takes takes a piece of my heart.
Sorry to hear of your experience. I am looking forward to starting my first Camino in April and honestly I have no worries about racism. There is always fear with what some don’t understand. As you can see my skin color is light, I am mixed race born in Jamica now living in the US. I have seen racism from all sides. I travel in Europe extensively and if it’s there I don't notice it because I know who I am consider their reaction to be their problem not mine. As long as the actions are not in my face I ignore stupidity. This might sound simplistic but If I encounter blatant hatred, I confront it but do so in an intelligent manner. Some people cannot help who they are or what they feel and we can only control how we react to them and the situation. They fear what they do not know and fear turn to hate and distain. My best advise is to ignore and walk your walk. To find love is a blessing so my best wishes to you both and I hope you continue to cherish each other. In my opinion those who act in hatred are missing love in their own life. Love is indeed patient and kind. They forget they walk in the footsteps of many pligrims who came before and also walk in the footsteps of St. James. Dont let their hatred change you and Forgive them because they know not what they do.
 

Iriebabel

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April (2018)
? route TBD for April (2019)
#39
No question about it.

However this question was from an African Ancestored person about walking the Camino. No need to feel defensive. As white persons, we will never be able to specifically respond to this question or to answer it for other black persons.
I think its ok to respond and also agree no need to be defensive because her question is specific to her needs and fears. I believe it is valid for her to ask. Being of mixed race I believe racism shows no boundaries. Ignorance is ignorance white, black, purple, yellow or brown.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#40
Let's not kid ourselves that all pilgrims are free of idiotic prejudice please...
Some people cannot help who they are or what they feel and we can only control how we react to them and the situation. They fear what they do not know and fear turns to hate and distain.
Even when intolerance and discrimination are coming from fear, they still suck when you're on the receiving end. And in this context, denial is not our friend. So I am very glad that you have brought this into the open and that we are talking about it, @KCarole - thank you.
Also thanks also to you, @nycwalking , for your beautiful and very honest post.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances August 2017
#41
Unfortunately,I did experience an episode of racial discrimination in a municipal albergue in a small town. It had a small bar attached. I waited an hour for the bar owner/albergue manager to be ready to check me in. It was very hot so I sat there with a cold drink. A young Asian 20 plus man came and asked her for a bed and she told him the albergue was full. She pointed to her skin when he was gone speaking in Spanish. When I eventually was allowed to go upstairs I found the albergue to be empty with about 12 beds. Later that evening a woman came who spoke both english and Spanish. I asked her to ask the albergue manager why she pointed to her skin. She perceived the colour of this young man's skin to be dirty and it would attract bedbugs.
I met people from all over the world and this was the only example I encountered. The rest of my encounters were welcoming of everyone.
 

Pruden

Pilgrim of life
Camino(s) past & future
October 2012 Camino Francés Sarria /Santiago.
November 2013 Camino Francés
León to Sarria
June 2014 Camino Francés San Juan Pie de Port to Logroño.
November 2016 Camino Frances ,Logroño to León.
#42
I don’t think you would find any discrimination on the Camino for your color, religion or country.
Everybody is on the same boat and is not different even with your economic level or university degrees or anything like that, you will be not different to anyone else!
Welcome to Camino the Santiago and buen Camino!
 

Pruden

Pilgrim of life
Camino(s) past & future
October 2012 Camino Francés Sarria /Santiago.
November 2013 Camino Francés
León to Sarria
June 2014 Camino Francés San Juan Pie de Port to Logroño.
November 2016 Camino Frances ,Logroño to León.
#43
Unfortunately,I did experience an episode of racial discrimination in a municipal albergue in a small town. It had a small bar attached. I waited an hour for the bar owner/albergue manager to be ready to check me in. It was very hot so I sat there with a cold drink. A young Asian 20 plus man came and asked her for a bed and she told him the albergue was full. She pointed to her skin when he was gone speaking in Spanish. When I eventually was allowed to go upstairs I found the albergue to be empty with about 12 beds. Later that evening a woman came who spoke both english and Spanish. I asked her to ask the albergue manager why she pointed to her skin. She perceived the colour of this young man's skin to be dirty and it would attract bedbugs.
I met people from all over the world and this was the only example I encountered. The rest of my encounters were welcoming of everyone.
That albergue owner have a personal problem himself.
Very stupid person!
This person do not mach with the spirit of Camino the Santiago!
I apologize that this kind of person was treating this pilgrim like that!
 

mai

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF in April 2018.
#44
According to my visit experiences in Spain n Portugal 2years ago, people there are very friendly n open minded to foreigners. In case problems occur, it may be because of language barrier rather than racial discrimination. That’s why I am learning Spanish now in addition to body strengthening exercises.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#46
Unfortunately,I did experience an episode of racial discrimination in a municipal albergue in a small town. It had a small bar attached. I waited an hour for the bar owner/albergue manager to be ready to check me in. It was very hot so I sat there with a cold drink. A young Asian 20 plus man came and asked her for a bed and she told him the albergue was full. She pointed to her skin when he was gone speaking in Spanish. When I eventually was allowed to go upstairs I found the albergue to be empty with about 12 beds. Later that evening a woman came who spoke both english and Spanish. I asked her to ask the albergue manager why she pointed to her skin. She perceived the colour of this young man's skin to be dirty and it would attract bedbugs.
I met people from all over the world and this was the only example I encountered. The rest of my encounters were welcoming of everyone.
The first time I visited England 42 years ago (I was 21) i arrived in Folkestone by boat from Calais There, I asked for a room at the first hotel I found. The lady in charge asked me if I was French when I said I was Spanish she told me that had no rooms. Fortunately a man who was in the hotel indicated me in a friendly way another hotel where for sure I could find a room that was run by an
Spanish from the Canary islands.
This case of segregation didin´t affect my relation with the UK and after this I have visited the 4 nations and always I've had a good time.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese Camino (2016), French Camino (2015), Northern Camino (2017)
#47
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
I have never ever encounted racial discrimination during my Camino journeys. I could defenitely say Spain is a bit "antique" when it comes to racial views, specially in the small towns where is pretty much just old spanish people. However they believes are, they will not be nasty to you.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Camino(s) past & future
2015 & 2016 (partial)
#49
… she told him the albergue was full. She pointed to her skin when he was gone speaking in Spanish. When I eventually was allowed to go upstairs I found the albergue to be empty with about 12 beds.
Since I speak Spanish, at that point I would have immediately told her off and demanded a refund. If I did not, as soon as I was aware she lied, I would have taken the same action. Then I would have demanded an "Hoja de Reclamación." If she were to refuse either, I would call the Guardia Civil.
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
yes
#50
Since I speak Spanish, at that point I would have immediately told her off and demanded a refund. If I did not, as soon as I was aware she lied, I would have taken the same action. Then I would have demanded an "Hoja de Reclamación." If she were to refuse either, I would call the Guardia Civil.
What if it really was about bed bugs? Lots of hospitaleros reject pilgrims they suspect of having them. Just sayin’. More information might be useful at times before going postal...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018. Many more to come in my future God willing !
#51
This question actually surprised me when I read it.
Further, it is great to see how many readers have answered in a common voice of none being seen, heard etc...
My opinion is this is one of the many "beauties" of any Camino.
In 3 Camino trips I have NEVER witnessed, heard or been part of ANY form of discrimination.
On a Camino EVERYONE is (should be) equal. Equally sharing food, water as well as the discomforts that come along with walking so many miles in so many days.
One can be a billionaire and walk side by side with someone who just survives day to day and one could not tell the difference between them.
 

mai

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF in April 2018.
#52
When I sent my previous post in this thread, I didn’t read all posts of this thread.
After reading all, I want to express that racial discrimination is everywhere, however overall people in Spain n Portugal were more friendly compared with other countries according to my traveling experiences

Most important, those minors (of racial discrimination) can not stop others from traveling.
 

Trude

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francais 2013 Finnestere, Muxia 2013, 2017
Norte 2014, Francais, 2015, 2016, VDLP 2017
#54
I am from Australia, one of
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
the best things I love about the Camino is meeting people from all over the world and learning about life in their country. From my experience there is absolutely no racial discrimination on any of the Caminos. You will love the Camino......
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
#55
One can be a billionaire and walk side by side with someone who just survives day to day and one could not tell the difference between them.
Unfortunately if one pilgrim is white and the other black some will manufacture differences and then treat them differently. The OP is wondering about how many will do this, what differences might be made and what treatment might result from this.

Many replies have been made that there will be no differences in treatment found due to race but people who would likely experience these differences have responded that that is not the case.

I hope that @KCarole will decide that the benefits of the Camino will be significant enough to take the walk.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2017
#57
KCarole,

This is the type of question women pose about safely walking camino alone. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred I say, yes it is safe to do so and buen camino. Initially, I was going to give a pat answer: No prejudice and buen camino. But, sometimes a little more exposition is okay too.

Answer, is there prejudice on camino: Yes. On my first camino I had so many time constraints, I walked quickly, shepherded my mom, and experienced so many camino angels and miracles that was pretty much it. No time for reflection or much else. My schedule was: eat, walk, sleep, camino miracle repeat.

However camino number two was the most miraculous and fun of my five times on pilgrimage. My time was my own. I was a sola peregrina. But....

One day I was walking with three white American guys. They entered a store in one of Spain's many small towns. I waited outside soaking up the sun. After exiting the store guys asked me did I experience prejudice on the way. I asked: why ask? Apparently the proprietor gave them flack for walking with a morena. And, twice kids hollered Negra to me. Quite often locals smiled and told me I was a beautiful morena. Just threw that in for a feel good moment.

When I first volunteered as a hospitalera occasionally I'd hear remarks. One time a pilgrim told my fellows the albergue would lose customers due to my presence. Said pilgrim, said, pilgrims would look at me and keep right on walking. Even though that conversation was in Spanish I understood completely. All those years of Junior high, High school, and college Spanish stood me well.

While enjoying the sun, Brazilian pilgrim jokingly told me to get out of the sun because I was already too Black. His joke. My response: tight-lipped.

I could cite a few more examples but you get the gist.

Now, was my perma-tan a barrier to albergue admittance: no. Did my dark skin preclude wonderful friendships formed: no. Nothing about being an African-American woman seemed to stand between me and a glorious experience I've sought five times over from 2001-2014. And praying to repeat as often as time and money will allow.

When I volunteered a second time a young Black guy from Chicago was shocked to see me working as a hospitalera. There's just not that many Blacks on camino.

And, on that note. One of the three white guys with whom I was walking, on camino number two, wondered aloud how come so many pilgrims knew my name and gave me hugs and kisses after only a few days trek from SJPP. I laughed. Then we all laughed. I am quite gregaroius... but my personality is not.... Again, there just aren't that many Blacks of any nationality on camino.

A lifetime of being African is all the prep you'll need for any and all "interesting" moments on the way.

Buen camino.
Thank you for your thoughtful reflection on this question! "A lifetime of being African is all the prep you'll need .." resonates. Or a lifetime of being a woman, or in my case, a lifetime of being gay, or being anything considered different, 'exotic', risky, dangerous, powerless, etc. Yes, there were 'interesting' moments along the way, a few, and many wonderful ones.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#58
Unfortunately if one pilgrim is white and the other black some will manufacture differences and then treat them differently. The OP is wondering about how many will do this, what differences might be made and what treatment might result from this.

Many replies have been made that there will be no differences in treatment found due to race but people who would likely experience these differences have responded that that is not the case.

I hope that @KCarole will decide that the benefits of the Camino will be significant enough to take the walk.
As a white Brit I haven't suffered discrimination - unless I mention I am a Brexit person amongst people who are Remainers!! - but I did have a small insight once into the subtlety of it, or how subtle it can be.
Many years ago, decades ago, I was in Casablanca and made friends with an African descent American chap about my age. We went to a cafe to chat and sat outside and ordered tea. The waiter apparently treated us exactly the same, but when the tea came I noticed that his was served with a saucer and a tea spoon and a small biscuit on the side whereas I received just a cup, and the waiter walked away. I pointed it out to my new friend and he looked stunned, and then became a bit emotional and then apologised for the emotion and then said that this was the first time in his life that this had happened, that he was treated with respect in this way and the "white man" was treated as a lesser.
It is the only inkling I have of how this subtle racism takes place and how it must be perceived by the recipient, day after day. These small things can be so small that we, who they are not aimed at, may not notice. Just saying.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#59
It is the only inkling I have of how this subtle racism takes place and how it must be perceived by the recipient, day after day. These small things can be so small that we, who they are not aimed at, may not notice. Just saying.
Indeed. And we who may be unwittingly doing it may also not have any idea of the impact of what we're saying or doing.
So thank you for 'just saying,' David. People on all sides can have very strong responses about this - so it needs a lot of sensitivity. But it's also impotant to talk about it openly, and with as open hearts as we can manage. So I really appreciate this thread.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Camino(s) past & future
2015 & 2016 (partial)
#60
The waiter apparently treated us exactly the same, but when the tea came I noticed that his was served with a saucer and a tea spoon and a small biscuit on the side whereas I received just a cup, and the waiter walked away. I….
It is the only inkling I have of how this subtle racism takes place and how it must be perceived by the recipient, day after day. These small things can be so small that we, who they are not aimed at, may not notice. Just saying.
No doubt there are many things I wouldn't notice in the way my black friends are treated, but I certainly would have noticed that one! On the other hand, is it possible the waiter is unfamiliar with Brits and brought what he/she assumed you would want? Which as stereotyping, is still wrong but not really racism. In Spain, I am always given one or two bags of sugar with my cafe con leche even if I say in advance that I don't need it. In Korea, I cannot get coffee with cream or milk even I I say it twice while ordering (have to say "latte" which means foam that I also don't like). In Rhode Island, coffee always came with sugar and cream already in it unless I took pains to communicate otherwise in advance.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Camino(s) past & future
2015 & 2016 (partial)
#61
Unfortunately if one pilgrim is white and the other black some will manufacture differences and then treat them differently. The OP is wondering about how many will do this, what differences might be made and what treatment might result from this.
My wife and I were baby-sitting for an extremely dark friend of ours, and took the baby in his stroller to a market. No problem in general, but one lady who saw us showed unmistakeably on her face that she was very angry at the sight of two whites with a black baby. And two of my white friends were not allowed to adopt the black baby they had loved for years (after her mother was killed by her father) on the grounds that it would be "robbing her of her heritage." (What kind of "heritage" is an orphanage or series of foster parents?)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#62
Another type of discrimination is the Christians can´t visit some mosques . Once I was in China and I tried to visit the central mosque in Xian saying "salam alequm" to the man at the door (a han Chinese), but he refused to let me in despite I didn´t dress like a tourist.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes, Aragonese May-June 2018
#63
I have not seen anti-Black racism on the Camino but I have not seen many African or Black people on my 5 Caminos.
I have however seen anti-behaviour towards another group of people who had distinctive looks and were there en masse.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Ingles (2016) Camino Portuguese (2017) Considering Invierno 2019
#64
Being white and of Anglo/Irish descent I cannot really comment on colour based racism. However one thing you may need to be aware of is that local officials are on the look out for ilegal immigrants from North Africa moving from the South of Spain heading North. Anyone of who is of "Colour" and travelling on foot or apparently hanging around towns may expect to be asked to produce ID documents. I have seen this happen in the South of Spain, but it was done professionally. Much of Europe requires adults to carry valid ID at all times. So my advice would be to carry your passport at all times. Eveyone travelling the Northern Camino routes will probably be recognised as a peregrino/a. I have been stopped by the Guardia Civil on the Camino Portuguese and asked for ID. However after the first bit of a panic and confusion it was part of a survey and the officer even stamped my Pilgrim Passport. My honest opinion is that you are more likely to find discrimination based on any sports shirt you are wearing. Just turn up and enjoy the camino experience.
 

mai

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF in April 2018.
#65
it was part of a survey and the officer even stamped my Pilgrim Passport.
Thank Marcus for revealing the real life on caminos. You have the very special stamp, lucky you.

The world is not perfect n full of many kinds of discrimination (class, sex, religious , political, job, education, wealth...), in addition to racial discrimination.

Discrimination is just like bedbugs which are hard to be terminated. However, it seems everyone enjoy walking caminos even knowing one might encounter bedbugs. This’s the life.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, Vía de la Plata / Camino Sanabrés, Camino del Baztán, Camino Aragonés, Chemin du Puy
#66
I suspect the Camino in this regard is no different from any place else.

I have occasionally heard comments about Muslims, basically lumping all of them in with the terrorists. On the Camino as in real life I've made a point of saying that I think that's hogwash, and of explaining why. Unfortunately I think the Camino attracts a small number of Muslim haters because of its association with the Christian reconquest of Spain. And to this day there are several prominent statues of St James killing Muslims to be seen, including two in Santiago cathedral.
 
Camino(s) past & future
april 4 - 14-6 2014 From perigeux to santiago
18-5- 3-6 2015 from Villa Franca del Biedrzo to santiago
#67
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
Hi Carole,
I would like to say to you "Join the club, walk with an open mind and -hart like the Koreans, Japanese, Aussies, Dutchies(I'm one of those cheeseheads:D,yanks,and all the other earth habitants going the same way. All the different skin colours make the Meseta look bright. Buen camino, and who knows, maybe we'll meet, I start the 9th of April in Bilbao for the camino del Norte.
Peter Voncken
Ulestraten, the Netherlands
 
Camino(s) past & future
camino primitivo, camino de la costa
#68
this question seems to be from another universe but actually once you think about it its fairly obvious.

spain is within boats reach of africa and like many other european countries currently has a serious problem with north african refugees. also spanish christians have been quite brutally oppressed by the north african moors for 600 (!) years. after that muslim culture was literally almost wiped off the county.

considering that its most astounding that there is ZERO prejudice against colored pilgrims, especially because ALL peregrinos are highly valued guests. among other pilgrims you will be just one member of the babylonian crowd! besides all racial differences pale compared to having to walk another 25 km per day :)

i think its quite different when you are an african refugee or even worse when you are Roma or Sinti, which are of indian origin. those are called "negros" by the way, "the black ones" which is not a nice term.
 

Roberto Mitelpunkt

El peregrino judeo.
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones, Invierno
#69
I’m a Jewish pilgrim and have done different parts of the Camino. I never experienced racism in my contacts with other pilgrims but yes have experienced marked prejudices from some people among the population in Spain. Many times they discussed with me about Israeli politics and I could feel their latent antisemitism. I think pilgrimage represents the need of all humankind to connect with spirituality no matter wich beliefs or religion you belong.
Buen Camino a todos y que La Paz sea en nuestros espíritus
Buen Camino to everybody and shall Peace be in our spirit.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
#70
one thing you may need to be aware of is that local officials are on the look out for ilegal immigrants from North Africa moving from the South of Spain heading North. Anyone of who is of "Colour" and travelling on foot or apparently hanging around towns may expect to be asked to produce ID documents. I have seen this happen in the South of Spain, but it was done professionally. Much of Europe requires adults to carry valid ID at all times.
I am a white woman in my late sixties, and have been asked by the Guardia for my ID. It was done very professionally, and they explained that they routinely do this and talk to pilgrims, perhaps they were collecting semi-random data. This was on the VDLP and later I talked to half a dozen pilgrims who had passed by the Guardia stopped by the path. Some were asked for ID, and some (including a Chinese) were not.

I think it is naive to suggest that there is zero racial discrimination on the camino and in Spain. However, I don't think it is something that should discourage a potential pilgrim.
 

Marbe2

Active member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 SJPD to Burgos
2017 Leon to Santiago
Pamplona to Santiago Mar. 2018
Burgos - SCDC (Oct 18)
#72
I have done two caminos and seen perhaps 5 African Americans.
I too have not observed discrimination. One couple stayed in the same hotel as we did and the proprietors seemed to treat them well. I suspect that most of us do not have sufficient interaction and experience with African Americans on the Camino to provide you with the info you seek.

We are meeting two African-American life-long friends from the USA in Sarria at the end of March. We will walk together to Santiago. I do not expect anything but kindness from the proprietors and others! Better to go with a positive outlook. Is there a possibility of discrimination...of course. But we will not tolerate it! I must say, however, that we have traveled with these women in a number of European countries and have never encountered any rudeness or problems. Buen Camino!
 
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pmjsmith

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances,Portuguese coastal
#73
This question actually surprised me when I read it.
Further, it is great to see how many readers have answered in a common voice of none being seen, heard etc...
My opinion is this is one of the many "beauties" of any Camino.
In 3 Camino trips I have NEVER witnessed, heard or been part of ANY form of discrimination.
On a Camino EVERYONE is (should be) equal. Equally sharing food, water as well as the discomforts that come along with walking so many miles in so many days.
One can be a billionaire and walk side by side with someone who just survives day to day and one could not tell the difference between them.
That’s what I loved about my two Caminos..the equality. We are all tired, excited, dirty, joyful and EQUAL.
 

MeandIan

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
May2018
#74
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
Hi KCarole. I am South African and a person of colour. I have experienced racism in different parts of the world, some in Asia where it was probably curiosity, but mostly in the country of my birth. As an older person I know that any racism comes from the individual and it comes from within. You may experience it but, my advice, just treat it with the disdain it deserves. From what I’ve seen on this forum people are interested in you as a person and what you stand for. Good luck and Buen Camino. We are starting 3/5/18.
 
Camino(s) past & future
camino primitivo, camino de la costa
#75
As an older person I know that any racism comes from the individual and it comes from within. You may experience it but, my advice, just treat it with the disdain it deserves.
i would look at it exactly from the opposite side. racism has been with human culture for thousands of years, to oppose "the other" is a reaction that comes with tribal identity. any situation where we can transcend racism like the global camino culture is actually a small miracle. enjoy it and treasure that experience for the rest of your life ... and dont take it for granted!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago de Compostela
#76
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
You should just plan to have the walk of your life. You won’t find any racial discrimination on the Camino Frances. Buen Camino
 
Camino(s) past & future
not in past...so maybe in future...
#77
Hi all

Planning my journey for ages,maybe camino de Santiago,maybe some other "camino".While I have found many interesting postings,opinions,stories,this is actually the first time that I think about the possibility of racism on the Camino.Sad truth is that racism still exists in europe,is there more of it on the Camino,hard to say without the experience?

Mutual respect should be the attitude of today,specially on a journey where individuals are searching for the inner peace,expecting the "camino" to make miracles,or maybe just a holiday.It is so easy to categorise people on so many ways.Walkers,hikers,bikers,sexual orientation,age,religion...

I have many of my own concerns,mostly about how to socialise and interact with "strangers".

Please,do not let me be misunderstood...
 

ernie pease

Just call me Ernie
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP to Ponferrada April-May 2017, Ponferrada to Santiago Sept 2019, English April 2018,
#80
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
I am excited to hear you are going on Camino. There was no racial discrimination anywhere that I walked.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (Spring '17)
Primitivo (Spring '18)
TBD (2019)
#82
You won’t find any racial discrimination on the Camino Frances.
But there are several examples of it in posts above yours as @nycwalking, @RobertS26 and @Helen Aussie told us. Just because you or I might not have seen it or been victims of it doesn't mean that it doesn't happen and that there aren't victims. I hope the OP (@KCarole) has a wonderful camino with no racial prejudice directed towards her, but, sadly, it is possible that discrimination might occur.

I like the way @C clearly put it:

I think it is naive to suggest that there is zero racial discrimination on the camino and in Spain. However, I don't think it is something that should discourage a potential pilgrim.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2015), Frances (2016)
#83
I only saw it once and it was between a Texan and someone from Louisiana. The Louisianan left not to be seen again unfortunately. I did not immediately realise what was happening but left shortly afterwards. So racism is there but I am sure that you are more than capable of dealing with it. This is the only instance I have seen.
 


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