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Racial discrimination on the Camino

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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
"I'm not racist but I'm scared of them" sits in every heart until its nurtured and loved and confronted and burned away. The histories of our races are not our histories. The language of our ancestors need not be our language. And while we wander slowly into the light one thing we can do is try to bring others with us.
Just...1000+ likes, TInca.
(Sniff, sniff...)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Walked in "2016," "2018"
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 ;);)
I'm surprised that you should be saying,"I thought we had zero in Australia." Many press reports have openly covered incidents of attacks against immigrants/students in Australia recent times. Also Australia's treatment of the natives has not been exemplary. Your wife is right.
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
I'm surprised that you should be saying,"I thought we had zero in Australia." Many press reports have openly covered incidents of attacks against immigrants/students in Australia recent times. Also Australia's treatment of the natives has not been exemplary. Your wife is right.
I don't want to get into Politics. Let's just say local perception and reality differ.......
 

Raggy

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
I would guess that an overwhelming majority of pilgrims and people who interact with us on the Camino are strongly opposed to racial discrimination. But I don't think we're at "zero," racism yet and I'm not talking about subconscious or implicit biases. Here's the story:

I encountered a retired Spanish policeman with quite old-fashioned views - He was a proud man with a somewhat gruff manner, but always friendly to me. He reminded me of other "rough diamond," types that I've befriended. During my Camino, I connected with him on Facebook and we sometimes sent messages to let each other know how we were getting along.

My first sign that something was wrong was when a female pilgrim told me that she stopped walking with him because if crime or other societal problems came up in conversation, he would always blame Muslims. Although this shocked me, I hadn't heard him talking in this way, so I didn't change my attitude toward him. Later, I noticed that he scrubbed out the Galician spelling of people's names (e.g. Xuan Xose) and changed them to Spanish spellings (Juan Jose) in the registration book at an Albergue. I thought that was an insult to the pilgrims who had passed this way before us, but I didn't confront him about it. After my Camino, I noticed that he often posted rude comments about the Catalan Nationalist leaders on his Facebook wall. I thought it was a shame that he didn't have a more inquiring attitude but he's a proud, old-fashioned guy and it's an emotive issue, so I didn't think much about it.

And then, on 20th November this year, he posted two or three photographs of General Franco - old propaganda pictures with captions like "A simple man" and so on. I was confused, so I did some digging and discovered that this was the anniversary of Franco's death. And that's when I decided that I couldn't ignore the evidence any longer - My Camino companion is not a harmless, old, rough diamond. We are no longer connected on Facebook. It freaks me out to know that he was in law enforcement.

And, I'm sorry to say it, but there are a few (very few) un-evolved racists among us.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Can we find the courage to confront hatred when we see it?
Your story is a brilliant example of how complicated and challenging it is to do that, @Raggy.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
I think the problem with confronting someone is that it seldom changes their attitudes, beliefs or behaviours. Usually they get defensive, and that can lead to further polarisation. I don't have a solution. Talking and information does not seem to work. I think to make a difference it needs emotional bonds to be formed with "the other".
 

Darby67

Enólogo caminando
Camino(s) past & future
2018 CF Jan-Feb
2019 CF Jan-Mar
I lived in Spain for 2 years in the 90s. I love the country. I was immersed in the countryside of parts of Navarra near Olite to the south of Navarra, many parts of Rioja and Campo de Borja near Ainzon. Am I an expert? Absolutely not but I pay attention, I talk and I listen.

This may upset a few people potentially and for that I apologize as that is not my intention at all. Intolerance/Racism/Fear what ever you want to call it is alive and well. While I have never seen anything or heard anything in Spain to the degree that I have seen or heard in other places and likely others in this group as well. But let's not forget the monkey calls at soccer games in Spain. Working In villages and immersing myself in the language I learned some pretty bolt-of-lighting type of swearing...I don't brag about it was just me learning the language the way we all do; hearing and repeating and not necessarily understanding what I was saying. My Spanish girlfriend was not amused...and I was mortified at times when she told me what I said. My point is unless you are fluent in a language the subtleties of what we speak of can be lost to people that don't understand.

I have shut down conversations. I am a big guy but I am a non-violent person, not a bully, but I do have convictions that when somebody makes a comment that is hurtful to somebody I have a very hard time standing by. I have had words with people in Spain over the years mostly friends and coworkers.

Most recently the murmurings about some of my recent Korean walking partners about the use of ketchup on Tortilla Española took a turn. Personally a sin in my book but really, who cares?! The bartender was discussing this with another patron and it quickly devolved into ketchup ruining culture and then something more directed at her and the other Koreans. This continued for a minute or two and I calmly looked at them, "Basta, maleducados...!@$#". The !@$# is something that doesn't need to be discussed. It was quick and to the point. The poor Korean lady standing next to me didn't understand a word of what they were saying, but I know she understood that behavior. What a crummy feeling that somebody has to feel that way. The guys were a little taken back and visibly uncomfortable that I understood them and didn't say another word. Should I have handled it differently, perhaps. She was never in danger, should I have let it slide and not confront it? Could I have stirred something more that what it was? I don't really believe so in this instance.

The next morning in very broken English she asked if she could walk with me and I smiled and said of course because much of the mornings I was walking alone. What she said next made me cry, "I feel safer walking with you." Happiness, sadness and anger. Happy that somebody thought that I was a safe person to be around, sad that perhaps she felt I was her protection. Angry that somebody is treated that way. I would like to think she just enjoyed my ability to order for her and help her with communicating but I don't know. I still get emotional thinking about it.

At another location on the same journey I was a bit more courteous but shut it down none-the-less in my favorite mountain area. Chatting with a local at a bar a young Japanese man that I had crossed paths with a few times came in. As soon as he walked in the guy I was talking to immediately started in on this guy. Against better judgment I told him to give the guy a break. Neither he nor his friends really wanted to let that slide and it did get uncomfortable. Much to my drinking partners credit we kept it civil and continued talking about what just happened for quite some time. In the end he apologized, we shook hands had another beer and he gave me a keychain that I use to this day. We are all outsiders sometime and someplace and he realized it.

These are two of my recent examples. They are small snapshots and I do not believe that they represent Spain or the camino as a whole. Anybody that says it their country is enlightened and free of racism is part of the problem. This is not a political problem this is a people problem.
 
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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
I think the problem with confronting someone is that it seldom changes their attitudes, beliefs or behaviours. Usually they get defensive, and that can lead to further polarisation. I don't have a solution. Talking and information does not seem to work. I think to make a difference it needs emotional bonds to be formed with "the other".
You're absolutely right, @Kanga. I should have used the phrase 'speak up' rather than confront...more what I meant was not to be silent in the face of hatred, but to engage and (gently) challenge.
And yeah...If there were a solution I guess we would have found it by now...
Heart connection is the only way to see each other. And how to do that? The more of us there are the more of a challenge it becomes.
This is not a political problem this is a people problem.
Indeed. Heart disease...
 

Leibniz

Peregrina
Camino(s) past & future
Frances from Astorga (2018)
Frances/Invierno from SJPP (2019)
What she said next made me cry, "I feel safer walking with you." Happiness, sadness and anger. Happy that somebody thought that I was a safe person to be around, sad that perhaps she felt I was her protection. Angry that somebody is treated that way. I would like to think she just enjoyed my ability to order for her and help her with communicating but I don't know. I still get emotional thinking about it.
THANK YOU 🙏
May you make many more people feel safe, until the day it is longer necessary.
 

Opa Theo

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francais to Santiago
I lived in Spain for 2 years in the 90s. I love the country. I was immersed in the countryside of parts of Navarra near Olite to the south of Navarra, many parts of Rioja and Campo de Borja near Ainzon. Am I an expert? Absolutely not but I pay attention, I talk and I listen.

This may upset a few people potentially and for that I apologize as that is not my intention at all. Intolerance/Racism/Fear what ever you want to call it is alive and well. While I have never seen anything or heard anything in Spain to the degree that I have seen or heard in other places and likely others in this group as well. But let's not forget the monkey calls at soccer games in Spain. Working In villages and immersing myself in the language I learned some pretty bolt-of-lighting type of swearing...I don't brag about it was just me learning the language the way we all do; hearing and repeating and not necessarily understanding what I was saying. My Spanish girlfriend was not amused...and I was mortified at times when she told me what I said. My point is unless you are fluent in a language the subtleties of what we speak of can be lost to people that don't understand.

I have shut down conversations. I am a big guy but I am a non-violent person, not a bully, but I do have convictions that when somebody makes a comment that is hurtful to somebody I have a very hard time standing by. I have had words with people in Spain over the years mostly friends and coworkers.

Most recently the murmurings about some of my recent Korean walking partners about the use of ketchup on Tortilla Española took a turn. Personally a sin in my book but really, who cares?! The bartender was discussing this with another patron and it quickly devolved into ketchup ruining culture and then something more directed at her and the other Koreans. This continued for a minute or two and I calmly looked at them, "Basta, maleducados...!@$#". The !@$# is something that doesn't need to be discussed. It was quick and to the point. The poor Korean lady standing next to me didn't understand a word of what they were saying, but I know she understood that behavior. What a crummy feeling that somebody has to feel that way. The guys were a little taken back and visibly uncomfortable that I understood them and didn't say another word. Should I have handled it differently, perhaps. She was never in danger, should I have let it slide and not confront it? Could I have stirred something more that what it was? I don't really believe so in this instance.

The next morning in very broken English she asked if she could walk with me and I smiled and said of course because much of the mornings I was walking alone. What she said next made me cry, "I feel safer walking with you." Happiness, sadness and anger. Happy that somebody thought that I was a safe person to be around, sad that perhaps she felt I was her protection. Angry that somebody is treated that way. I would like to think she just enjoyed my ability to order for her and help her with communicating but I don't know. I still get emotional thinking about it.

At another location on the same journey I was a bit more courteous but shut it down none-the-less in my favorite mountain area. Chatting with a local at a bar a young Japanese man that I had crossed paths with a few times came in. As soon as he walked in the guy I was talking to immediately started in on this guy. Against better judgment I told him to give the guy a break. Neither he nor his friends really wanted to let that slide and it did get uncomfortable. Much to my drinking partners credit we kept it civil and continued talking about what just happened for quite some time. In the end he apologized, we shook hands had another beer and he gave me a keychain that I use to this day. We are all outsiders sometime and someplace and he realized it.

These are two of my recent examples. They are small snapshots and I do not believe that they represent Spain or the camino as a whole. Anybody that says it their country is enlightened and free of racism is part of the problem. This is not a political problem this is a people problem.
The world needs more Darbys!
Ted
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
As I get older I have less time and tolerance for thoughtless hatred. When such things start up in my presence I will say something; my faith compels me. Sometimes I will DO something. A racist who would not stop spouting is one of only two people who have ever been told to leave my house.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Walked in "2016," "2018"
As I get older I have less time and tolerance for thoughtless hatred. When such things start up in my presence I will say something; my faith compels me. Sometimes I will DO something. A racist who would not stop spouting is one of only two people who have ever been told to leave my house.
Well said. Anyone with conscience and integrity should act similarly.
The irony of it is that racism probably stems from insecurity. One who's comfortable/at ease with oneself doesn't need to harbor ill-feeling towards others.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
As I get older I have less time and tolerance for thoughtless hatred. When such things start up in my presence I will say something; my faith compels me. Sometimes I will DO something. A racist who would not stop spouting is one of only two people who have ever been told to leave my house.
Brava, Reb. I for one do not always have the courage to do that, no matter what I say when it's a hypothetical 'what if.' But calling hatred into question is what we all need to learn to do, if we care about peace.
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
Well said. Anyone with conscience and integrity should act similarly.
The irony of it is that racism probably stems from insecurity. One who's comfortable/at ease with oneself doesn't need to harbor ill-feeling towards others.
What I find most troubling is how "comfortable/at ease" the bigot is with his opinions. He assumes everyone around him is just like him, and he can spout off with impunity anywhere.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
I think the problem with confronting someone is that it seldom changes their attitudes, beliefs or behaviours. Usually they get defensive, and that can lead to further polarisation. I don't have a solution. Talking and information does not seem to work. I think to make a difference it needs emotional bonds to be formed with "the other".
I completely agree that confronting generally changes attitudes or opinions and that what really works is when they form emotional bonds with "the other". That said, there are often reasons for confronting people. One reason is that it shows that the opinions of the racist are not shared. There's an old saying that "silence equals consent". I certainly don't hold to that, but people who hold intolerant positions often believe that their opinions are widely shared because when they spout off people let it slide. Confronting them can help disabuse them of that notion. More importantly, there are many marginalized people who when they are attacked (even verbally) or hear disparaging remarks about their identity and see people standing by, they assume that the bystanders are okay with what is happening. Confronting people lets them know they have allies. That, in itself, is a good reason to confront.
 

Aidan21

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP to SDC 2013/14
SJPP to SDC 2016
Porto to SDC 2017
VdlP Sevilla/Salamanca 2018
You cannot change anyone else. You can only change yourself. So be the best that you can be and accept that other people are not sufficiently far along their journey to see that race and gender (and whatever else separates us) are merely attributes we have for a short life time and do not truly characterize who we are.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Camino Portugues, June 2019
This came up before and I think it is a legitimate question for a non-white pilgrim to ask. But I would strongly suggest that it can only be answered by other non-white pilgrims. As a white person, we don't see the many ways that discrimination can be perpetrated or felt. I think it is insensitive to pretend that we can.
 

JohnInMadrid

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
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.
Just finished the Camino Francis. My thoughts would be to try and relax. I know easy suggestion for me as a white to be saying. I only connected with one woman who appeared tbe of American American descent. She did not seem To all uncomfortable; I did not see another person with similar heritage so be prepared to be in the minority. And be prepared for warm and welcoming fellow Pilgrims. I cannot imagine you will find things to be otherwise. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask. I will be more than happy to share with you my experience, ideas and thoughts. I walked the Camino blister free. Very happy about that
 

Stroller123

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning Italy to Finisterre and back (20xx)
As a white person, we don't see the many ways that discrimination can be perpetrated or felt. I think it is insensitive to pretend that we can.

Well, not quite.

It didn't happen on the Camino, but I've been physically assaulted twice because I'm a [insult] white, the first time I manage to run, the second time I was trapped in my car which ended with several thousand Pounds of damages. I can't recall how many times I've been refused to be served in shops, because "they" don't serve the ones of my race. Insults to my nationality were a daily occurrence. Even if these where racially motivated aggression they've been downgraded as common street crime.

All kind of racism and discrimination is wrong and everyone can be a victim of it. I don't believe that if you are white in a "white" country you are immune to it, it simply won't show on statistics.
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
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.
Hola @KCarole , yes a very warm welcome to the Camino Community. I have to say that as a "white man" I am not really in a position to comment on any experience of racial discrimination. However what I have found from the pilgrimages is that (in general) all pilgrims are treated as equals. Its also a "two-way" street, greet each pilgrim you meet with a smile, a buen camino and they will return the smile and greeting. Hope you have a great pilgrimage.

(I note that the original post was back in February 2018, so I was a bit surprised that it started up again. In fact I was going to delete this my post on relevance grounds, but will leave it for a few days to gauge reaction!)
 
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Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
...That said, there are often reasons for confronting people. One reason is that it shows that the opinions of the racist are not shared. There's an old saying that "silence equals consent". I certainly don't hold to that, but people who hold intolerant positions often believe that their opinions are widely shared because when they spout off people let it slide. Confronting them can help disabuse them of that notion. More importantly, there are many marginalized people who when they are attacked (even verbally) or hear disparaging remarks about their identity and see people standing by, they assume that the bystanders are okay with what is happening. Confronting people lets them know they have allies. That, in itself, is a good reason to confront.
Yes, I agree with you David, I did not mean to imply one should stand by idly. Particularly when the subject of the insult is present. Following some nasty incidents on public transport, after the Sydney Lindt Cafe siege, the "I'll Ride With You" movement exploded. I think the stories about real people made the emotional connection.

There is much to be said for student exchange programs, where young people go to live for several months with a family in another country.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
This came up before and I think it is a legitimate question for a non-white pilgrim to ask
Yes, it originally came up in this very thread which was first posted in February. 😊

But I would strongly suggest that it can only be answered by other non-white pilgrims. As a white person, we don't see the many ways that discrimination can be perpetrated or felt. I think it is insensitive to pretend that we can.
You are so right. There have been many of European heritage who have jumped in to say that it's absolutely not a problem, but how can they really know for sure?
 

KJFSophie

My Way, With Joy !
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014 & 2015 ),Via San Francesco, Italy (2017 )Camino Portugese (2018 )Camino Ingles(
I had the opportunity to meet and walk with several women of color on a few of my walks and it didn't occur to me to differentiate them from others based on their skin color. Kind pilgrims will be viewed as kind pilgrims...nasty folks will be seen as nasty no matter what their appearance. Having said that, I've no knowledge of how these lovely ladies would answer your question. In my experience, there were many who had preconceived notions of others " big people are unhealthy "" beer drinkers have alcohol issues"" older people are frail" "Americans are prudes" ...it's endless, and at times both frustrating and entertaining to hear what others think. I simply embrace the opportunity to set them straight...teaching moments and learning curves. We are all walking ambassadors. Put out kindness, you will receive the same ...Buen Camino !
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
See signature
I can't "like" your post Reb but I can empathise with the conflict. I'll venture into dangerous language here but Gran would witter on about "nig-nogs" even while nice white people threw stones at her Vardo. My dad would tell me to beware of "wogs" even while nice white people who'd employed him for a month would try to dodge paying him by accusing him of theft. When I finally got admitted to the village school the Headmistress told me not to be "silly" as I fought my way through every play-time as the "ditch-pig" that everyone feared and hated.

"I'm not racist but I'm scared of them" sits in every heart until its nurtured and loved and confronted and burned away. The histories of our races are not our histories. The language of our ancestors need not be our language. And while we wander slowly into the light one thing we can do is try to bring others with us. Not the lightest of burdens.
You made me laugh, thank you! When new in my road, I had to call on to my new neighbour to ask if I could retrieve my children’s football from her garden :rolleyes: She spotted my accent and said ‘oh I don’t mind foreigners,’ ‘No honestly. I met a black one once in Lorrimers (a local shop) and he actually held the door open for me, didn’t attack me or anything.’
I was lost for words :oops: Still am.
 
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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
There's an old saying that "silence equals consent"
It can, certainly. And even if it isn't consent, fearful silence is complicit because of what it allows.
One post states the bad treatment by the local Spanish towards pilgrims from Asia. Whaaat???? Totally offensive post
It's an what someone witnessed, simply being reported. How can someone's description of their experience be offensive? In fact, this is the kind of response that the OP is requesting, essentially: "Tell me - what did you experience?"
 
Camino(s) past & future
Walked in "2016," "2018"
It can, certainly. And even if it isn't consent, fearful silence is complicit because of what it allows.

It's an what someone witnessed, simply being reported. How can someone's description of their experience be offensive? In fact, this is the kind of response that the OP is requesting, essentially: "Tell me - what did you experience?"
Well said. Also open discussions help us to self-reflect on our own deficiencies and to improve ourselves to become better human beings. Isn't that much of the spirit of the camino is all about?
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
open discussions help us to self-reflect on our own deficiencies and to improve ourselves to become better human beings. Isn't that much of the spirit of the camino is all about?
@Gadflyparexcellence , it is for a lot of us. But unfortunately perhaps not for everyone.;)
 

mjal

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF : stages 2008, 2017, 2018 ; completed.
I am a little late in posting but I was awaiting a reply from a young, very dark-skinned, Nepalese with whom we walked for several days on the CF last year. Here is the essence of his email :

"To be honest, I did not get a single hint of racial discrimination there. Both the locals and the pilgrims were amazingly cordial. There were days when i wanted to keep it to myself and the pilgrims left me at "buen camino". I am thinking maybe people who may have felt discriminated may have eventuated from their interactions with locals and pilgrims. What is right in one part of the world may not be the same on the others. Or maybe i was just lucky to have met wonderful people:) "

This is most encouraging but it has to be said that he is a charming, intelligent young man, with exquisite English, who has lived in Australia for some seven years. Perhaps I should have asked him about his experiences there...
 

kay lee

Member
Camino(s) past & future
St Jean to Santiago (2012, 2014, 2015, 2017)
Aosta to Rome - Via Francigena (2018)
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.
Wow, well said! "A lifetime of being African is all the prep you'll need for any and all "interesting" moments on the way." As an Asian-American woman, I can only imagine but not truly appreciate the full spectrum of what it must be like. I noticed a bit of sexism from the older European males, including some Italian and Spanish Hospitaleros but not overt racism, at least toward me. One of the happiest and most energetic pilgrims I met was an African-American man from Seattle. He said he and his brother run a convenience store in downtown Seattle. I was instantaneously happy every time I saw his smiling face and lively manners. I never asked him about his encounters with the local attitudes, but I assume he just brushed off any ugliness with his experience of a lifetime of being African. But I wonder how the small and big pains of a lifetime racism get accumulated and how they can possibly be exorcized (unless one is a Zen master or something).
 

KayVee

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
I'm a pretty dark-skinned Indian woman and I can't say I faced any discrimination on the Camino..just a lot of surprised comments such as "I haven't seen any Indians on the Camino" (my lighter-skinned Indian friends were assumed to be of other nationalities) and delight from the locals that I spoke some Spanish. I thoroughly enjoyed my Camino and wish you the same.
 

plannermark

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2013; August 2019
Miss KCarole, welcome aboard, your first post! Racial discrimination? I would say ZERO. Good luck with the planning and execution of your camino, y que la luz de Dios alumbre su camino.
Hi Mss KCarole,

I walked the Camino in 2013. While I didn't see overt racism or discrimination directed at another pilgrim, I encountered a pilgrim who spoke of another (black) pilgrim by describing her as "negro." Unfortunately, I didn't have the words, nor the courage to speak up. I did walk away from this person as quickly as I could so as not to give him my time of day. Looking back, I realize that this was a teachable moment in many respects.

1) Whoever reads this, if you come from a marginalized background especially, the Camino was/is a microcosm of the reality that is our world. While the majority of my encounters were rather positive, and some life-changing, the experience also showed me that there are people who are ignorant at the moment. Be ready to face this, or at least, prepare yourself to face some version of ignorance when you least expect it.
2) Speak up and walk into/with your truth. You are already there. Your presence is going to be someone else's teaching moment. The most obvious for me was that some people mistook me as coming from an Asian country. I'm American of Filipino descent from middle America. By my mere presence, I was already challenging others' expectations of what an American was "supposed" to be/look like.
3) Turn your fear into a daily practice to build yourself and stand by your truth. I emphasize again because I encountered people who could not believe my (rather simple, basic upbringing) that I grew up in America. Even more astounding, I was being corrected that my case was special and that it's unbelievable to have people of different nationalities making America their home. It didn't help that their point of reference were American tv shows from the 80s/90s. If only they knew how much better our shows are now. We've got more representation and more points of view, gracias a Dios.
4) Be open to learning. When I encountered this person, I spoke to other pilgrims who came from this person's same country and asked if "negro" was an admissible term with its nuance. They immediately condemned what he said and apologized to me, saying that what he said is offensive. I suppose, in some way, this was a redeeming moment as it confirmed my thoughts that what he said is disgusting and that I didn't need to paint people who come from this country as all bigoted racists.

Anyway, to the pilgrim of color, differentiated ability, lgbtqia, other/non-religion, and other marginlized identity, your are welcome! It's not a perfect place but your presence is needed.

Love,
A gaysian American
 

Tonya

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Will walk Le Puy in July 2019
Camino Portuguese 2018
Camino Frances 2017
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 so sadden to think you need to worry about discrimination. I have walked the Camino Frances and the Camino Portuguese and one of the things I love, is the people. My experience is Camino people are special. They are open and accepting of everyone. Mixed groups of age, nationalities, languages, beliefs and races are formed along the way. I believe you will have a wonderful experience! No doubts! Go forth and enjoy!
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
. Also, the local Spanish natives treat us extra special, it is probably because our motherland was under Spain for a long time and there were unpleasant events that happened in the past that they feel they need to reverse or correct.
I am from rural Galicia and I dare to say that almost nobody in Spain treat you fine because they feel they need to reverse or correct what Spain did in America or wherever in the past.
The hospitality in Galicia (and Spain) is simply because you are a person who has a good reason to be there, in this case doing the Camino.
 

lilakmonoke

Member
Camino(s) past & future
camino primitivo, camino de la costa
I am Cherokee. They even sold me alcohol in Spain.
;-) that line is almost as good as how muhammad ali explained why he refused to get drafted into the vietnam war: "well, no vietnamese ever called me a nigger."

after 5 caminos i hope the madness of the world with all its unresolved neurotic conflicts, political, racial or otherwise stays out of it but that all depends on all of us peregrinos. treat everybody just like a brother and another wandering soul and take a break from all this and you will have a great time, like millions of peregrinos before you in the last 800 years.

on the other hand if you do encounter racism or prejudice treat it like water on a ducks back. keep going and leave it behind you and after a few km on the trail it will evaporate into thin air.
 
Last edited:

RemysMimi

Hooked on the Camino!!
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2018)
Frances or Portuguese (2020)
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, I am African American and I had an amazing experience on the walk. Although, I must admit that I could probably count on 2 hands the number of us I saw, I never once felt like the color of my skin was an issue. Everyone was kind, welcoming and generally nice. I have experienced more discrimination at home than on the Camino. I never even thought about it.
 

DougWilliams55

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017
Hi Mss KCarole,

I walked the Camino in 2013. While I didn't see overt racism or discrimination directed at another pilgrim, I encountered a pilgrim who spoke of another (black) pilgrim by describing her as "negro." Unfortunately, I didn't have the words, nor the courage to speak up. I did walk away from this person as quickly as I could so as not to give him my time of day. Looking back, I realize that this was a teachable moment in many respects.

1) Whoever reads this, if you come from a marginalized background especially, the Camino was/is a microcosm of the reality that is our world. While the majority of my encounters were rather positive, and some life-changing, the experience also showed me that there are people who are ignorant at the moment. Be ready to face this, or at least, prepare yourself to face some version of ignorance when you least expect it.
2) Speak up and walk into/with your truth. You are already there. Your presence is going to be someone else's teaching moment. The most obvious for me was that some people mistook me as coming from an Asian country. I'm American of Filipino descent from middle America. By my mere presence, I was already challenging others' expectations of what an American was "supposed" to be/look like.
3) Turn your fear into a daily practice to build yourself and stand by your truth. I emphasize again because I encountered people who could not believe my (rather simple, basic upbringing) that I grew up in America. Even more astounding, I was being corrected that my case was special and that it's unbelievable to have people of different nationalities making America their home. It didn't help that their point of reference were American tv shows from the 80s/90s. If only they knew how much better our shows are now. We've got more representation and more points of view, gracias a Dios.
4) Be open to learning. When I encountered this person, I spoke to other pilgrims who came from this person's same country and asked if "negro" was an admissible term with its nuance. They immediately condemned what he said and apologized to me, saying that what he said is offensive. I suppose, in some way, this was a redeeming moment as it confirmed my thoughts that what he said is disgusting and that I didn't need to paint people who come from this country as all bigoted racists.

Anyway, to the pilgrim of color, differentiated ability, lgbtqia, other/non-religion, and other marginlized identity, your are welcome! It's not a perfect place but your presence is needed.

Love,
A gaysian American
Thank you for this wonderful reflection.
 

André Walker

Never loosing my way: always standing on it
Camino(s) past & future
Holland-St.Jean, Frances, Del Norte, VdlP.
The reality is that some people in this world feel the need to look at other people as being part of 'us' or 'them'. In doing so, the colour of one's skin (or sex/culture/appearance/nationality...) is quite handy to distinguish between 'us' and 'them'. And, of course', 'us' is always better than 'them'.

For those who feel the need to put other people down because of the colour of their skin, their sex, their religious beliefs, their culture or otherwise: on Wikipedia you can find a list of derogatory terms you can use:

Or ...

... you can walk a Camino and find out that we (the various people who happen to share this planet) have more in common than that we differ. Somehow we all seem to have:
- two legs, to kick at each other with or to walk together
- two arms, to fight with or to embrace
- a mouth, to swear with or to speak kind words
- two eyes. And how beautiful they are when they look at you in a loving way!!!

Make up your mind which of the above is more appealing to you and act accordingly.
 

Max ***

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Irun - Santiago - Finisterre
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.
🤗
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Camino Portugues, June 2019
I am white and my son is black. He sees - and I see - the racism he faces in blatant as well as very subtle ways that I wouldn't know existed if he weren't my son. I met some cool people of color on the Camino, including a black South African, and all I can say is the more pigment, the better! Let us know how it goes and ultreia!
 

RemysMimi

Hooked on the Camino!!
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2018)
Frances or Portuguese (2020)
Probably.
Why? Is it any different than asking about any other advice (poles/no poles, sleeping bag or no). This person is asking about our experiences and whether or not anyone ever experienced any racism. It is a fair question. Where would you suggest they go to find the answer?
 

RemysMimi

Hooked on the Camino!!
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2018)
Frances or Portuguese (2020)
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.
Coming from L.A. you were surprised by the question? America? Really?
 

RemysMimi

Hooked on the Camino!!
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2018)
Frances or Portuguese (2020)
Hmmm? We don't do politics on this forum. Even the "correct" kind. Gender and gender perception don't really have much to do with Camino either. (Unless you want to revive the old "co-ed" showers topic o_O)

The OP asked an open and honest question. Members have responded in that spirit. That it what this forum is about.
Thank you for that response Tincatinker.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Yes ! Really !
I'm not surprised at Bob's surprise. It's natural, and an opening.

We all have our own realities, the bubble we each live in; it's impossible to know someone else's experience for ourselves - or even to imagine it. But there can be openness and connection, and a willingness to listen to people's stories with respect and kindness. Communal harmony begins and culminates with that.
Fortunately, we're pretty good at that here (so long as we're not talking about poles on planes... ;))
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
Look for something and it will appear. Sad. The only time I heard race mentioned was " bed race" get over yourselves.
While it is certainly true that looking for something can help us notice it when it is present, the converse is not necessarily the case. Failing to look for something unpleasant will not always shield us from its appearance. It is easy to say "get over yourselves" from a position of privilege where you don't have to worry about these things.

While I do believe that the Camino tends to be a more accepting and inclusive community than many, I am not so dismissive of those who have posted here saying that they experienced unwelcome incidents because of their race, not do I believe that the people on the Camino who exhibit racist behaviour do so because people of colour are "looking for it".
 

jerbear

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de madrid, camino francis, camino inverino (2012, 2013,2014)
CdM, Francis, San salvador, primativo june 2015 CDM , francis, inverino 2016
Camino madrid, via de Plata. Santiago.
Coast of the dead malpica to muxia
I understand.
Sorry. But this reeks of a lack of even trying to understand what other people genuinely experience.
Get a heart.
 

Stroller

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2015), Frances (2016)
I wasn't looking for it because I am a white western male but I sure as hell found it and was totally unprepared. So "get over yourself" is more than inappropriate.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, Madrid (2019) Portuges (2020)
People!

Is the ‘Camino’ we’re either in denial / surprise / disbelief about - or Northern Spain? Or perhaps it’s Spain? Maybe Europe? Or perhaps, most likely, the world we live in - like it or not - where there is undeniably discrimination, or tension, or lack of appreciation with respect to all kinds of inherent characteristics - race, colour, nationality, sexuality etc etc. pretty much everywhere.

Those who deny that these issues exist on the Camino are themselves in denial - or truly fortunate in that they have not experienced them. Those who expect it to be different on the Camino are optimistic, at best.

These issues exist generally and deserve to be called-out and addressed, but let’s not make them a Camino issue. They’re rather more than that.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Camino Portugues, June 2019
I'm Japanese descendant and a teenager was making fun of me to her friend because of my eyes behind my back. She didn't know I understand Galego.
Haha! I love this. I'm sad that you were the subject of racist talk but I love that you understand Galego. Cheers!
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011 (2019)
Why? Is it any different than asking about any other advice (poles/no poles, sleeping bag or no). This person is asking about our experiences and whether or not anyone ever experienced any racism. It is a fair question. Where would you suggest they go to find the answer?
@falcon269 didn't appear to me to be answering the original question, but a question asked further along the thread where the poster mulled over whether their question might be best handled elsewhere. There is always something of a dilemma about when to let a thread begin to move along other pathways, but if the original question is still being resolved, it is perhaps better not to distract it too much from doing that.
 

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