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Random: Safe to have US Flag on backpack?


Yes, this is random and paranoid...but I'm going to ask it anyway. Is it safe to have the U.S. Flag on the outside of my backpack? I don't want some Basque separatist taking my bag and doing who-knows-what to it. :) (Told you it was a random and paranoid question.)
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The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk. Discount is taken at check out, only by using this link.
If you're so paranoid, you could always hide behind the Canadian flag, like a lot of americans do. :wink:
Hello Thomas,
Do show your U.S. flag patch. U.S. pilgrims seemed underrepresented last month (on the Camino Frances). Pilgrims and locals always seemed surprised whenever I said "Estados Unidos." Also, I am Asian-American and it was usually assumed I was from NameAnyAsianCountry. After masses in some towns, when the priest would ask the pilgrims to come forward for a blessing, we would be asked to name our origins. I was usually the only one from the U.S. But now that summer is in full swing, U.S. pilgrims might finally be walking, let's hope. Wishing you well.
Buen camino,
PS: My backpack did have my son's Beastie Boys patch, which I removed early on. It didn't seem very Camino-like.
Rebecca said:
Also, I am Asian-American and it was usually assumed I was from NameAnyAsianCountry.
That's funny. I'm Asian-American as well. That made me think of King of the Hill:

Hank: Are you Chinese or Japanese?
Kahn: We are Laotian.
Hank: So, are you Chinese or Japanese?
I've never hidden behind the Canadian flag. Even in Egypt, in 2003. (They, ironically, thought I was British & I have a Texan accent. Go figure.) I have had lengthy discussions about the pre-2008 Election US, however, but have never been treated rudely just because I'm an American. :) It all has to do with how you treat people. If you're rude & boorish, expect like treatment. If you smile & are courteous, 99.99999% of the time, you'll be treated the same way, regardless of your nationality.

On edit, in 2007, I waited for the train in Fromista with 2 Muslim teens. They weren't too keen on the US or the Camino, thinking that as Muslims, they wouldn't be welcome in either place. Don't know if I convinced them about the US, but I did make some head-way with them about the Camino. :)

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I was cycling round Spain just after the Falklands War (which I was UTTERLY opposed to - especially after that ghastly Thatcher murdered all those men on the Belgrano by sinking it in international waters when it was on the way home)

I do sometimes wonder about me .. I never made the connection at first but I had a large Union flag (the British flag) glued to my sleeping bag, pointing out the back of the bike rack - this was to warn drivers that I was foreign and therefore might make mistakes, not for patriotism .. I had absolutely no problems at all on the roads .... though, in the Youth Hostel in Barcelona an Argentinian man tried to cut my throat whilst we were at dinner, which was a bit unnerving.

The US has lots to be proud of and also lots to be ashamed of, just like any other country, but the people aren't the government, whatever your Constitution says .. and it is your country and you want to wear the flag - Wear the flag, I would.

But I might stuff a sheet of kevlar into my rucksack ... just in case ... :wink:
I would not worry about this very much. While you will meet the occasional idiot who identifies you with George W Bush, they will be few and far between. The fact that you are sharing the spartan pilgrim life with people quashes most nonsense very quickly. After 25km and washing one's clothes, there is not a lot of energy spare-- as you squeeze the water out of your socks for the 3d rinse, there are few who will confuse you with Dick Cheney. As well, much of the animosity toward the US was a reaction to the Bush administration's dismissive comments about Europe-- with the election of Obama, most (many?) Europeans tend to feel that the US has returned to a more open perspective with respect to the rest of the world.

And, in any case, as a Canadian who has (very) occasionally run into US citizens masquerading under our flag, I can assure you that I can spot them a kilometre away. Just relax and be what is best about the US-- openness and cheerful adventurousness, and you will have a great time.

Though perhaps the fear/concern is more to do with meeting a group of young male discontented muslims? There are many who are not yet integrated into European societies - and also, boys will be boys unfortunately ...

but I agree, wear it -with pride (add an Obama badge)
Well, I'm definitely not going to wear a Kevin Rudd badge... People would run away from the smugness!

Bit of an in-joke for any Aussies here on the forum, that was. We happen to have this PM who is generally quite decent, (better than the last...) but he just has this whole big ego/smug thing going on. I think it has to do with the schoolboy look. Hmm.

Ok, ignore that whole thing.
Hi Thomas,

No problem. Wear it!

The camino is full of people from all over the world, many of them have their countries flag on their pack.

Buen camino!
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I am American. The only overt hostility I met with on the camino was from two DUTCH people! :shock:

You have nothing to fear from Muslims, either -- some of your fellow travelers are Muslims, from Iran and Algeria and Morocco and Indonesia. Everyone is from somewhere, and that makes things interesting. But imagine how nice it will be, someday, when we´ve gotten past all this nationality and religion and race business, when these are things that join us together rather than seperate us!

Reb., American-born, married to a Brit, working for the Canadians, living in Spain.
My fiancée, her baby son, and I walked the Camino this summer and had no real problems telling locals and other peregrinos where we were from. Though we are not "patch people," we were openly carrying enough equipment, apparel, reading material, etc., of obvious American origin that the first guess of any discerning observer, especially after hearing us speaking, should have been that we were, in fact, Americans (or maybe Canadians, if they were willing to give us the benefit of the doubt). This was the case with most of our fellow peregrinos.

However, we found that most locals were stunned to learn that we were not Germans, which seems to be the default assumption for sets of blondish, blue-eyed peregrinos who aren't speaking French. It makes sense, both in terms of how many Germans are on the Camino versus how many norteamericanos they see walking to Santiago, and how American English (as opposed to British English, the distinctive phonology of which the locals are probably more used to hearing from pilgrims) sounds to the ears of people living in country where teaching English has only recently been made an educational priority. English and German are much more closely related to each other linguistically than either of them is to Spanish, so it's understandable that Spanish speakers who don't speak either of the other two languages might, through confirmation bias, mistake a dialect of English they aren't used to hearing for German.

The only major exception to this phenomenon that really sticks out in my mind was an elderly shopkeeper in Burgos who became very attached to the idea that we must be Finns and refused to believe us when we told him we actually hailed from los Estados Unidos.

In any case, we found that locals were usually enthusiastic to learn that we were Americans, except for a period of about two weeks after the US national team managed to defeat Spain's team in some sort of important soccer, er, fútbol match. We got along fine telling people we were Californians instead during that episode.

You must also realize that almost the entire length of the Camino Francés runs through what one might call the heartland of Spanish conservatism, and people you meet along the route are much less likely to be deeply offended by the United States government's relatively recent shenanigans (e.g., enticing Spain into helping invade Iraq in 2003) than people you might meet in other regions.

Historically, all the territory around the Camino Francés broke for the right-wing insurgents against the left-wing Republican government almost immediately after the insurgency began in 1936. You won't find much in the way of Spanish Civil War battle sites along the Camino because the whole region, surrounding the Camino like a sheath from the French border to the sea, was more or less uncontested Nationalist territory from the beginning of the conflict to the end, with General Mola making his headquarters in Pamplona and Franco making his in Burgos.

Demographics do shift over time, but with the exception of some areas around León, a peregrino walking the Camino Francés is still more likely to meet locals who voted in the 2004 general election (or in 2008, for that matter) for the right-wing Partido Popular, which sent Spanish troops to Iraq in support of the American-led invasion, than you are to meet locals who cast votes for the left-wing Partido Socialista Obrero Español, which campaigned in 2004, in part, on a promise to bring those troops home (and won).

In short, broadcasting the fact that you are an American shouldn't cause you much or any trouble with the locals over and above the usual stranger-in-a-strange-land issues that face anyone immersing themselves in a new culture. Just try not to be obnoxious about it, and represent your country well. :wink:
The idea of Dick Cheney wringing out his socks made me grin :D
I have realised I am stuck with a Union Jack on my pack as it is Karrimor's logo. Unfortunately the Brits have an unrivalled reputation for oafish behaviour while visiting Europe so let's hope the riot police don't get called as soon as I get spotted...
Seriously though, most people who respond to your nationality do so positively; the worst I usually get involves people assuming you support either Man U or Chelsea :x or that you must know their friend/colleague/cousin who lives in London. In the States I had lots of people telling me how grateful they were for UK support of US military endeavours. They were so nice and sincere I couldn't bring myself to tell them what I really thought about this :cry:
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You could also wear this one (courtesy of AdBusters magazine), mixing your pride with cynicism...

I think it will be a great day when nobody feels the need to label himself with a flag or nationality. One of the great things about the camino is how little difference it makes what country someone is from.

That said, I think Americans who pretend to be Canadians oughtta be ashamed of themselves. You are what you are. Anyone who lets his fear trump his personal integrity doesn´t deserve to live in a "land of the free, home of the brave."

"What´s so funny ´bout peace, love, and understanding?"
I am a walking South African label!
I wear RSA flag shorts, have a small flag fluttering from my pack as well as a sew-on flag on the pack and waist belt and a CSJ of RSA badge on my backpack!
No doubting where I come from. Except when someone looked at the shorts and said, "Hey! Jamaica!!"

PS: I think its very interesting to see where everybody comes from and every albergue is like a meeting place for the United Nations!

PPS: In the middle ages, pilgrims were allocated different places in the cathedral in Santiago according to their nationality - so that they did'nt try to 'donder' each other in the cathedral!


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