The Yanks are coming!
When I walked my first Camino in 2006, Americans were an anomaly. The Pilgrims were overwhelmingly made up of Spanish and Italians, followed by French and Germans. As Yanks, we sort of stood out from the overall European mix. We were treated kindly for our uniqueness. That year the total number of Pilgrims for all the varieties of Camino's was a bit more than 100,000. (There's more than one way to get to Santiago, although most take the Frances Route. (Like me).
In 2013, Americans moved up the list to 5th place in the overall standings. Slightly over 10,000 people who spoke a funny language to the locals completed a Camino. In total, there were over 215,000 Pilgrims. I can't say I met many who could sing "The Star Spangled Banner."
From the latest figures of 2016, Americans are now in 4th place with 15,000 plus taking this therapeutic walk. Overall there was an astounding 277,000 plus ambling through the Spanish countryside. It's a safe assumption to say the Camino has been discovered.
I'm now on my Third Edition Camino, here's some of my astute observations:
Generally speaking, it's an older crowd. I'm seeing more beer bellies, wider beams and thicker ankles than in the past. More gents sport dapper gray beards and spectacles. There are more elderly couples. Young folks now stand out like Hare Krishnas among a congregation of Hasidic Jews.
On this Camino I often hear the unmistakable sound of American English.
Some Pilgrims are here for partial Camino's (one week wonders) and others (like me) are here for the long haul. All of us have our reasons.
What hasn't changed is the Camino's manufacturing of cliques and couples. Pilgrims seem to want to belong to a larger group. Couples are forming for companionship or possible romance. So far, I'm going it alone. I've never been much of a joiner. I'll use a quote from Groucho Marx, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”
I'm now in Logrono, where a wine festival is in full swing. It'll be a noisy, busy night. There's a Church with a bell next door too. OY!