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Souvenirs and cultural politics in Santiago de Compostela

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This article focuses on the visual landscape created by displays of souvenirs for sale in the Galician capital of Santiago de Compostela. It demonstrates that images of St. James and other Catholic symbols compete with more recent representations of the pilgrimage to Santiago, including the modernist mascot O Peregrn created for the 1993 Holy Year. Equally prevalent are souvenirs that constitute reflections on Galician culture, ranging from folklorized images of rural areas as well as kitsch and camp objects commenting on a range of topics from witchcraft to vernacular architecture. The article concludes with a discussion of the expanded presence in recent years of message T-shirts that aim to raise people's consciousness about both local and international matters, including the need to defend the Galician language, environmental protection and fair trade. Through its analysis of the multifaceted role of souvenirs, this article demonstrates that while tourism is linked to cultural appropriation and commoditization, it can also be an avenue for political activism in defence of local cultures and translocal concerns.
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Keywords: Galicia; Santiago de Compostela; souvenirs; tourism; visual landscape

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Publication date: November 21, 2008

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  • The International Journal of Iberian Studies (IJIS) is the academic journal for scholars from around the world whose research focuses on contemporary Spain and Portugal from a range of disciplinary perspectives. IJIS is interested in history (20th century onwards), government and politics; foreign policy and international relations.
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