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main index   © Jeff Matthews      entry Jan. 2003

Everything is related to Naples
Number 21 in this series. Link to all items here.


The Confederate Flag in Naples

If you let your eyes wander along the display of flags mounted over the entrance to one seaside restaurant in particular, down at the small port of Mergellina, you can test your vexillological prowess: Let’s see—that one is Brazil; there’s France…hmmm, the Scandinavian ones are confusing, and did you ever notice that Belgium is the same as Germany except on its side, but not quite? Say, they even have the new European flag up and waving. Wait, what’s that? A blue St. Andrew’s cross with white trim, 13 stars arrayed within the bars of the cross, all on a field of red…a Confederate flag!

Well, maybe they just found one and put it up because it’s a nice design. Not quite. It’s up there for the same reason that it was painted on the entrance to a bar not far from the restaurant, a club with the delightfully oblivious–to–American–idiom name (written in English) of “Southern Bull” (their translation of toro del sud) The bull, in this case, is to be understood not as in “What a bunch of…,” but rather as in “raging," one fine, prime specimen of which species is superimposed, snorting, pawing the ground and swollen with pride, on the flag, itself—a raging bull from the south (of Italy, of course). (Alas, as of this writing, that bar has gone bull-belly up. Maybe it has moved.) Also, now that Naples has climbed out of the sub-basement of the Italian soccer leagues, enough fans to constitute a rooting section are showing up again at home games at the San Paolo soccer stadium where you will see a number of such flags fluttering in the breeze. These will have an interesting variation: the circular logo of the Naples team is positioned at the center of the cross and inscribed—in English!—around the perimeter of that logo is the phrase, “The south shall rise again.” If there was ever a surrogate symbol for the old Bourbon crest that waved over Naples for the 130 years before the unification of Italy, the flag of the Confederate States of America seems to be it.

You don’t need a degree in cross-cultural anthropology to figure this one out. As losers in their own war against their own north in 1861, Neapolitans identify with the defeated south in the US Civil War. They watch “Gone With the Wind” and know who the good guys are. Unlike some places in the southern US today, there is no doubt in Naples as to whether that flag stays up or comes down. It stays up—and they ain't just whistlin’ ‘O Sole Mio



[note: The Neapolitan affection for the Confederate flag also has some other not-so-trivial history behind it. See "Fighting for Two Souths"."


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