Spain


Spain
   Estimated Gypsy population (excluding the non-Romany Quinquilleros): 700,000. The first records of Gypsies in Spain date from the 15th century and refer to companies that crossed the border from France. However, some scholars think that Gypsies had entered Spain much earlier, accompanying the Muslims when they invaded from the south. The Egyptian writer Abdu-'l-Mulk, writing around 1200, advised Arabic poets in Spain (then under Arab rule) not to be "garrulous in the manner of the Zott" (the Arab term for Gypsies). Firmer evidence of their presence comes in 1425 when Don Johan of Little Egypt and Duke Thomas obtained letters of protection from King Alfonso V of Aragon. These leaders had certainly come via France.
   From 1492 Spain was a federation under the joint monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, and legislation (the Pragmatica) in 1499 ordered Gypsies nationwide to stop nomadizing, settle down, and find a trade within 60 days. If they continued to nomadize, they would be whipped, have a cut made in their ears (as an identification mark), and be forcibly bound to a master. Many did take up trades, replacing the expelled Moors as masons and bakers, for example. After 1539, Gypsies who continued to wander in groups were arrested, and males were used as galley slaves.
   In 1633 Philip IV's government decreed that the Gypsies did not exist. They were not an ethnic group, he said, but Spanish people who had disguised themselves and made up a language. They were forbidden to speak any language other than Spanish or wear distinctive clothes. In 1695 they were, ineffectively, forbidden to have any employment other than farming. By 1746 a list of 75 towns had been drawn up, and Gypsies were-in theory-allowed to live only in the named towns.
   Persecution continued. A roundup of all Gypsies was ordered in 1749. The aim was to eliminate the population completely by locking up the men and women separately and setting them to forced labor. Several hundred Gypsies were arrested and imprisoned in this campaign. Most of them were gradually released and allowed to return to their previous homes, however, after it was realized that they performed useful services in the villages, which found themselves suddenly without a blacksmith or a baker. The last of the arrested Gypsies were finally released in 1765, after 16 years of confinement. Repression ceased and was replaced by a firmer policy of assimilation with the enactment of a decree of Charles III in 1783, under which the Gypsies were granted equal citizenship. The use of the word Gitano (Gypsy) was to be banned. The Gypsies were again forbidden to speak Romani or wear distinctive dress. Many took the opportunity of free movement to migrate to the south of France. Largely as a result of the past penalties for speaking Romani in public, the language has died out, and Spanish Gypsies now speak a variety of Spanish with a few Romani words, known as Caló.
   The Gypsies have continued to live in Spain on the edge of society, looked down upon by the majority population unless they are musicians or bullfighters. The Catholic Church took an interest in the Gypsies during the 20th century by organizing local missions and pilgrimages. Many Spanish Gypsies are now turning to Pentecostalism.
   Since the fall of the Francisco Franco dictatorship in 1975, the Gypsies have been free to organize and publish magazines. However, latent anti-Gypsy racism has surfaced on many occasions. In one incident in 1984, a crowd of several hundred in Zaragoza demonstrated against the occupation of 36 prefabricated houses built for Gypsies in the Actur district. Slogans they carried included "Fight for your rights against Gypsies." In 1986 there were attacks on the Gypsy quarter of Martos when 30 houses were set on fire and the inhabitants fled to the nearby village of Torredonjimeno. The villagers there did not allow them to stop, though, and drove them out. The local authorities then tried to settle the evacuees in a third place, Monte Lope Alvarez, but the local population again protested, and the Gypsies had to sleep in tents provided by the Red Cross, protected by the police, until alternative accommodation was found. In the district of Otxarkoaga in Bilbao in 1996, Gypsy children were denied entry to the local school, and a special school was set up for them in a disused secondary school building. Some of the Gypsy parents then boycotted the new school, in a protest against segregation.
   In 2004 a number of Gypsy organizations combined to hire the advertising company Saatchi and Saatchi to conduct a campaign to improve the standing of Gypsies among the general population. The slogan of the campaign was "Know them before judging them."
   The number of Romany women in prison-4,000 - is higher than one would expect in view of the size of the population. Project Barani has been set up to tackle this problem, which is largely the result of minor infringements of the law on narcotics. The economic situation has led to some young unemployed Gypsies trafficking in drugs and even beginning to experiment with the wares they sell. It is probably the only country in Europe where a serious drug problem exists among Gypsies.
   Gypsies are among the best dancers and singers in Spain, and several of them have individual entries in this handbook, such as Joaquín Cortés, as does the soccer star Jose Antonio Reyes. A significant number of Romanies are going to college. Juan de Dios Heredia Ramírez was a lecturer and then member of Parliament for the Socialist Party in the Spanish and European Parliaments. The Spanish royal family supported the European Congress in Seville. Other positive features are the great interest in the revival of the Romani language and links with Gypsy organizations in other countries. The Presencia Gitana association in Madrid has a wide program of educational and cultural work. Many of the local groups are united in a network, the Union Romani, and their activities are reported in the journal Nevipens Romani (Romani News).

Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . .

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