The History of Gypsies in Spain:
It is now generally accepted that the Romani people migrated out of the Punjab and Rajasthan regions of the Indian subcontinent into Europe as early as the eleventh century. Although this is true, the music and style of life of the Gitanos was highly influenced on reaching the land of Al-Andalus through North Africa. Flamenco, the cultural basis of the Gitanos, is a mixture of Moorish, Arabic and Sephardic Jewish influences, with the vivid and pure artistry of the Gitano dance of Flamenco and depicted style which basically can't be duplicated by any of the three basis groups. Although Flamenco is believed by many gachos(non-gitanos) to be purely the "Espectaculo Flamenco" or "Spectacular Flamenco", in reality the "Zapateo" or intense foot tap is only done in the "Spectaculars" while at "Juergas"(gypsy parties) Flamenco is much more reserved in its form. (It is said by many gypsies that one can not fully understand or comprehend flamenco unless you have gotten drunk with the artists at these juergas at least eight-hundred times) While in most of Europe the Romani people arrived from Asia through Eastern Europe, there are records of their having arrived in Spain from Northern Africa, as early as 1425 and in Barcelona and Zaragoza, in particular, by 1447. At first they were well received and were even accorded official protection by many local authorities but by 1492 the first anti-Romani law was passed in Spain. Spanish Romanies are linked to Flamenco and have contributed a great deal to this Andalusian musical art. According to Blas Infante, in his book Orígenes de lo flamenco y secreto del cante jondo, etymologically, the word Flamenco may derive from Andalusian Arabic fellah mengu, "Escapee Peasant". Infante connects the huge amount of Muslim Andalusians who decided to stay and mix with the Romani newcomers instead of abandoning their lands because of their religious beliefs (Moriscos).
After the Castilian reconquest of Andalusia, the Reconquista, most of the land was expropriated and given to warlords and mercenaries who had helped the Castilian kings enterprise against Al-Andalus. When the Spanish Crown later ordered the expulsion or forceful conversion of the Andalusian Moors, many of them took refuge among the Roma, becoming "fellah mengu" in order to avoid persecution, or forced deportation. In 1492 the Romanies were included too in the list of peoples to be assimilated or driven out. For about 300 years, Romanies were subject to a number of laws and policies designed to eliminate them from Spain as an identifiable group: Romani settlements were broken up and the residents dispersed; sometimes, Romanies were even required to marry non-Roma; they were denied their language and rituals as well as being excluded from public office and from guild membership.
The sedentary population (payos, "Gadjos") saw them as both dangerous, accusing them of laziness, stealing and kidnapping children, bringing novelties from the outer world, having magical powers of palmistry and living freely and carelessly.
During the Spanish Civil War, many Romani Catholics were murdered by Republican Forces, some being recognised as martyrs and saints by Pope Benedict XVI. Many Romani people who had supported the Republic were killed by Franco's supporters. Under Francisco Franco, Romanies were harassed or simply ignored, although their children were educated, albeit sometimes forcibly. In the post-Franco era, however, Spanish government policy has been much more sympathetic toward them, especially in the area of social welfare and social services.In 1977, the last blatantly anti-Romani laws were removed, promoted by Juan De Dios Rámirez Heredia, the first Romani deputy. Since 1983, for example, the government has operated a special program of Compensatory Education to promote educational rights for the disadvantaged, including those in Romani communities. The challenge will be to devise programs that bring the Romani population into the mainstream of the country's economic and political life without eroding the group's distinctive cultural and linguistic heritage.
At the same time, many Spanish Romanies have found consolation to their lives in Evangelic Christianity, where the church has incorporated Flamenco in its worship.
08-28-2009 at 12:30 AM