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The Romani in Spain, generally known as gitanos (Spanish pronunciation: [xiˈtanos]), belong to the Iberian Cale group, with smaller populations in Portugal (known as ciganos) and in southern France. Their sense of identity and cohesion stems from their shared value system, expressed among the gitanos as the leyes gitanas (Gypsy laws).
Traditionally, they maintain their social circles strictly within their patrigroups, as interaction between patrigroups increases the risk of feuding, which may result in fatalities. The emergence of Pentecostalism has impacted this practice, as the lifestyle of Pentecostal gitanos involves frequent contact with gitanos from outside their own patrigroups during church services and meetings. To varying degrees, they identify with Andalusian culture and music due to the large and culturally significant gitano population present in that region. Data on ethnicity are not collected in Spain, although the Government's statistical agency C.I.S. estimated in 2007 that the number of gitanos present in Spain is probably around one million.
The term gitano evolved from the word egiptano ("Egyptian"), which was the Old Spanish demonym for someone from Egipto (Egypt). "Egiptano" was the regular adjective in Old Spanish for someone from Egypt, however, in Middle and Modern Spanish the irregular adjective egipcio supplanted egiptano to mean Egyptian, probably to differentiate Egyptians proper from Gypsys. Meanwhile, the term egiptano evolved through elision into egitano and finally into gitano, losing the meaning of Egyptian and carrying with it a specific meaning of Romanis in Spain. The two peoples are now unambiguously differentiated in modern Spanish, “egipcios” for Egyptians and “gitanos” for Roma in Spain, with “egiptano” being obsolete for either.
Though etymologically the term gitano originally meant "Egyptian", the use itself of the Old Spanish word meaning "Egyptian" (egiptano) to refer to Romanis in Spain developed in the same way that the English word "Gypsy" also evolved from the English adjective "Egyptian" to refer to Romanis in Britain. Some Romanis, a people originating in the northern regions of the Indian Subcontinent, upon their first arrivals to Europe, either claimed to be Egyptians for a more favourable treatment by local Europeans, or were mistaken as Egyptians by local Europeans.
While it is now widely known that Romanis are ultimately of northwestern Hindustani origin (an area today shared between India and Pakistan), and are unrelated to the Egyptian people proper, many Romanis did enter Europe via a generations-long migration which included Egypt as one of their last stops before their arrival into Europe.
It is for this same reason that in the Albanian language variations of the Albanian term for "Egyptian" are still used to refer to a Romani people of Albania, which in English are also still ambiguously referred to as Balkan Egyptians. This group of Romanis in Albania are likewise of northwestern Hindustani origin, and are not related to the people of Egypt.
Gitano identity is particularly complex in Spain for a variety of reasons which are examined below. Nevertheless, it can be safely said that both from the perspective of gitano and non-gitano (payo) Spaniards, individuals generally considered to belong to this ethnicity are those of full or near-full gitano descent and who also self-identify. A confusing element is the thorough hybridization of Andalusian and Roma culture (and some would say identity) at a popular level. This has occurred to the point where Spaniards from other regions of Spain can commonly mistake elements of one for the other. The clearest example of this is flamenco music and Sevillanas, art forms that are Andalusian rather than gitano in origin but, having been strongly marked by gitanos in interpretative style, is now commonly associated to this ethnicity by many Spaniards. The fact that the largest population of gitanos is concentrated in Southern Spain has even led to a confusion between gitano accents and those typical of Southern Spain even though many Kale populations in the northern half of Spain (such as Galicia) do not speak Andalusian Spanish.
Indeed, the boundaries among gitano and non-gitano ethnicities are so blurred by intermarriage and common cultural traits in the south of the country, that self-identification is on occasion the only real marker for ethnicity. Few Spaniards are aware, for example, that Andalusian singer and gitano popular icon Lola Flores was, in fact, not of gitano ethnicity and did not consider herself as such. The mistake can be commonly attributed to her being a Flamenco singer of humble origin, with a strong Andalusian accent, her vaguely South Asian features as well as to her having married into a gitano family.
The term "gitano" has also acquired among many a negative socio-economic connotation referring to the lowest strata of society, sometimes linking it to crime and marginality and even being used as a term of abuse. In this, one can be gitano "by degree" according to how much one fits into pre-conceived stereotypes or social stigmas.
On the other hand, the exaltation of Roma culture and heritage is a large element of wider Andalusian folklore and Spanish identity. Gitanos, rather than being considered a "foreign" or "alien" minority within the country are perceived as "deep" or "real Spain", as is expressed by the term "España Cañí" which means both "Gypsy Spain" and "Traditional" or "Folkloric Spain". This is largely the result of the period of romantic nationalism which followed the Spanish war of independence, during which the values of the Enlightenment arriving from Western Europe were rejected and Gypsies became the symbol of Spanish traditionalism, independence and racial consciousness.
The Romani people originate from northwestern Hindustan, presumably from the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan and the Punjab region shared between India and Pakistan.
The linguistic evidence has indisputably shown that roots of Romani language lie in the Indian subcontinent: the language has grammatical characteristics of Indic languages and shares with them a big part of the basic lexicon, for example, body parts, daily routines and numerals.
More exactly, Romani shares the basic lexicon with Hindi and Punjabi. It shares many phonetic features with Marwari, while its grammar is closest to Bengali. Linguistic evaluation carried out in the nineteenth century by Pott (1845) and Miklosich (1882–1888) showed that the Romani language is to be classed as a New Indo-Aryan language (NIA), not a Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA), establishing that the ancestors of the Romani could not have left the Indian subcontinent significantly earlier than AD 1000, then finally reaching Europe several hundred years later.
Genetic findings in 2012 suggest the Romani originated in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent and migrated as a group. According to a genetic study in 2012, the ancestors of present scheduled tribes and scheduled caste populations of northern India, traditionally referred to collectively as the "Ḍoma", are the likely ancestral populations of modern "Roma" in Europe.
Migration to Spain
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How and when the Romani arrived in the Iberian Peninsula from Northern India is a question whose consensus is far from being reached. A popular theory, although without any documentation, claims they came from North Africa, from where they would have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to meet again in France with the northern migratory route. Thus, gitanos would be a deformation of Latin Tingitani, that is, from Tingis, today Tangier. Another, more consistent theory, and well documented, is that they entered the Iberian Peninsula from France. Although, there is controversy of the date of the first arrival, since there is evidence of a safe conduct granted in Perpignan in 1415 by the infante Alfonso of Aragon to one Tomás, son of Bartolomé de Sanno, who is said to be "Indie Majoris". Or instead, could be the so-called Juan de Egipto Menor, who entered through France, who in 1425 Alfonso V granted him a letter of insurance, which is mostly accepted as the first gypsy to reach the peninsula.
... As our beloved and devoted Don Juan de Egipto Menor ... understands that he must pass through some parts of our kingdoms and lands, and we want him to be well treated and welcomed ... under pain of our wrath and indignation ... the mentioned Don Juan de Egipto and those who will go with him and accompany him, with all their horses, clothes, goods, gold, silver, saddlebags and whatever else they bring with them, let them go, stay and go through any city, town, place and other parts of our lordship safe and secure ... and giving those safe passage and being driven when the aforementioned don Juan requires it through this present safe conduct ... Delivered in Zaragoza with our seal on January 12 of the year of birth of our Lord 1425. King Alfonso.
In 1435 they were seen in Santiago de Compostela. Gitanos were recorded in Barcelona and Zaragoza by 1447, and in 1462 they were received with honors in Jaén. Years later, to the gitanos, the grecianos, pilgrims who penetrated the Mediterranean shore in the 1480s, were added to them, probably because of the fall of Constantinople. Both of them continued to wander throughout the peninsula, being well received at least until 1493, year in which a group of gitanos arrived at Madrid, where the Council agreed to "... give alms to the gitanos because at the request of the City passed ahead, ten reales, to avoid the damages that could be done by three hundred people who came ... ".
In those years safe conducts were granted to supposedly noble gypsy pilgrims. The follow-up of these safe-conducts throughout Spain has provided some data to historians according to Teresa San Román:
- The number of Romani that entered or inhabited the Peninsula in the 15th-century is estimated at approximately 3,000 individuals.
- The Roma traveled in variable groups, of 80-150 people, led by a man.
- Each autonomous group maintained relations at a distance with one of the others, there being perhaps relations of kinship among them (something common in today among Spanish Romani).
- The separation between each group was variable and sometimes some followed the others at close range and by the same routes.
- The most common survival strategy was to present as Christian pilgrims to seek the protection of a noble.
- The way of life was nomadic and dedicated to divination and performance (spectacle).
Gitanos have a low and little politically committed role, with some particular exceptions, in Andalusian nationalism and identity, which is strongly based on a belief in the oriental basis of Andalusi heritage acted as a bridge between occidental-western and oriental-eastern Andalusian culture at a popular level. The father of such a movement, Blas Infante, in his book Orígenes de lo flamenco y secreto del cante jondo, etymologically, went as far as alleging that the word flamenco derives from Andalusian Arabic fellah mengu, supposedly meaning "escapee peasant". Infante believed that numerous Muslim Andalusians became Moriscos, who were obliged to convert, dispersed and eventually ordered to leave Spain stayed and mixed with the Romani newcomers instead of abandoning their land. These claims have been rejected by many historians and genetic research papers.
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 required to marry non-Roma; they were prohibited from using their language and rituals, and were excluded from public office and from guild membership. In 1749 A major effort to get rid of the gypsy population in Spain was carried out through a raid organized by the government. It arrested all gypsies (Romani) in the realm, and imprisoned them in jails, eventually releasing them due to the widespread discontent that the measure caused.
During the Spanish Civil War, gitanos were not persecuted for their ethnicity by either side. Under the regime of Francisco Franco, gitanos were often harassed or simply ignored, although their children were educated, sometimes forcibly, much as all Spaniards are nowadays. On the other hand, Andalusian and gitano culture was instrumentalized in the country's tourist promotion strategy which focused on the south to exalt the uniqueness of Spanish culture. However, the country's industrialization negatively affected gitanos as the migration of rural Spaniards to major cities led to the growth of shanty towns around urban areas with a consequent explosion in birth rates and a drastic fall in the quality of living and an abandonment of traditional professions. Traditional gitano neighbourhoods such as Triana in Seville became gentrified and gitanos were slowly pushed out to the periphery and these new shanty towns.
In the post-Franco era, Spanish government policy has been much more sympathetic, especially in the area of social welfare and social services. In 1977, the last anti-Romani laws were repealed, an action promoted by Juan de Dios Ramírez Heredia, the first Romani deputy.
Beginning in 1983, the government operated a special program of Compensatory Education to promote educational rights for the disadvantaged, including those in Romani communities. During the heroin epidemic that afflicted Spain in the 1980s and 1990s, gitano shanty towns became central to the drug trade, a problem which afflicts Spain to this day. Although the size of shanty towns has been vastly reduced in Madrid, they remain significant in other major cities such as Seville, Huelva and Almería. Nevertheless, Spain is still considered a model for integration of gitano communities when compared to other countries with Romani populations in Eastern Europe.
Historically, gitanos spoke Caló fluently, often alongside the language spoken in the region they inhabited. Caló is a type of para-Romani, combining the phonology and grammar of the Catalan or Castilian, with a lexicon derived from Romani. The para-Romani resulting from the combination of Basque and Romani is called Erromintxela. Very few gitanos maintain a comprehensive and functional knowledge of Caló. A study on the actual usage patterns of Caló among a group of mainly Andalusian gitanos concluded that the language currently consists of between 350 and 400 unique terms, the knowledge of which varies considerably among gitanos. This would exclude a similar number of Calo words which have entered mainstream Spanish slang. According to the authors of the study, the majority of gitanos acknowledge that the language is in a terminal state, with many asserting that the language is totally lost.
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In Spain, gitanos were traditionally Roman Catholics who participated in four of the Church's sacraments (baptism, marriage, confirmation, and extreme unction). They are not regular churchgoers but follow traditions such as the cult of the Virgin of El Rocío. In 1997, Pope John Paul II beatified the Catholic gitano martyr Ceferino Giménez Malla, in a ceremony reportedly attended by some 3000 roma. Sara-la-Kali is the patron saint of Romani people.
They rarely go to folk healers, and they participate fully in Spain's state-supported medical system. Gitanos have a special involvement with recently dead kin and visit their graves frequently. They spend more money than non-gitanos of equivalent economic classes in adorning grave sites.
The Spanish New-Protestant/New-Born Federation (mostly composed by members of the Assemblies of God and Pentecostal) claims that 150,000 gitanos have joined their faith in Spain. The Romani Evangelical Assembly is the only religious institution entirely led and composed by Roma. The gitano Evangelical church (Iglesia de Filadelfia) asserts the gitano people originate from a group of Jews who got lost during Moses' lifetime and eventually became the gitanos.
The traditional Spanish Romani place a high value on the extended family. Virginity is essential in unmarried women. Both men and women often marry young.
A traditional gitano wedding requires a pedimiento (similar to an engagement party) followed by the casamiento (wedding ceremony), where el yeli must be sung to the bride to celebrate the virginity and honour of the bride (proven by the ritual of the pañuelo). In the pañuelo ritual, a group consisting of an ajuntaora (a professional who is skilled in performing the ritual and is paid by the family), along with the married women of the family, take the bride into a separate room during the wedding and examine her to ascertain that she is a virgin. The ajuntaora is the one who performs the ritual on the bride, as the other women watch to be witnesses that the bride is virgin. The ajuntaora wraps a white, decoratively embroidered cloth (the pañuelo) around her index finger and inserts it shallowly into the vaginal canal of the bride. During this process, the Bartholin's glands are depressed, causing them to secrete a liquid that stains the cloth. This action is repeated with three different sections of the cloth to produce three stains, known as "rosas". This process is conceived by the women as the retrieval of the bride's "honra", her honour, contained within a "grape" inside her genitals which is popped during the examination, and the spillage collected onto the pañuelo.
When finished with the exam, the women come out of the room and sing el yeli to the couple. During this, the men at the wedding rip their shirts and lift the wife onto their shoulders and do the same with the husband, as they sing "el yeli" to them. Weddings can last very long; up to three days is usual in Gitano culture. At weddings, gitanos invite everyone and anyone that they know of (especially other gitanos). On some occasions, payos (gadjos) may attend as well, although this is not common. Through the night, many bulerías are danced and especially sung. Today, rumba gitana or rumba flamenca are a usual party music fixture.
This section needs to be updated.March 2021)(
According to a website of the Fundación Secretariado Gitano ("Gitano Secretariat Foundation"), published in 2002, in the Spanish prison system the Spanish Romani women represented 25% of the incarcerated female population, while Spanish Romani people represented 1.4% of the total Spanish population. In Portugal, 64% of the detentions of gitano people were drug trafficking-related, 93.2% of women inmates for drug trafficking were gitanas, and 13.2% of the total drug trafficking-related inmates were of gitano ethnicity.[better source needed]
Marginalisation occurs on an institutional level. Gitano children are regularly segregated from their non-gitano peers and have poorer academic outcomes as a result. In 1978, 68% of adult gitanos were illiterate. Literacy has greatly improved over time, and approximately 10% of gitanos were illiterate as of 2006-2007 (with older gitanos much more likely than younger gitanos to be illiterate). Ninety-eight percent of gitanos live below the poverty line. Health outcomes and housing - including reduced access to clean water and electricity supplies - is poorer amongst Roma compared to non-Roma in Spain and Portugal, in common with the other surveyed European countries.
Roma continue to experience discrimination on an interpersonal level, such as by being refused entry to bars and clubs or losing their jobs if their ethnicity is made known to their employer. In 2016, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights reported that its survey showed 71 percent of Portuguese cigano, and 51 percent of Spanish gitano had suffered an episode of discrimination within the previous five years. A traditional discriminatory practice in Portugal, where shops and businesses display toad figurines at entrances to dissuade ciganos from entering, was reported as being still widely seen in Portugal in 2019. (Toads are viewed as symbolic of evil and ill-omen in Roma communities in Portugal.) Ciganos and anti-discrimination activists complained of hostility to Roma being commonplace and unremarkable. Some shopkeepers were noted as defending their discouragement of Roma as appropriate.
The gitano in Spanish society have inspired several authors:
- Federico García Lorca, a great Spanish poet of the 20th century, wrote Romancero Gitano ("Gypsy Ballad Book")
The Roma is the most basic, most profound, the most aristocratic of my country, as representative of their way and whoever keeps the flame, blood, and the alphabet of the universal Andalusian truth.— Federico García Lorca
- Candela, the female protagonist of the story El Amor Brujo, by Manuel de Falla is Romani.
- Prosper Mérimée's Carmen (1845) features the protagonist as a femme fatale, ready to lie, or attack and degrade men's lives. His work was adapted for Georges Bizet's opera of the same name.
- The beauty of a dark-haired Gitana has inspired artists such as Julio Romero de Torres.
- La Gitanilla ("The little Gypsy girl"), short story by Miguel de Cervantes and part of his Exemplary Novels
- Rocio Eva Granada, the escort in the novel Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
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Following are notable Spanish people of gypsy (gitano) ethnicity:
Leaders and politicians
Historians, philologists and writers
- Joaquín Albaicín, writer, lecturer and columnist for the artistic life
- Matéo Maximoff, French writer born in Barcelona
Poets, novelists and playwrights
- José Heredia Maya, poet and dramaturge
- Luis Heredia Amaya, sculptor
- Antonio Maya Cortés, artist painter and sculptor
- Fabian de Castro, artist painter
Catholic saints and martyrs
- Ceferino Giménez Malla, blessed
Painters and sculptors
Actors, comedians and entertainers
- Rogelio Durán, actor theatre and father of Swedish actress Noomi Rapace.
- Pastora Vega, actress.
- Alba Flores, actress, granddaughter of El Pescaílla
Footballers and football coaches
- José Rodríguez Martínez, footballer, currently plays for Maccabi Haifa
- Jesús Seba, footballer, ex-Real Zaragoza
- Diego, former footballer, with Sevilla FC.
- Carlos Muñoz, former footballer, with Real Oviedo.
- Carlos Aranda, former footballer, with Sevilla FC.
- Iván Amaya, football player, ex-Atlético Madrid.
- Antonio Amaya, football player, currently plays for Rayo Vallecano.
- Marcos Márquez, football player, ex-UD Las Palmas.
- López Ramos, football player, ex-UD Las Palmas.
- Jose Antonio Reyes, footballer
- Jesús Navas footballer, playing for Sevilla FC.
- Rafael Soto, equestrian and Olympic medalist.
- Faustino Reyes, boxer.
- José Antonio Jiménez, boxer.
- Patxi Ruiz Giménez, Basque pelota champion.
Singers and musicians
- Carmen Amaya, Flamenco dancer.
- Isabel Pantoja, singer, partially gypsy
- Los Chunguitos, singers, brother duo.
- Azúcar Moreno, singers, sister duo.
- Manolo Caracol, Flamenco singer.
- El Pescaílla, singer and composer, husband of Lola Flores.
- Lolita Flores, singer and actress, daughter of Lola Flores.
- Antonio Flores, singer and actor, son of Lola Flores.
- Rosario Flores, singer and actress, daughter of Lola Flores.
- Vicente Escudero, dancer and choreographer of Spanish Flamenco; occasionally painter, writer, cinematographic actor and flamenco singer.
- Gipsy Kings, French group of Flamenco Rumba.
- Nicolas Reyes, lead vocalist of the Gipsy Kings.
- Camarón de la Isla, Flamenco singer.
- Farruquito, Flamenco dancer.
- Los Niños de Sara, French fusion musicians
- Ketama, fusion musicians.
- Kendji Girac, French singer.
- Diego "El Cigala", Flamenco singer.
- Joaquín Cortés, star flamenco dancer.
- Beatriz Luengo, singer and actress.
- Natalia Jiménez, singer and vocalist of La quinta estacion.
- Jorge González, singer.
- Manitas de Plata, guitar musician.
- Altamira or Altamirano
- Antunes or Antunez / Antuñez
- Jiménez or Giménez
- Malla or Maya
- Monge or Monje
- Pereiro or Pereira
- Ravelino or Rabellino
- Vargas LP
- Villar or Vilar
- Triana, Seville, a neighbourhood traditionally linked to Gitano history.
- Sacromonte, the traditional Gitano quarter of Granada.
- George Borrow, an English missionary and traveller who studied the Gypsies of Spain and other parts of Europe.
- Quinqui, a nomad community of Spain with a similar lifestyle, but of unrelated origin.
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- Experiencias y trayectorias de éxito escolar de gitanas y gitanos en España, p. 100.
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- "Negative opinions about Roma, Muslims in several European nations". Pew Research Center. 11 July 2016.
- Diccionario de apellidos españoles, Roberto Faure, María Asunción Ribes, Antonio García, Editorial Espasa, Madrid 2001. ISBN 84-239-2289-8. Section III.3.8 page XXXIX.
- Gamella, Juan F.; Gómez Alfaro, Antonio; Pérez Pérez, Juan. "Los apellidos de los gitanos españoles en los censos de 1783-85 - Artículos - Revista de Humanidades". www.revistadehumanidades.com (in Spanish). Retrieved 3 February 2020.
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