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The Gypsies in Spain, generally known as gitanos (Spanish pronunciation: [xi'tanos]), 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 is not collected in Spain, although the Government's statistical agency CIS 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 Spanish language adjective for someone from Egypt, however, in Middle and Modern Spanish the irregular adjective egipcio" supplanted egiptano to mean Egyptian, while gitano went on to refer specifically to Romanis in Spain.
The etymological meaning of the term gitano, therefore, was originally "Egyptian". The use of the Spanish word meaning "Egyptian" to refer to Romanis in Spain evolved in the same way that the English word "Gypsy" also evolved from the English adjective "Egyptian" to refer to Romanis. Both terms are due to some Romanis, a people originating in the northern regions of the Indian Subcontinent, upon their first arrivals to Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries, claiming to be Egyptians for a more favourable treatment by local Europeans, or being 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), 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 vaguely South Asian physical traits and a strong Andalusian accent, 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.
Evidently, all this results in a strong distinction between gitanos and Rom immigrants from Eastern Europe, who are commonly identified by the wider population according to their country of origin (normally Romanians or Bulgarians) rather than by their actual Rom ethnicity.
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 "?oma", are the likely ancestral populations of modern "Roma" in Europe.
How and when the gypsies 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 come from North Africa, from where they would have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to meet again in France with the northern migratory route. It would be the Tingitanis (in its deformed pronunciation, gitanos, 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:
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.
Since 1983, the government has 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 80s and 90s, 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 Rom 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 terms, the knowledge of which varies considerably among gitanos. 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.
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 Evangelical 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 the 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.
According to the website of the Fundación Secretariado Gitano ("Gitano Secretariat Foundation"), in the Spanish prison system the Spanish Romani women represent 25% of the incarcerated feminine population, while Spanish Romani people represent 1.4% of the total Spanish population. 64% of the detentions of gitano people are drug trafficking-related. 93.2% of women inmates for drug trafficking are gitanas. 13.2% of the total drug trafficking-related inmates are of gitano ethnicity.
Gitanos 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. Marginalisation occurs on an institutional level; Gitano children are regularly segregated from their non-gitano peers and have poorer academic outcomes as a result. 60% of adult gitanos are illiterate, and 98% live below the poverty line.
In Portugal, some businesses display toad figurines in their entrances to dissuade ciganos from entering.
The Gitanos in Spanish society have inspired several authors:
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
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Following are notable Spanish people of gypsy (gitano) ethnicity:
The Spanish government estimates the number of Gitanos at a maximum of 650,000.
Zatímco romská lexika je blií hind?tin?, marvár?tin?, pand?áb?tin? atd., v gramatické sfé?e nacházíme mnoho shod s východoindickým jazykem, s bengál?tinou.
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