Piemontese Sinti - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. With their tradition of nomadism, it is not surprising that the Sinti shun agricultural work. Generally, they practice crafts and trades such as horse dealing and knife sharpening; such economic activities are compatible with a nomadic life-style because they can be quickly discontinued, and they require small inventories and little productive equipment. Economic activities generally are based on the exploitation of the non-Gypsy world; in-group trading activities are considerably less exploitative. Despite the variety of activities, all Piemontese work has three major characteristics: mobility, autonomy, and when trading, haggling to obtain the highest price. The expression used by the Sinti to define their work brings this last characteristic home: džava te mangav, meaning "I am going to ask for." As a result of this work ethic, they have difficulty adapting to sedentary work and even young people who accept wage labor usually quit after a short time.

Industrial Arts. Traditional activities included basket making, rebottoming, knife grinding, horse dealing, reprocessing discarded metal, and seasonal farming. Some people were musicians and circus managers. Women peddled haberdashery and items made by the men, and engaged in palm reading and begging. Although most of these activities still exist, second-hand car dealing has replaced horse dealing, and trade activities have become more important than craft production. Thus, many Piemontese now sell goods at Markets, with the wealthiest selling Oriental carpets, precious stones, and gold jewelry. Reprocessing of discarded materials from the industrialized society has also become an important economic activity in recent times.

Division of Labor. As noted above, the division of labor is largely on the basis of gender. In general, a woman's work produces a small yet steady income that covers day-to-day family expenses while a man's work produces income used for the purchase of expensive items or adds to the family's prestige. In difficult times, however, this division is set aside so that everyone helps provide for the family.

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