Spanish Rom - History and Cultural Relations



Linguistic and genetical evidence indicates that the "original" Gypsies were an Indian ethnic group that migrated out of the subcontinent around A.D. 1000. Passing through Byzantium, they spread through the Balkans during the fourteenth Century and reached Russia, Scandinavia, the British Isles, France, and Spain in the fifteenth century. The Spanish descendants of these early migrants are called "Gitanos" and today, as in past centuries, they constitute the majority of Spanish Gypsies. The Gitanos retained much of their Romany lexicon, which was called "Caló" until well into the nineteenth century; but they quickly forgot its Indic grammar. The Rom, on the other hand, did not arrive in western Europe, including Spain and Portugal, much before 1850. Until about that date they had been attached, in a kind of serfdom, to the still-feudal Romanian economy; hence a considerable admixture of Romanian words is evident in their Romany. Reportedly, a nomadic band of metalworking Gypsies camped on the outskirts of the Portuguese city of Fonte Nova in 1869, and their kitchenware was of such fine quality that it left the city's resident Neopolitan craftsmen speechless. Another report from Portugal in 1883 describes a nomadic band of metalworkers, at least two of whom spoke "perfect Spanish," and relates that they were returning to Spain. They spoke a "special language" that was not Caló, and they did not like to be compared with the Gitanos. Both descriptions refer to the people involved as "Hungarian Gypsies" (Ciganos Hungaros) and leave little doubt that these folk were Rom, and that, as such, the Rom had entered Iberia soon after the Romanian diaspora.


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