The Gypsies

As a child, upon hearing the word “gypsy” my mind immediately conjured up visions of enchantment, wonder, and beautiful women in flowing skirts with jewelry. (We can thank Disney for that; it was usually where I got all of my historical data). To my great surprise and interest when I began reading Arab literature in college I discovered a similar sense of mystique and wonder towards the ideas of gypsies. While they were looked down upon in society, women and girls often secretly envied their free and wild lifestyle. Free to roam as they pleased, travel the world, dance openly, and dress in colorful and enchanting clothing the Gypsy lifestyle was one that many Arab women knew very little about.

It wasn't until my first visit to Spain that I realized the dark reality and sadness that befell the state of the gypsies and my naïveté was squandered by great remorse. Through their longstanding history and oral traditions, mainly through the art of Flamenco, they sing and dance about the great pain and suffering they have endured for all of time. History indicates that many of the Gypsies came from the Punjab region in India and lived nomadic lifestyles traveling throughout Europe. They were poorly received and rarely accepted by society in almost every country in which they took up residence. In Nazi Germany estimates of up to 500,000 Gypsies were massacred in the Holocaust. In other parts of Europe they were often denied the right to work and other basic rights and were often forced in to thievery, which perpetuated their negative stereotype and the harsh racism they continue to face.

Today the greatest numbers of Gypsies reside in the Southern Spanish province of Andalusia. No longer nomadic, they reside among Spanish society, but are often isolated in ghettos and face great economic hardship. The massive influx of Moroccan immigrants in to Andalusia has resulted in gang violence between the two marginalized ethnic groups. Not unlike minority gang groups in urban areas of the United States, the Gypsies and the Moroccans are often left to their own devices and not cared for by the Spanish government. They are left to fight and revel in their misfortune.

It is somewhat ironic that while the mystical and enchanting legends of the Gypsies live on, the reality of their hardships is devastatingly forgotten.