Culture and traditions

The gypsy ethnic group, its main characteristics and other curiosities

The term Gypsy It refers to an ethnic group from the Indian subcontinent who emigrated to various parts of the world several centuries ago. Currently, gypsies are the largest ethnic minority distributed throughout the European Union, as well as in other countries of the world such as Colombia, Venezuela or Argentina. The gypsy people have an official language and an international day.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Brief history

The word Gypsy derives from the term egyptian, which dates from the fifteenth century, when it was believed that the Roma people descended from the Egyptians. In fact, at this time they used to present themselves as "Egyptian nobles" upon their arrival in Europe and, back in 1425, they requested a safe-conduct from King John II of Aragon in which they called themselves "counts of Lesser Egypt."

It is not clear today what is the exact origin of this ethnic group, although several linguistic and genetic analyzes have shown that they could come from the region of Panyab and areas bordering on Pakistan.

Several anthropological studies estimate that the first migrations of the Roma people took place there in the eleventh century, when they began an exodus to the west of the West. In this period, the first settlements are recorded in northern Persia.

However, several linguistic data demonstrate a subsequent displacement to Asia Minor during the fourteenth century and a new exodus in subsequent years to the west and south. In this way, while a part of the gypsy people went into Central Europe, other groups moved to North Africa.

Map of the countries of Central Europe

It is believed that the gypsies settled in Europe during the first years of the fifteenth century and around 1415 in Spain, where they gradually dispersed throughout the country. In addition to the denomination gypsiesThey have also received other denominations throughout history depending on their place of residence, such as Roma, zingaros, rom or without you.

During these years, the relationship between the gypsies and the Spanish society of the time was positive, although everything began to change from the arrival of the Catholic kings to the throne in 1469 due to the search for cultural homogeneity in Spain. At this time, the authorities imposed on the gypsies a period of two months to find a fixed address, abandon their dress and adopt a trade.

Already entered the eighteenth century, the Roma continued to live a serious situation of persecution, due not only to the discriminatory laws of the country, but also to their itinerant condition and sense of freedom.

Therefore, in the nineteenth century there was a second mass migration of the Roma people to other countries in Europe and America, taking advantage of European expeditions to the new continent. Throughout the twentieth century and especially during the Second World War, the gypsies were severely persecuted and even exterminated.

Culture and customs

Gypsies have always maintained a series of characteristic identity traits and their own gypsy customs largely related to a partially nomadic lifestyle, although nonetheless there is no universal homogeneity.

It is worth highlighting the Indian heritage of the gypsy people; according to several studies, the ancestors of the gypsies could have belonged to the caste Sun, currently based in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Indian heritage of the gypsy people

One of the aspects that most attracts the attention of the gypsy people is the obedience to the so-called gypsy law, imposed by a council of elders, as well as respect for their God, who is legitimate.

The family It is undoubtedly the most important value for every gypsy, so young couples usually get married soon and give rise to a large family. It is preferred that men be born, since the greater the number, the more power for the family according to their common beliefs.

Death is another of the most important aspects in the lives of gypsies. When a gypsy dies, the rest must not only respect the deceased, but also their affected relatives. Respect for the pain of the individual is one of the main obligations set by gypsy law.

Also, gypsies are a very religious community in general terms, although nevertheless each community in the world professes a different religion. Thus, for example, while in Spain a general preference for Catholicism predominates, in other countries there are Orthodox gypsies, Protestants and even Muslims.

Gypsies are also strongly linked to art in general and music and dance in particular. Although the features that characterize gypsy music are reminiscent of the sounds of India and other countries such as Greece, Iran and Turkey, the most popular style today is the Flemish, heard mainly in Spain, specifically in Andalusia.

Flamenco is at the same time a musical style and one of the typical dances of Spain, although today it has become popular in Guatemala, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Panama and other Latin American countries.

Flamenco dance and the gypsy community

Roma language

The Roma language is not a common language to all gypsy groups in the world, but rather a set of linguistic varieties of the ethnic group rom. The Roma or Roma belongs to the family of Indo-European languages and its origin dates back to several areas of northwestern ancient India and central Pakistan.

However, it is important to note that this language has been incorporating various words and expressions borrowed from the languages ​​spoken in the country where they reside. In total there are around 4.8 million speakers worldwide distributed among:

  • Germany
  • Bulgaria
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Finland
  • Hungary
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Norway
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
Indo-European gypsy migrations

Romani is considered a minority language by the Council of Europe, although it is nonetheless part of the international treaty European Charter for Minority or Regional Languages, which undertakes to ensure the protection of minority languages ​​of the European continent.

Even so, Roma does not have this protection in all the places where it is spoken. Examples are Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Spain, Estonia, France, Italy, Latvia, Russia, Switzerland, etc.

The standard language is known as common Roma, although there are several dialects. Thus, in the area of ​​the Balkans, specifically in Moldova and Valaquia, the dialect is spoken vlaj since during the fourteenth century the gypsies in these areas were enslaved and forced to use the Romanian language as a means of expression.

This is how this dialect emerged, which is nothing other than the result of a mixture between Romanian, Hungarian and Slavic. In Great Britain it is known as Anglo-Roma, while in Spain the slang.

Top photo by Noah Otero.

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