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The Gypsies – The Roma
We call them Gypsies, a largely nomadic ethnic group of people scattered today in the countries of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. His ancestors, known as Roma, lived in India more than a thousand years ago.
The name Gypsy applied to them was derived from the belief that they had come to their new countries from Egypt, a belief which they themselves often claimed to be fact. It may be that during their slow and gradual resettlement westward over the years of their homeland in India, their true place of origin was lost in their collective memory since they did not retain written records but depended on oral methods to record and transmit these details of their history. And it is a fact that a very large number actually settled in Egypt.
Some Roma say their ancestors were an ancient warrior class from the Punjab in India. The main Gypsy ancestors were probably from the Sindh area of Northern India which is now south-central Pakistan. The oldest inhabitants of that region are from the Indus Valley Civilization of 3000 BC where one of the first cities in the world, Mohenjo-Daro existed. Mohenjo-Daro was lost in the mists of time until its rediscovery in 1922. It is not known that the Roma descendants of those ancient peoples is not known.
DNA research in recent years has confirmed Northern India as the place of origin of the nearly ten million European Gypsies, linking them to a small population whose ancestors emigrated from there around 1000 years ago The Roma have been traced to that region since the 6th century AD and it is thought that their regular nomadic exodus from India was periodically accelerated, stimulated by the invasion of their homelands. In the last thousand years there have been possibly three waves of emigration and they continued their nomadic ways as they traveled west, settling in ancient Persia, Turkey, Greece and the rest of Europe, from the Balkans to Spain, to the north to Russia. and Finland and all the countries in between and also in North Africa from Egypt to Morocco.
Rather than being called gypsies, they prefer to be known more properly as Roma or Roma. The Roma have preserved their own language, known as Romani, a language that belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family of the North with roots of Sanskrit and Hindu origin. Inevitably, many Romanian dialects, even if they are linguistically related, gradually developed over time by incorporating words from the vocabularies of the countries in which they settled.
A life of persecution and discrimination
As newcomers and foreigners, they were regarded with suspicion, not welcomed in their new lands, for centuries they were outside, living usually on the outskirts of the communities. Partly because of their own way of life in choosing to remain separate from other groups and partly because some of their members have been involved, not infrequently, in the pursuit of illegal activities, almost all of them have acquired a bad reputation as they are not reliable, engaging. in theft, living off their wits, and generally considered undesirable to be part of the local community. However, persecuted and discriminated, even slaves in some cases, they were mistreated beyond reason in a way that human beings should not suffer such abuse and cruelty.
The persecution of Gypsies throughout history has resulted in many tens of thousands of deaths of a powerless and mostly poor people. In extreme events, such as in 18th century Spain, thousands are said to have died while being interred in forced labor camps by the king. Similarly, large numbers were enslaved in Romania, where it was reported that in 1848 a successful liberalization movement in the country freed as many as 200,000 Gypsy slaves.
Worst of all, however, was the Nazi holocaust when at least 200,000 Gypsies died, probably many more, perhaps 500,000 dead, many gassed in Auschwitz. Unlike the carefully collected records of Jewish victims, accurate Holocaust statistics for Gypsies do not exist or are not available to tell the story of the great extermination of European Gypsies.
Indira Gandhi sums it up
Referring to their sad past in an address to a Roma meeting in 1983, Indira Gandhi, former prime minister of India, summed it up by saying: “There are about 15 million Roma scattered around the world. Their history is one of suffering and poverty.”. But he continued, adding a more optimistic note saying: “If they are understood by their fellow citizens in their new homeland, their culture will enrich the atmosphere of society with the color and charm of spontaneity.”
That enrichment has already occurred through Gypsy contributions to music and art where they have influenced the music and dances of their adopted countries in many ways, from the guitar music of Jean “Django” Reinhardt to the virtuosity of the violin by Roby Lakatos, a direct descendant in the legendary Hungarian Gypsy violin dynasty of Janos Bihari. And in the art of dance there are the flamenco dances of Spain and the oriental dances of the Ghawazee in Egypt.
And the gypsy character has inspired poets, composers and playwrights, for example:
Carmen by Bizet, the beautiful gypsy with a fiery temper, a central character in the work of this name.
And Shakespeare too?
In the book entitled “The Foreign Woman in British Literature: Exotics, Foreigners and Foreigners” by Marilyn Button and Toni Reed, published by Praeger Press, November 1999, reference is made to William Shakespeare and his fellow Elizabethan playwrights, Ben Jonson and Thomas Dekker, who mentions gypsies in his works. Jonson’s and Dekker’s reference to gypsies are of an unpleasant nature, while perhaps Shakespeare, typically, seem a little less so – so I like to think.
The authors say “Shakespeare is thought to have been personally familiar with them [the gypsies] and he modeled his Cleopatra after gypsy women.” If this is so, for this case, the characteristics that Shakespeare attributes to Cleopatra do not really show her, if as a gypsy, in such a favorable light.
It is speculation, but one can also wonder if the dark woman of Shakespeare’s sonnets, whose identity has long been one of the great mysteries of English literature, could possibly be of gypsy origin.
Apparently autobiographical, the sonnets tell of his pleasure and despair in a passionate affair with a woman of appearance so different from that of the accepted view of beauty for the time, describing how his “mistress” is a dark-haired, dark and dark. dark eyes She is also dark in spirit and unfaithful, which he knows and still adores. In sonnet 138 he opens with:
When my love swears that it is made of truth
I believe her, even though I know she’s lying.
The image of the gypsy woman, dramatic, exotic, romantic, tempestuous, like Carmen, has almost become a cliché in literature today.
But in the past, the Roma themselves were not a very literate people, it was unlikely to record in writing the events of the day or any other matter of significance in their life and history in the way that was done in the majority part of the world. the rest of the civilized countries of the world.
However, there is, however, a large amount of literature available about this remarkable people. Today their ranks are important politicians, lawyers, journalists, and writers, musicians and others who claim that they, the Roma, are very misunderstood. Although it seems that little has changed for the majority of Gypsies, they are still mostly considered second class, often marginalized, and still persecuted in most of Europe to this day. But it must also be recognized that the gypsies have been accused of being at least partly responsible for an increase in crime in some countries, such as Italy, a country already known for its criminal associations. The reputation of gypsies is no better.
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