Travellers: an unknown subculture

lucie guegan

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Unfortunately, their reputation precedes them. Often regarded or labelled as being thief, deceitful, crook, swindler, and whatnot. But, are we really interested about them? Do we know who are they? What are their beliefs? What is their culture? What is their History?

Quartier gitan - Perpignan by Ivan Constantin.
Quartier gitan in Perpignan by Ivan Constantin.

For Pope Paul V, “Gypsies are eternal pilgrims on the roads of the world”. The Pope pronounced this world in 1965, when he invited all travelers to celebrate his 68-birthday.

Even if the name “Gypsy” is generally given to the entire travelers (nomadic people) from Tzigane origin, the “real” gypsy belongs only to a single group. For a long time, Spain was the country of preference. They have Spanish-sounding name and their culture and their dialect kept a track. Unfortunately Kalò (gypsy dialect) is going to disappear. Gypsies claim to be Catalans or Andalusian. This membership is made according to the place of their region of origin. They are dozens of thousand people to live in the South of France, mainly in Montpellier. Some of them are settled for several years, even several generations.

During all the Middle Ages, they remained faithful to the famous Pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela.Nowadays, more than ever, the Pilgrimage is the religious essential act of Gypsies. The bad reception, which is sometimes reserved for them in other churches, makes them feel foreign. It is the reason why they prefer to stay together.During the Pilgrimage of May, they teach the catechism in caravans and many internal conversions are made in the secret of hearts. Also, a lot of Gypsies take advantage of this family gathering to make baptize their children, in the church of Saintes Maries de la Mer.

Manouche play guitar.
Manouche play guitar by Serge klk

Mainly settled in France, Italy and Germany, “Manouche”, which are named Sintès as well, is the second group of Tzigane travelers. They passed in transit by the German-speaking regions. They represent 5 % of the European travelers.

Traditionally, a very strict law settles the Sinte’s life. The oldest of every family carry leader’s role and the former have a very important and recognized weight. The virginity until the marriage is also very important and it is part of the custom. Moreover, certain standards of cleanliness are also stemming from religious rites of their Indian origin, applied by the birth up to the death.

During the Second War World, Sinté and Roma have undergone the fury of the Nazis. In 1935, the laws of Nuremberg forbid them the participation the elections, as well as the marriage and the sexual relations with Aryans. The Nazi “scientists” labels Manouche as “antisocial and lazy”. From 1938, approximately 85 % of the population of Sinté was deported in camps of work or concentration, a minority of which only survived. 130 000 Sinté living in 1939 in the German Empire, there stayed 50 000 in the German Republic there of the 1990s.

Romany People by Alain
Romany People by Alain

Since a few years, French people saw to set up in the French streets more and more Romany. Today, it might have between 15,000 and 20,000 Roma in this country, among which 85% are citizens of the European Union. Especially from Bulgaria or Romania.                                                                             It should be noted that neither Manouche nor Gypsies do accept to mixed them up with Romany.

Romany people are native of Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovakia, Serbia and Hungary. Their arrival in France was made in several migratory waves: at first after the Second World War, then in the 1970s and finally from 1990s. The name Romany was chosen by the Union Romani International in 1971 to indicate all the populations concerned for purposes of simplification. The European Union and the Council of Europe afterward took back officially this term. According to a historical-legendary narrative, dates from the middle of the 10th century, report that the Romany people would come from the northwest of India and then emigrated into Europe and on the American continent. Most ethnologists in Brahmanical India are agreeing with the Indian Hypothesis. During the Second World War, they also have undergone the fury of the Nazis. They were transported in death camps, as well.

 In France, the subject of Travellers has been controversial for the executive power and they make many newspapers headline due to their scandal.

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lucie guegan