Stringing my Life Together: Purishpa takini, takishpa purini.

Los Gitanos – A bit of a background…
2007/03/29, 04:38
Filed under: Global Music Ed

As I am reading about the history of los gitanos, I’m realizing how cool it is that so many studies can connect with each other!
For example…I chose to study flamenco and mariachi not knowing too much about either and specifically because I wanted to research more about my heritage and tie in my study abroad experience. Then, I realize that some of the metric characteristics are similar (with something sometimes referred to as sesquiáltera or a hemiola type of feel).
Now, I’m reading about los gitanos and how they are a group of people who originally migrated from [Northern, most likely] India…the connection being our focus of [South] Indian music in Global Music Education.

Some basic facts I gathered after reading 26+ pages of articles from Spanish newspapers and internet articles…

* Gitanos in Spain supposedly live better than other countries, especially in the last 30 years, but gitanas (gypsy women) have a life expectancy 7 years shorter than gitanos (gypsy men). [Bustamente, J.M. 1998, Ellas Mueren Antes]
* EXTREME POVERTY: 21.9% of gitano population, 4.4% of Spaniards. [Bustamente, 1998]
* ILLITERACY among poor: 25.7% of gitano population in poverty, vs. 8.9% of Spaniards (sometimes referred to as payos). [Bustamente, 1998] (Although another source stated about 75% are illiterate…[Muñoz,1997, Vivir como Gitanos)
* LANGUAGE: Calé or Romaní …related to Sanskrit. [Bustamente, 1998]
* POPULATION & DEMOGRAPHICS: Romania has the highest population, with Spain as the second largest population of gitanos. In Spain, less than 200 attend University (well, in the late 1990s). Appr. 50% are under the age of 16 years old. [Bustamente, 1998].
40% of the Spanish gitanos live in the southern state of Andalucía, with the rest distributed between large cities, such as Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Barcelona, and Zaragoza. There are an estimated amount of 500,000 gitanos in Spain. [Muñoz, 1997]
* SPANISH SCHOOLING: Most school-aged gypsies are enrolled in Spaniard schools, but by the ages of 12 years old and older, there are significant rates of absences and dropouts. Only about 30% finish the traditional years of schooling. [Muñoz, 1997].
In the Vivir Como Gitanos article, the author writes that “The family functions as education, work, and social experiences. It is the school where they acquire culture, work, and fun.” (a rough translation by me!). I felt this was important to note because the values of what is learned in life I think are different and from my understanding one shouldn’t judge the intelligences, work ethics, desires, ambitions, or lifestyles of the gitanos based on the enrollment and success in schools run by Spaniards/Payos.

In the Bustamente/Carmona/Marin article, (1998), they discuss that there are three basic principles for gitano society: Purity, Separation, and Hierarchy. Something that some view as conflicting with the “democratic” society of Spain and Europe.
From my understanding, it’s a society within a society that has a different set of ideas of how a society should work, strongly linked to the nomadic nature of the culture…the gitano society not relying on the borders as much as nations as we know them. Bustamente wrote in the article that, what could be more like the gypsy life than the internet? It is without borders. Pretty cool analogy.

Below are some pictures of some examples of living situations where the marginalized gitanos reside, usually in ghettos or slums (called suburbias…quite different from the cognate suburb in English!) outside of the cities. I would see these, for example, just outside of Granada. I did not take any pictures of myself because I felt it was wrong at the time to take them. They live in what are called chabolas or “shacks.”

However, not all gitanos are “marginal,” nor are they all like the ones who try to sell you “good luck” branches around touristy areas. One article (Vivir Como Gitanos) described three examples of gitano families…one who was “marginalized,” one who was middle-class, and one who was a family of artists (dancers, actors, etc.).

Barrio Marginal 2 Barrio Marginal


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