The Gypsy People
8th April, International Day of the Gypsy People
Many myths and legends surround the origins of the gypsy people, whose real name is Rhom or Sinti. This community has its origins in the Indian subcontinent although currently the majority of gypsies are in Europe. The International Day of the Gypsy People falls on the 8th of April in memory of that day in London in 1971 when gypsy activists met to hold the first International Meeting of the Gypsy People and established the gypsy flag and anthem.
There are very famous gypsies worldwide, especially singers and dancers, as well as politicians, writers, actors and sports people. Some of the best known personalities, amongst many others, are the singer Diego El Cigala, the dancer Joaquin Cortes, the musician Raimundo Amador, the actor Charles Chaplin and the footballer Carlos Munoz.
Juan de Dios Ramirez-Heredia is the president of the Union Romani, the federation of the various gypsy associations that currently defend the rights of the gypsy people in the State. The president mentions other famous personalities, like the painter and sculptor Picasso, who also had gypsy blood, a fact that is rarely mentioned.This secrecy is part of the racist system that persists in the world,” the president points out, “its not in their interests to highlight the fact that some celebrities are gypsies. Even if this would be a significant step towards people recognising gypsies as something more than a marginalised minority.”
Juan de Dios Ramirez-Heredia says that the gypsy population is not recognised in Spain despite a community with traditions that date back over 600 years. Currently gypsies are citizens who have all rights in Spain and the European Union, but despite improvements achieved in their standard of living, there are continue to be incidents when the state has to intervene to ensure that gypsies have equal rights as the rest of the citizens.
These days there are several organisations, such as Amnesty International, who have called for more involvement from Brussels as well as a European Union-wide strategy which would improve the integration of gypsies in society. The Anti-Racism Network, the European Information Office for Gypsies or the European Centre for Gypsy Rights are fighting for certain issues such as equal access to education, health and housing.
For quite a few years now, the International Day of the Gypsy People has become a famous event, as seen by the number of celebrations and publicity by national and international institutions alike. One of these is the River Ceremony, where women throw flower petals into river and men light candles in memory of their ancestors.
For more information:
Fundación Secretariado Gitano: www.gitanos.org