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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

But from whence the Gitanos have disappeared


As the Jews, during their pilgrimage in the Wilderness, were protected from their enemies by a cloud, so have the Gipsies, in their encrease and development, been shielded from theirs, by a mist of ignorance, which, it would seem, requires no little trouble to dispel.

Mr. Borrow has not sufficiently examined into Spanish Gipsyism to pass a reliable opinion upon it. He says: "One thing is certain, in the history of the Gitanos; that the sect flourished and encreased, so long as the law recommended and enjoined measures the most harsh and severe for its suppression. . . . The caste of the Gitanos still exists, but is neither so extensive, nor so formidable, as a century ago, when the law, in denouncing Gitanismo, proposed to the Gitanos the alternatives of death for persisting in their profession, or slavery for abandoning it." These are very singular alternatives. The latter is certainly not to be found in any of the Spanish laws quoted by Mr. Borrow. I am at a loss to perceive the point of his reasoning. There can be no difficulty in believing that Gipsies would rather _encrease_ in a state of peace, than if they were hunted from place to place, like wild beasts; and consequently, having renounced their former mode or life, they would, in Mr. Borrow's own words, "cease to play a distinct part in the history of Spain, and the _law_ would no longer speak of them as a distinct people." And the same might, to a certain extent, be said of the

Spanish _people_. Mr. Borrow again says: "That the Gitanos are not so numerous as in former times, witness those _barrios_, in various towns, still denominated _Gitanerias_, but from whence the Gitanos have disappeared, even like the Moors from the _Morerias_." But Mr. Borrow himself, in the same work, gives a good reason for the disappearance of the Gipsies from these _Gitanerias_; for he says: "The _Gitanerias_ were soon considered as public nuisances, on which account the Gitanos were forbidden to live together in particular parts of the town, to hold meetings, and even to intermarry with each other." If the disappearance of the Gipsies from Spain was like that of the Moors, it would appear that they had left, or been expelled from, the country; a theory which Mr. Borrow does not advance. The Gipsies, to a certain extent, may have left these barriers, or been expelled from them, and settled, as tradesmen, mechanics, and what not, in other parts of the same or other towns; so as to be in a position the more able to get on in the world. Still, many of them are in the colonies. In Cuba there are many, as soldiers and musicians, dealers in mules and red pepper, which businesses they almost monopolize, and jobbers and dealers in various wares; and doubtless there are some of them innkeepers, and others following other occupations. In Mexico there are not a few. I know of a Gitano who has a fine wholesale and retail cigar store in Virginia.[269]

[269] In Olmstead's "Journey in the Seaboard Slave States" it is stated, that in Alexandria, Louisiana, when under the Spanish rule, there were "French and Spanish, _Egyptians_ and Indians, Mulattoes and Negroes." This author reports a conversation which he had with a planter, by which it appears that these Egyptians came from "some of the Northern Islands;" that they spoke a language among themselves, but could talk French and Spanish too; that they were black, but not very black, and as good citizens as any, and passed for white folk. The planter believed they married mostly with mulattoes, and that a good many of the mulattoes had Egyptian blood in them too. He believed these Egyptians had disappeared since the State became part of the Union. Mr. Olmstead remarks: "The Egyptians were probably Spanish Gipsies, though I have never heard of any of them being in America in any other way."


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