According to their own laws: how Spanish gypsies live

The whole life of a gypsy is a service to the gypsy law. But the culture of the gypsies is unwritten, so they pass their law from mouth to mouth and interpret it as God puts it on their souls. And he especially favors them, cheerful and reckless.

Indigenous people
Spanish gypsies

Gypsies are a traditionally wandering ethnic group of Indian origin. They live mainly in Europe, America and North Africa. In Spain, there are between 650,000 and 800,000 Gypsies. This is the most rooted national minority.

Arriving on the Iberian Peninsula at the beginning of the 15th century, they settled mainly in the territory of present-day Andalusia, Valencia, Madrid and Catalonia. Despite attempts at forced assimilation by the authorities, they retained their identity, although they practically lost the gypsy language Kalo. The development of the art of flamenco is considered a significant contribution of the Spanish gypsies to world culture.

By your own laws: how Spanish gypsies live

According to their own laws: how Spanish gypsies live

Enrique Gabarri Pisa

Pure-blooded gypsy from the Caféteros clan (Cafeteros – “coffee lovers”). Born in 1976. He is married and has four children and three grandchildren. He lives with his family in Madrid in a two-story house that he built on self-claimed land in a vacant lot. No specific occupation.

People in Spain, and throughout the world, are divided into gypsies and payos, non-gypsies. We drove somehow with my son in a car, it was raining. Nevertheless, the football team trained at the stadium. The son asked: “Dad, why are they training in this weather?” And I answered: “Because they are not gypsies, son, they are payo.” “What's the difference, dad?” “In bad weather, the payo will shiver from the cold, and the gypsy will find a couple of thicker branches and light a fire.” Payo suffers, gypsies – never.

Gypsy laws are very pure and deep. They penetrate into the soul. We hate injustice, hunger, we always help the suffering, we empathize in grief. Children learn this by looking at their parents. We do not use swear words, unlike payo. Our children don't swear, they curse. My granddaughter will not say “fool” to the offender, she will say: “Let trouble come to your house.” People are afraid because our curses have always come true. We don't believe that now: we are evangelists. But according to tradition, we curse.

The land on which my house stands, I seized illegally. Well, how illegal? For us, the law of payo does not exist. I settled in a wasteland, gradually lined up, fenced the yard. They came from the council, they say: illegal, pay a fine. I say: “A fine is such a fine, but you can only take old tires from me.”

According to their own laws: how the Spanish gypsies live

If they send the police to me, I will sit in the house with a gun. We don't want to harm anyone. The gun is to intimidate. They only understand when we're angry. But we get angry and immediately forget, and payo keeps everything in himself and then gives you a life sentence. Since you are a gypsy, it means that you are a thief and a swindler.

According to their own laws: how the Spanish gypsies live

Payo invented many laws, all of them against gypsies. If I want a job, I have to hide my origin. As soon as I admit that I am a gypsy, even today, in the 21st century, they will refuse me. I do not renounce my roots, but I cannot refuse bread to my children. They ask me: “Are you a gypsy?” I say “No”. And I get a job.

I work whoever I want, where I want, when I want. Our clan used to deal with horses, and now more and more cars. Successfully resold a couple of cars & nbsp; – you rest all week. We don't have the opportunities that payo has. If there were – I might be a deputy.

Something, of course, has changed in the seven centuries that we live in Spain. We are now welcome in banks and shops. The clerks know that according to our law, paying the required price is sacred. Gypsy pays in cash and immediately. No loans, installments, bills. If we come to a car dealership, the manager throws a payo and comes to us. I like the car, I ask: “How much?” – “So much.” I say: “Wrap it up, I'll take it.”

We also choose a wife. I liked the girl & nbsp; – the elders go to woo her. We can’t come to the family, as is customary with payo, and say: “Dear, I invite your daughter to a disco.” Then they have a crazy night, and then he disappears forever. We don't have. If you want my daughter, marry her.

According to their own laws: how Spanish gypsies live

I fell in love with my future wife when I was 16 and she was 13. We were married according to gypsy law. It's much better to get married while you don't know life yet. Until the payo society spoiled you with their discos, drugs, promiscuity.

Our law does not recognize premarital relationships and does not favor marriages with payo. Previously, marriages were arranged by arrangement, like in royal families, so that blood would be preserved. It is absolutely normal for us when cousins ​​get married. My wife is not from my clan, but she is a full-blooded gypsy. Although, of course, times are changing. If suddenly my youngest daughter, who is nine years old, says tomorrow that she wants to marry payo, I probably won’t be able to forbid her. Although I'm very upset.

According to their own laws: how the Spanish gypsies live

My eldest daughter is 17 years old, she is married and has two children. When the first one was born, I went to school to write a paper that my daughter would no longer study, because she needed to take care of the child. The director, the police, social services swore at me: so, they say, it’s impossible, she must study. I said, “Look, I gave my daughter a choice: study, get a driver's license, work, but she chose marriage. So let's respect her choice!”

The daughter, as is customary, lives with her husband's family. When his parents came to woo, I did not know if they were telling the truth that my daughter and their son love each other. So I called my daughter and asked her. She said it was true. In such cases, we always start having fun, tables are laid, everyone drinks, eats, sings. At parting, they agree when the wedding will be celebrated.

According to their own laws: how the Spanish gypsies live

At a wedding, the highlight is the “handkerchief check.” It is made by an old gypsy – “connecting”. She checks if the bride is virgin by inserting a handkerchief into her vagina – a white, embroidered satin handkerchief so that it does not hurt. And the girl gives away her purity: “roses” remain on the scarf. My wife gave me three “roses”. It is an honor. I still get goosebumps when I talk about it.

The greatest wealth for a gypsy is a family. The best place in the house is for our elders, because wisdom is transmitted to us from the elderly. It is very important to sit down at the table together every day. My eldest son once said to me: “Dad, I want to live separately.” I didn't allow it. The father's word is law.

Women play an important role in the family. We are a quick-tempered people, fighters by nature. The intervention of a woman more than once kept us from many stupid things, from quarrels in which there may be wounded and dead.

Gypsy law says: you can not forgive an insult. Gypsies can kill for slander. It's like the Wild West. We must treat each other very politely: hello, goodbye … As soon as someone does or says something ugly, trouble can begin. Because everyone has a weapon. And everyone knows it. For example, I am a peaceful person, but my nephew is very warlike. Therefore, we must all respect each other.

According to their own laws: how the Spanish gypsies live

If a problem arises between the clans that threatens with serious consequences, a council of elders is convened. These are the wisest gypsies, with an unsullied reputation. They fix problems. The council's decision is law. Whoever does not obey the decisions of the council is no longer a gypsy.

Our law comes from God, it applies only to gypsies. If a payo makes a mistake, we show indulgence, because he does it out of ignorance. We say: “He did badly, but don't be mad at him, he's payo.”

Gypsies have always been illiterate, and until the truth was revealed to us, we were Catholics for many centuries. But for 40 years we have been evangelists. We now know that one of the seven tribes liberated by Moses—the one that was lost in the wilderness—is the gypsy.

According to their own laws: how the Spanish gypsies live

We go to church every day because we sin every day. Any house can serve as a church for us: a room and a few benches are enough. We have a pastor, a gypsy, he reads sermons, establishes fasts, funerals for the dead.

Death is very hard for us. We observe mourning for a long time, depending on the degree of kinship. All this time you can’t rejoice, watch TV, listen to the radio – in general, you can’t do anything that would distract from grief. For example, there is mourning in the house, and a woman gnaws seeds – this is not good, disrespectful.

By their own laws: how the Spanish gypsies live

When the mourning ends, we sing flamenco. Spanish gypsies are very emotional, and flamenco is pure feeling. We all know something about music. Payo won't sing like that, no matter how hard he pushes. Payo has no duende (duende – “Enthusiasm, drive”), payo – dull, faded, and we are cheerful, spirited. At least we sing, at least we joke, at least something. What to expect from Payo, who invented the atomic bomb. Tell a gypsy: invent an atomic bomb to kill people – he will say: I will not invent!

We are Spaniards, we have no other choice, we have Spanish passports. But if I could be born a hundred more times, I would like to be born a hundred times a gypsy. We are born free, we live free and we die free. We serve only gypsy law. There are, of course, now more liberal gypsies who do not observe it so strictly. Do you know what we call them? Payo!

By their own laws: how the Spanish gypsies live


Area 505,992 km² (51st in the world)
Population ~ 47,300,000 people (30th place)
Population density 92 people/km²

ATTRACTIONSthe gypsy caves of Sacromonte in Granada, the gypsy district of Triana in Seville, the Church of Our Lady of Carmel in Madrid (the seat of the Catholic Brotherhood of the Gypsies). /em>- “rags”) – scraps of dough stewed in tomato with dried cod.
TRADITIONAL DRINKS coffee from pot (café del puchero), gypsy sangria with sparkling wine and strawberries.
SOUVENIRSgypsy cane (vara gitana) with leather weaving, leather key rings, belts, jewelry.

DISTANCEfrom Moscow to Madrid ~ 3450 km (from 4 hours 45 minutes in flight)
TIMEbehind Moscow by 2 hours in winter, 1 hour in summer


Material l published in the magazine “Vokrug sveta” No. 12, December 2018, partially updated in April 2022

Anna Papchenko

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