The Roma. In the past, they spoke their own language. They disregarded local law and national laws. They practiced suspicious professions - fortune tellers, dancers, fiddlers, horse traders, living a mysterious romantic lifestyle. They suffered centuries of persecution at the hands of those who found them strange, disturbing, and alien. But, paradoxically, the very societies that castigated gypsies, or the Roma as they prefer to be called, have also revered their special skills, and ascribed mysterious magical powers to them. Romantic to some, threatening to others, always seen from a distance by outsiders' eyes, the gypsy ways are largely hidden to us. But there is one place where insider and outsider meet, where we catch a true glimpse of the joy, the pain and the longing of the gypsy experience - in their music. Based on linguistic evidence (the similarity of the Romany language to Hindi, Panjabi, and related languages of Northern India) and anthropological evidence, body habitus and ABO blood group distributions closely approximating those of the warrior classes of northern India, there is now a clear consensus of opinion that the modern day Roma of the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and the Americas originated in Northwestern India. There is also a general consensus regarding the approximate timing of their emigration in the 11th century, or at least the bulk of it if you believe in more than one wave of emigration.
Spain, Romania, the British Isles, the US - gypsies live in all these places but most do not consider themselves to be OF these places. And that is another reason why they have not been better accepted. Many still speak their own language as well.
"Nostalgia is the essence of the gypsy song, and seems always to have been, but nostalgia for what? Nostos is the Greek word for a return home but the gypsies have no home. And perhaps uniquely among peoples, they have no dream of a homeland. To traditional gypsies history is not an important concept. The gypsy language, Romany has no written form, and few of the world's gypsies have acquired literacy in other languages. Knowledge of past events often does not extend beyond what the oldest gypsy in a community can recall."
Many East European gypsies knew nothing of their people's origins or even of their recent history. For example, most did not know that half a million gypsies had been killed in the Holocaust 50 years ago, nor were they particularly interested. Without history there is no happy past for the gypsy to fondly recall. Instead gypsy songs tell of present joys and of present sorrows. Their music is passionate blend of melancholy and independence, as in this song from Spain, "We the Gypsies, we were meant to be wanders, no one will change our ways..."
Even to this day the Roma are perhaps best known for their music and dance. Others point to a major wave of emigration taking place at the time of Muslim invasions of Northern India in the early 800's. Several further invasions during the 10th to 13th centuries resulted in subsequent emigrations.
Many attempts to summarize their appearances in Europe are available, most of which report them in Southeastern Europe sometime in the early 1300's, Central/Eastern Europe in the 1400's and in Western and Northern Europe later in the 1400's into the early 1500's. Since that time, their history is one of attempts at banishment, forced assimilation, persecution, deportation, slavery, and attempted extermination. As recently as the 1930's and 1940's, the Nazis of the Third Reich imprisoned and murdered on the order of 500,000 Roma. They continue to be victims of persecution, especially in the eastern European countries of the former Soviet bloc countries of that area.
Their story is not that much different from others who at one time were persecuted for their “differentness” or as representatives of countries with which we were at war. It happened to the Italian, the Germans, the Japanese, the Irish, the Chinese, and the Mexicans and other Latinos. However, because of their dispersal across Asia and Europe and even to North America, the story of the Roma is much more akin to that of the Jews who through their Diaspora, which in a more general sense is the dispersion of any religious or political sect after the conquest of its homeland. It apparently was the incursions of the Muslims in Northern India that led the Roma to disperse across several continents.
The dispersion of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking peoples across the world was more a case of the conqueror rather than the vanquished. The Spaniards and the Portuguese, of course, have long since abandoned their imperialist designs but their languages and cultures remain intact in all of Latin America as they intermarried with indigenous populations and only reluctantly gave up their colonial ambitions there.
Some now see a parallel between the dispersion of the Roma and the Jews the new “reconquistas” in non-Latin North America. Yet, they come not as the vanquished in their own lands but as the new conquerors through their unarmed invasion of the North and its deadly consequences for American character, language, culture, society and sovereignty. They are not a group who has been forced from its homeland in a modern Diaspora. To the contrary, they have, in fact, forced Anglo and other Californians, Arizonans, Texans and New Mexican to leave through intimidation and other influences of a similar nature. The similarity between the Roma and illegal aliens from the South begins and ends with their disregard for local and national laws.