Paint the grass the color you want, it will always be grass – Gypsy proverb
‘When other children discover that I am a gypsy, they start cursing and shouting that we are worth nothing’, says 11-year-old Lindinho Cambão. ‘But we are not really that bad.’
Prejudices about gypsies are very persistent. They are said to be stealing, begging, criminal and asocial.
Originating from Northern India, the Roma migrated some 500 years ago to the Iberian Peninsula where they are marginalized and discriminated ever since. In Nazi Germany, gypsies were exterminated in concentration camps, just as Jews and homosexuals.
‘If a gypsy takes a seat on the bus, his fellow passenger will anxiously hold his bag’, says Idália Serão, MP of the Socialist Party, whose grandfather was Roma. ‘Ethnic minorities – like gypsies and blacks – are excluded in our society and only become visible when problems occur.’ Parliament, university and media are overwhelmingly white.’
In Portugal, 80% of the estimated 50.000 Roma has no regular income and 60% lives on benefit. The youth is poorly educated. Only a third has completed primary school and 15% is illiterate (more girls than boys). Girls tend to marry very early– at the age of 13-15 years – and get their first baby on average at 19.
Housing is dramatic with 20-30% of the families living in precarious conditions. Neighbourhoods like Bairro das Murtas in the center of Lisbon – without water and electricity – and Bairro da Torre in Loures, on the outskirts of the capital, are famous in that respect.
An investigation by the FRA (Fundamental Rights Agency) amongst gypsies in Europe last year, revealed that nearly half of the Roma population in Portugal feels discriminated, most notably in the areas of public service, work, and healthcare.
Pedro Calado – High Commissioner for Migration – sees progress in the integration, albeit changes are slow. ‘Visits to crèches increase as well as women’s participation in literacy courses. More than 90% of the Roma families have a GP nowadays and the vaccination coverage in children is over 70%.’
Last year Leonor Teles, a 23-year-old Portuguese film director whose father is Roma, won with her Rhoma Acans ( Gypsy Eyes) in Berlin the Golden Bear Award for the best short film.
Bad people don’t sing – Gypsy proverb
BOM FIM DE SEMANA Have a great weekend