The Spanish company DIA, owner of the supermarket chain Minipreço recently announced the removal of any ceramic frogs at the entrance of its 530 stores in Portugal. The reason for his was the complaint of a customer, who sent photos to the newspapers of a frog at the entrance of a Minipreço branch in Várzeas, in the Leiria district.
The racist practice of Portuguese shopkeepers to use bright green ceramic frogs at the entrance of shops and restaurants is to scare away Roma, who consider frogs symbols of evil and bad luck. ‘I know that the Portuguese law forbids discrimination, but I’ am not forced to put up with people who steal and cause trouble’, admits an anonymous vendor from Porto.
Roma communities arrived in Portugal in the 15th century but were only accepted as citizens in 1822. Persecuted for centuries and subjected to repressive laws, they are discriminated in employment, education and housing.
‘Most Roma live below the poverty line and are not properly informed about their rights. There is a lot of resignation: many Roma don’t complain because they don’t think complaining will change anything’, says Marta Pereira, activist and SOS racism member (www.sosracismo.pt)
According to a report published last year by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, xenophobia and racism are prevalent in Portugal, in particular, aimed at gypsies and blacks. ‘Portugal’s ‘racial colour-blindness makes it impossible to prove institutional racism’, Pereira states.
Although the country adopted in 2013 a National Strategy for the Integration of Roma Communities, successful measures against exclusion and discrimination have not been implemented. ‘The Roma continue to lack access to housing and jobs. The Government’s plan is simply not good enough to address the structural problems Roma’s face’, Pereira explains. ‘On top of that minorities are often blamed for their own marginalization.’
‘It’s so common in Portugal to insult Roma, that it is seen as something normal. What scares me most, is how normalized the prejudice is.’ ( Maria Gil, Roma actress )
Bom fim de semana Enjoy your weekend (pic Público/JEcon)