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The Zincali - An Account of the Gypsies of Spain by George Borrow

Part 3 out of 6

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kind of superstition.

'This is the opinion entertained of them universally, and which is
confirmed every day by experience; and some think that they are
caller Cingary, from the great Magian Cineus, from whom it is said
they learned their sorceries, and from which result in Spain
(especially amongst the vulgar) great errors, and superstitious
credulity, mighty witchcrafts, and heavy evils, both spiritual and

'Sixthly, because very devout men consider them as heretics, and
many as Gentile idolaters, or atheists, without any religion,
although they exteriorly accommodate themselves to the religion of
the country in which they wander, being Turks with the Turks,
heretics with the heretics, and, amongst the Christians, baptizing
now and then a child for form's sake. Friar Jayme Bleda produces a
hundred signs, from which he concludes that the Moriscos were not
Christians, all which are visible in the Gitanos; very few are
known to baptize their children; they are not married, but it is
believed that they keep the women in common; they do not use
dispensations, nor receive the sacraments; they pay no respect to
images, rosaries, bulls, neither do they hear mass, nor divine
services; they never enter the churches, nor observe fasts, Lent,
nor any ecclesiastical precept; which enormities have been attested
by long experience, as every person says.

'Finally, they practise every kind of wickedness in safety, by
discoursing amongst themselves in a language with which they
understand each other without being understood, which in Spain is
called Gerigonza, which, as some think, ought to be called
Cingerionza, or language of Cingary. The king our lord saw the
evil of such a practice in the law which he enacted at Madrid, in
the year 1566, in which he forbade the Arabic to the Moriscos, as
the use of different languages amongst the natives of one kingdom
opens a door to treason, and is a source of heavy inconvenience;
and this is exemplified more in the case of the Gitanos than of any
other people.


'The civil law ordains that vagrants be seized wherever they are
found, without any favour being shown to them; in conformity with
which, the Gitanos in the Greek empire were given as slaves to
those who should capture them; as respectable authors write.
Moreover, the emperor, our lord, has decreed by a law made in
Toledo, in the year 1525, THAT THE THIRD TIME THEY BE FOUND
THOSE WHO CAPTURE THEM. Which can be easily justified, inasmuch as
there is no shepherd who does not place barriers against the
wolves, and does not endeavour to save his flock, and I have
already exposed to your Majesty the damage which the Gitanos
perpetrate in Spain.


'The reasons are many. The first, for being spies, and traitors to
the crown; the second as idlers and vagabonds.

'It ought always to be considered, that no sooner did the race of
man begin, after the creation of the world, than the important
point of civil policy arose of condemning vagrants to death; for
Cain was certain that he should meet his destruction in wandering
as a vagabond for the murder of Abel. ERO VAGUS ET PROFUGUS IN
stands here as the natural consequence of VAGUS ERO; as it is
evident, that whoever shall see me must kill me, because he sees me
a wanderer. And it must always be remembered, that at that time
there were no people in the world but the parents and brothers of
Cain, as St. Ambrose has remarked. Moreover, God, by the mouth of
Jeremias, menaced his people, that all should devour them whilst
they went wandering amongst the mountains. And it is a doctrine
entertained by theologians, that the mere act of wandering, without
anything else, carries with it a vehement suspicion of capital
crime. Nature herself demonstrates it in the curious political
system of the bees, in whose well-governed republic the drones are
killed in April, when they commence working.

'The third, because they are stealers of four-footed beasts, who
are condemned to death by the laws of Spain, in the wise code of
the famous King Don Alonso; which enactment became a part of the
common law.

'The fourth, for wizards, diviners, and for practising arts which
are prohibited under pain of death by the divine law itself. And
Saul is praised for having caused this law to be put in execution
in the beginning of his reign; and the Holy Scripture attributes to
the breach of it (namely, his consulting the witch) his disastrous
death, and the transfer of the kingdom to David. The Emperor
Constantine the Great, and other emperors who founded the civil
law, condemned to death those who should practise such
facinorousness, - as the President of Tolosa has written.

'The last and most urgent cause is, that they are heretics, if what
is said be truth; and it is the practice of the law in Spain to
burn such.


'Firstly, they are comprehended as hale beggars in the law of the
wise king, Don Alonso, by which he expelled all sturdy beggars, as
being idle and useless.

'Secondly, the law expels public harlots from the city; and of this
matter I have already said something in my second chapter.

'Thirdly, as people who cause scandal, and who, as is visible at
the first glance, are prejudicial to morals and common decency.
Now, it is established by the statute law of these kingdoms, that
such people be expelled therefrom; it is said so in the well-
pondered words of the edict for the expulsion of the Moors: "And
forasmuch as the sense of good and Christian government makes it a
matter of conscience to expel from the kingdoms the things which
cause scandal, injury to honest subjects, danger to the state, and
above all, disloyalty to the Lord our God." Therefore, considering
the incorrigibility of the Gitanos, the Spanish kings made many
holy laws in order to deliver their subjects from such pernicious

'Fourthly, the Catholic princes, Ferdinand and Isabella, by a law
which they made in Medina del Campo, in the year 1494, and which
the emperor our lord renewed in Toledo in 1523, and in Madrid in
1528 and 1534, and the late king our lord, in 1560, banished them
perpetually from Spain, and gave them as slaves to whomsoever
should find them, after the expiration of the term specified in the
edict - laws which are notorious even amongst strangers. The words
are:- "We declare to be vagabonds, and subject to the aforesaid
penalty, the Egyptians and foreign tinkers, who by laws and
statutes of these kingdoms are commanded to depart therefrom; and
the poor sturdy beggars, who contrary to the order given in the new
edict, beg for alms and wander about."


All the doctors, who are of opinion that the Gitanos may be
condemned to death, would consider it as an act of mercy in your
Majesty to banish them perpetually from Spain, and at the same time
as exceedingly just. Many and learned men not only consider that
it is just to expel them, but cannot sufficiently wonder that they
are tolerated in Christian states, and even consider that such
toleration is an insult to the kingdoms.

'Whilst engaged in writing this, I have seen a very learned
memorial, in which Doctor Salazar de Mendoza makes the same
supplication to your Majesty which is made in this discourse,
holding it to be the imperious duty of every good government.

'It stands in reason that the prince is bound to watch for the
welfare of his subjects, and the wrongs which those of your Majesty
receive from the Gitanos I have already exposed in my second
chapter; it being a point worthy of great consideration that the
wrongs caused by the Moriscos moved your royal and merciful bosom
to drive them out, although they were many, and their departure
would be felt as a loss to the population, the commerce, the royal
revenues, and agriculture. Now, with respect to the Gitanos, as
they are few, and perfectly useless for everything, it appears more
necessary to drive them forth, the injuries which they cause being
so numerous.

'Secondly, because the Gitanos, as I have already said, are
Spaniards; and as others profess the sacred orders of religion,
even so do these fellows profess gypsying, which is robbery and all
the other vices enumerated in chapter the second. And whereas it
is just to banish from the kingdom those who have committed any
heavy delinquency, it is still more so to banish those who profess
to be injurious to all.

'Thirdly, because all the kings and rulers have always endeavoured
to eject from their kingdoms the idle and useless. And it is very
remarkable, that the law invariably commands them to be expelled,
and the republics of Athens and Corinth were accustomed to do so -
casting them forth like dung, even as Athenaeus writes: NOS GENUS
profession of the Gypsy is idleness.

'Fourthly, because the Gitanos are diviners, enchanters, and
mischievous wretches, and the law commands us to expel such from
the state.

'In the fifth place, because your Majesty, in the Cortes at present
assembled, has obliged your royal conscience to fulfil all the
articles voted for the public service, and the forty-ninth says:
"One of the things at present most necessary to be done in these
kingdoms, is to afford a remedy for the robberies, plundering and
murders committed by the Gitanos, who go wandering about the
country, stealing the cattle of the poor, and committing a thousand
outrages, living without any fear of God, and being Christians only
in name. It is therefore deemed expedient, that your Majesty
command them to quit these kingdoms within six months, to be
reckoned from the day of the ratification of these presents, and
that they do not return to the same under pain of death."

'Against this, two things may possibly be urged:-

'The first, that the laws of Spain give unto the Gitanos the
alternative of residing in large towns, which, it appears, would be
better than expelling them. But experience, recognised by grave
and respectable men, has shown that it is not well to harbour these
people; for their houses are dens of thieves, from whence they
prowl abroad to rob the land.

'The second, that it appears a pity to banish the women and
children. But to this can be opposed that holy act of your Majesty
which expelled the Moriscos, and the children of the Moriscos, for
the reason given in the royal edict. WHENEVER ANY DETESTABLE CRIME
most detestable crimes of all are those which the Gitanos commit,
since it is notorious that they subsist on what they steal; and as
to the children, there is no law which obliges us to bring up wolf-
whelps, to cause here-after certain damage to the flock.


'Every one who considers the manner of your Majesty's government as
the truly Christian pattern must entertain fervent hope that the
advice proffered in this discourse will be attended to; more
especially on reflecting that not only the good, but even the most
barbarous kings have acted up to it in their respective dominions.

'Pharaoh was bad enough, nevertheless he judged that the children
of Israel were dangerous to the state, because they appeared to him
to be living without any certain occupation; and for this very
reason the Chaldeans cast them out of Babylon. Amasis, king of
Egypt, drove all the vagrants from his kingdom, forbidding them to
return under pain of death. The Soldan of Egypt expelled the
Torlaquis. The Moors did the same; and Bajazet cast them out of
all the Ottoman empire, according to Leo Clavius.

'In the second place, the Christian princes have deemed it an
important measure of state.

'The emperor our Lord, in the German Diets of the year 1548,
expelled the Gitanos from all his empire, and these were the words
of the decree: "Zigeuner quos compertum est proditores esse, et
exploratores hostium nusquam in imperio locum inveniunto. In
deprehensos vis et injuria sine fraude esto. Fides publica
Zigeuners ne dator, nec data servator."

'The King of France, Francis, expelled them from thence; and the
Duke of Terranova, when Governor of Milan for our lord the king,
obliged them to depart from that territory under pain of death.

'Thirdly, there is one grand reason which ought to be conclusive in
moving him who so much values himself in being a faithful son of
the church, - I mean the example which Pope Pius the Fifth gave to
all the princes; for he drove the Gitanos from all his domains, and
in the year 1568, he expelled the Jews, assigning as reasons for
their expulsion those which are more closely applicable to the
Gitanos; - namely, that they sucked the vitals of the state,
without being of any utility whatever; that they were thieves
themselves, and harbourers of others; that they were wizards,
diviners, and wretches who induced people to believe that they knew
the future, which is what the Gitanos at present do by telling

'Your Majesty has already freed us from greater and more dangerous
enemies; finish, therefore, the enterprise begun, whence will
result universal joy and security, and by which your Majesty will
earn immortal honour. Amen.

'O Regum summe, horum plura ne temnas (absit) ne forte tempsisse
Hispaniae periculosum existat.'


PERHAPS there is no country in which more laws have been framed,
having in view the extinction and suppression of the Gypsy name,
race, and manner of life, than Spain. Every monarch, during a
period of three hundred years, appears at his accession to the
throne to have considered that one of his first and most imperative
duties consisted in suppressing or checking the robberies, frauds,
and other enormities of the Gitanos, with which the whole country
seems to have resounded since the time of their first appearance.

They have, by royal edicts, been repeatedly banished from Spain,
under terrible penalties, unless they renounced their inveterate
habits; and for the purpose of eventually confounding them with the
residue of the population, they have been forbidden, even when
stationary, to reside together, every family being enjoined to live
apart, and neither to seek nor to hold communication with others of
the race.

We shall say nothing at present as to the wisdom which dictated
these provisions, nor whether others might not have been devised,
better calculated to produce the end desired. Certain it is, that
the laws were never, or very imperfectly, put in force, and for
reasons with which their expediency or equity (which no one at the
time impugned) had no connection whatever.

It is true that, in a country like Spain, abounding in wildernesses
and almost inaccessible mountains, the task of hunting down and
exterminating or banishing the roving bands would have been found
one of no slight difficulty, even if such had ever been attempted;
but it must be remembered, that from an early period colonies of
Gitanos have existed in the principal towns of Spain, where the men
have plied the trades of jockeys and blacksmiths, and the women
subsisted by divination, and all kinds of fraud. These colonies
were, of course, always within the reach of the hand of justice,
yet it does not appear that they were more interfered with than the
roving and independent bands, and that any serious attempts were
made to break them up, though notorious as nurseries and refuges of

It is a lamentable fact, that pure and uncorrupt justice has never
existed in Spain, as far at least as record will allow us to judge;
not that the principles of justice have been less understood there
than in other countries, but because the entire system of
justiciary administration has ever been shamelessly profligate and

Spanish justice has invariably been a mockery, a thing to be bought
and sold, terrible only to the feeble and innocent, and an
instrument of cruelty and avarice.

The tremendous satires of Le Sage upon Spanish corregidors and
alguazils are true, even at the present day, and the most notorious
offenders can generally escape, if able to administer sufficient
bribes to the ministers (40) of what is misnamed justice.

The reader, whilst perusing the following extracts from the laws
framed against the Gitanos, will be filled with wonder that the
Gypsy sect still exists in Spain, contrary to the declared will of
the sovereign and the nation, so often repeated during a period of
three hundred years; yet such is the fact, and it can only be
accounted for on the ground of corruption.

It was notorious that the Gitanos had powerful friends and
favourers in every district, who sanctioned and encouraged them in
their Gypsy practices. These their fautors were of all ranks and
grades, from the corregidor of noble blood to the low and obscure
escribano; and from the viceroy of the province to the archer of
the Hermandad.

To the high and noble, they were known as Chalanes, and to the
plebeian functionaries, as people who, notwithstanding their
general poverty, could pay for protection.

A law was even enacted against these protectors of the Gitanos,
which of course failed, as the execution of the law was confided to
the very delinquents against whom it was directed. Thus, the
Gitano bought, sold, and exchanged animals openly, though he
subjected himself to the penalty of death by so doing, or left his
habitation when he thought fit, though such an act, by the law of
the land, was punishable with the galleys.

In one of their songs they have commemorated the impunity with
which they wandered about. The escribano, to whom the Gitanos of
the neighbourhood pay contribution, on a strange Gypsy being
brought before him, instantly orders him to be liberated, assigning
as a reason that he is no Gitano, but a legitimate Spaniard:-

'I left my house, and walked about
They seized me fast, and bound:
It is a Gypsy thief, they shout,
The Spaniards here have found.

'From out the prison me they led,
Before the scribe they brought;
It is no Gypsy thief, he said,
The Spaniards here have caught.'

In a word, nothing was to be gained by interfering with the
Gitanos, by those in whose hands the power was vested; but, on the
contrary, something was to be lost. The chief sufferers were the
labourers, and they had no power to right themselves, though their
wrongs were universally admitted, and laws for their protection
continually being made, which their enemies contrived to set at
nought; as will presently be seen.

The first law issued against the Gypsies appears to have been that
of Ferdinand and Isabella, at Medina del Campo, in 1499. In this
edict they were commanded, under certain penalties, to become
stationary in towns and villages, and to provide themselves with
masters whom they might serve for their maintenance, or in default
thereof, to quit the kingdom at the end of sixty days. No mention
is made of the country to which they were expected to betake
themselves in the event of their quitting Spain. Perhaps, as they
are called Egyptians, it was concluded that they would forthwith
return to Egypt; but the framers of the law never seem to have
considered what means these Egyptians possessed of transporting
their families and themselves across the sea to such a distance, or
if they betook themselves to other countries, what reception a host
of people, confessedly thieves and vagabonds, were likely to meet
with, or whether it was fair in the TWO CHRISTIAN PRINCES to get
rid of such a nuisance at the expense of their neighbours. Such
matters were of course left for the Gypsies themselves to settle.

In this edict, a class of individuals is mentioned in conjunction
with the Gitanos, or Gypsies, but distinguished from them by the
name of foreign tinkers, or Calderos estrangeros. By these, we
presume, were meant the Calabrians, who are still to be seen upon
the roads of Spain, wandering about from town to town, in much the
same way as the itinerant tinkers of England at the present day. A
man, half a savage, a haggard woman, who is generally a Spaniard, a
wretched child, and still more miserable donkey, compose the group;
the gains are of course exceedingly scanty, nevertheless this life,
seemingly so wretched, has its charms for these outcasts, who live
without care and anxiety, without a thought beyond the present
hour, and who sleep as sound in ruined posadas and ventas, or in
ravines amongst rocks and pines, as the proudest grandee in his
palace at Seville or Madrid.

Don Carlos and Donna Juanna, at Toledo, 1539, confirmed the edict
of Medina del Campo against the Egyptians, with the addition, that
if any Egyptian, after the expiration of the sixty days, should be
found wandering about, he should be sent to the galleys for six
years, if above the age of twenty and under that of fifty, and if
under or above those years, punished as the preceding law provides.

Philip the Second, at Madrid, 1586, after commanding that all the
laws and edicts be observed, by which the Gypsies are forbidden to
wander about, and commanded to establish themselves, ordains, with
the view of restraining their thievish and cheating practices, that
none of them be permitted to sell anything, either within or
without fairs or markets, if not provided with a testimony signed
by the notary public, to prove that they have a settled residence,
and where it may be; which testimony must also specify and describe
the horses, cattle, linen, and other things, which they carry forth
for sale; otherwise they are to be punished as thieves, and what
they attempt to sell considered as stolen property.

Philip the Third, at Belem, in Portugal, 1619, commands all the
Gypsies of the kingdom to quit the same within the term of six
months, and never to return, under pain of death; those who should
wish to remain are to establish themselves in cities, towns, and
villages, of one thousand families and upwards, and are not to be
allowed the use of the dress, name, and language of Gypsies, IN
are moreover forbidden, under the same penalty, to have anything to
do with the buying or selling of cattle, whether great or small.

The most curious portion of the above law is the passage in which
these people are declared not to be Gypsies by nation. If they are
not Gypsies, who are they then? Spaniards? If so, what right had
the King of Spain to send the refuse of his subjects abroad, to
corrupt other lands, over which he had no jurisdiction?

The Moors were sent back to Africa, under some colour of justice,
as they came originally from that part of the world; but what would
have been said to such a measure, if the edict which banished them
had declared that they were not Moors, but Spaniards?

The law, moreover, in stating that they are not Gypsies by nation,
seems to have forgotten that in that case it would be impossible to
distinguish them from other Spaniards, so soon as they should have
dropped the name, language, and dress of Gypsies. How, provided
they were like other Spaniards, and did not carry the mark of
another nation on their countenances, could it be known whether or
not they obeyed the law, which commanded them to live only in
populous towns or villages, or how could they be detected in the
buying or selling of cattle, which the law forbids them under pain
of death?

The attempt to abolish the Gypsy name and manner of life might have
been made without the assertion of a palpable absurdity.

Philip the Fourth, May 8, 1633, after reference to the evil lives
and want of religion of the Gypsies, and the complaints made
against them by prelates and others, declares 'that the laws
hitherto adopted since the year 1499, have been inefficient to
restrain their excesses; that they are not Gypsies by origin or
nature, but have adopted this form of life'; and then, after
forbidding them, according to custom, the dress and language of
Gypsies, under the usual severe penalties, he ordains:-

'1st. That under the same penalties, the aforesaid people shall,
within two months, leave the quarters (barrios) where they now live
with the denomination of Gitanos, and that they shall separate from
each other, and mingle with the other inhabitants, and that they
shall hold no more meetings, neither in public nor in secret; that
the ministers of justice are to observe, with particular diligence,
how they fulfil these commands, and whether they hold communication
with each other, or marry amongst themselves; and how they fulfil
the obligations of Christians by assisting at sacred worship in the
churches; upon which latter point they are to procure information
with all possible secrecy from the curates and clergy of the
parishes where the Gitanos reside.

'2ndly. And in order to extirpate, in every way, the name of
Gitanos, we ordain that they be not called so, and that no one
venture to call them so, and that such shall be esteemed a very
heavy injury, and shall be punished as such, if proved, and that
nought pertaining to the Gypsies, their name, dress, or actions, be
represented, either in dances or in any other performance, under
the penalty of two years' banishment, and a mulct of fifty thousand
maravedis to whomsoever shall offend for the first time, and double
punishment for the second.'

The above two articles seem to have in view the suppression and
breaking up of the Gypsy colonies established in the large towns,
more especially the suburbs; farther on, mention is made of the
wandering bands.

'4thly. And forasmuch as we have understood that numerous Gitanos
rove in bands through various parts of the kingdom, committing
robberies in uninhabited places, and even invading some small
villages, to the great terror and danger of the inhabitants, we
give by this our law a general commission to all ministers of
justice, whether appertaining to royal domains, lordships, or
abbatial territories, that every one may, in his district, proceed
to the imprisonment and chastisement of the delinquents, and may
pass beyond his own jurisdiction in pursuit of them; and we also
command all the ministers of justice aforesaid, that on receiving
information that Gitanos or highwaymen are prowling in their
districts, they do assemble at an appointed day, and with the
necessary preparation of men and arms they do hunt down, take, and
deliver them under a good guard to the nearest officer holding the
royal commission.'

Carlos the Second followed in the footsteps of his predecessors,
with respect to the Gitanos. By a law of the 20th of November
1692, he inhibits the Gitanos from living in towns of less than one
thousand heads of families (vecinos), and pursuing any trade or
employment, save the cultivation of the ground; from going in the
dress of Gypsies, or speaking the language or gibberish which they
use; from living apart in any particular quarter of the town; from
visiting fairs with cattle, great or small, or even selling or
exchanging such at any time, unless with the testimonial of the
public notary, that they were bred within their own houses. By
this law they are also forbidden to have firearms in their

So far from being abashed by this law, or the preceding one, the
Gitanos seem to have increased in excesses of every kind. Only
three years after (12th June 1695), the same monarch deemed it
necessary to publish a new law for their persecution and
chastisement. This law, which is exceedingly severe, consists of
twenty-nine articles. By the fourth they are forbidden any other
exercise or manner of life than that of the cultivation of the
fields, in which their wives and children, if of competent age, are
to assist them.

Of every other office, employment, or commerce, they are declared
incapable, and especially of being BLACKSMITHS.

By the fifth, they are forbidden to keep horses or mares, either
within or without their houses, or to make use of them in any way
whatever, under the penalty of two months' imprisonment and the
forfeiture of such animals; and any one lending them a horse or a
mare is to forfeit the same, if it be found in their possession.
They are declared only capable of keeping a mule, or some lesser
beast, to assist them in their labour, or for the use of their

By the twelfth, they are to be punished with six years in the
galleys, if they leave the towns or villages in which they are
located, and pass to others, or wander in the fields or roads; and
they are only to be permitted to go out, in order to exercise the
pursuit of husbandry. In this edict, particular mention is made of
the favour and protection shown to the Gitanos, by people of
various descriptions, by means of which they had been enabled to
follow their manner of life undisturbed, and to baffle the severity
of the laws:-

'Article 16. - And because we understand that the continuance in
these kingdoms of those who are called Gitanos has depended on the
favour, protection, and assistance which they have experienced from
persons of different stations, we do ordain, that whosoever,
against whom shall be proved the fact of having, since the day of
the publication hereof, favoured, received, or assisted the said
Gitanos, in any manner whatever, whether within their houses or
without, the said person, provided he is noble, shall be subjected
to the fine of six thousand ducats, the half of which shall be
applied to our treasury, and the other half to the expenses of the
prosecution; and, if a plebeian, to a punishment of ten years in
the galleys. And we declare, that in order to proceed to the
infliction of such fine and punishment, the evidence of two
respectable witnesses, without stain or suspicion, shall be
esteemed legitimate and conclusive, although they depose to
separate acts, or three depositions of the Gitanos themselves, MADE
UPON THE RACK, although they relate to separate and different acts
of abetting and harbouring.'

The following article is curious, as it bears evidence to Gypsy
craft and cunning:-

'Article 18. - And whereas it is very difficult to prove against
the Gitanos the robberies and delinquencies which they commit,
partly because they happen in uninhabited places, but more
especially on account of the MALICE and CUNNING with which they
execute them; we do ordain, in order that they may receive the
merited chastisement, that to convict, in these cases, those who
are called Gitanos, the depositions of the persons whom they have
robbed in uninhabited places shall be sufficient, provided there
are at least two witnesses to one and the same fact, and these of
good fame and reputation; and we also declare, that the CORPUS
DELICTI may be proved in the same manner in these cases, in order
that the culprits may be proceeded against, and condemned to the
corresponding pains and punishments.'

The council of Madrid published a schedule, 18th of August 1705,
from which it appears that the villages and roads were so much
infested by the Gitano race, that there was neither peace nor
safety for labourers and travellers; the corregidors and justices
are therefore exhorted to use their utmost endeavour to apprehend
these outlaws, and to execute upon them the punishments enjoined by
the preceding law. The ministers of justice are empowered to fire
upon them as public enemies, wherever they meet them, in case of
resistance or refusal to deliver up the arms they carry about them.

Philip the Fifth, by schedule, October 1st, 1726, forbade any
complaints which the Gitanos might have to make against the
inferior justices being heard in the higher tribunals, and, on that
account, banished all the Gypsy women from Madrid, and, indeed,
from all towns where royal audiences were held, it being the custom
of the women to flock up to the capital from the small towns and
villages, under pretence of claiming satisfaction for wrongs
inflicted upon their husbands and relations, and when there to
practise the art of divination, and to sing obscene songs through
the streets; by this law, also, the justices are particularly
commanded not to permit the Gitanos to leave their places of
domicile, except in cases of very urgent necessity.

This law was attended with the same success as the others; the
Gitanos left their places of domicile whenever they thought proper,
frequented the various fairs, and played off their jockey tricks as
usual, or traversed the country in armed gangs, plundering the
small villages, and assaulting travellers.

The same monarch, in October, published another law against them,
from St. Lorenzo, of the Escurial. From the words of this edict,
and the measures resolved upon, the reader may form some idea of
the excesses of the Gitanos at this period. They are to be hunted
down with fire and sword, and even the sanctity of the temples is
to be invaded in their pursuit, and the Gitanos dragged from the
horns of the altar, should they flee thither for refuge. It was
impossible, in Spain, to carry the severity of persecution farther,
as the very parricide was in perfect safety, could he escape to the
church. Here follows part of this law:-

'I have resolved that all the lord-lieutenants, intendants, and
corregidors shall publish proclamations, and fix edicts, to the
effect that all the Gitanos who are domiciled in the cities and
towns of their jurisdiction shall return within the space of
fifteen days to their places of domicile, under penalty of being
declared, at the expiration of that term, as public banditti,
subject to be fired at in the event of being found with arms, or
without them, beyond the limits of their places of domicile; and at
the expiration of the term aforesaid, the lord-lieutenants,
intendants, and corregidors are strictly commanded, that either
they themselves, or suitable persons deputed by them, march out
with armed soldiery, or if there be none at hand, with the
militias, and their officers, accompanied by the horse rangers,
destined for the protection of the revenue, for the purpose of
scouring the whole district within their jurisdiction, making use
of all possible diligence to apprehend such Gitanos as are to be
found on the public roads and other places beyond their domiciliary
bounds, and to inflict upon them the penalty of death, for the mere
act of being found.

'And in the event of their taking refuge in sacred places, they are
empowered to drag them forth, and conduct them to the neighbouring
prisons and fortresses, and provided the ecclesiastical judges
proceed against the secular, in order that they be restored to the
church, they are at liberty to avail themselves of the recourse to
force, countenanced by laws declaring, even as I now declare, that
all the Gitanos who shall leave their allotted places of abode, are
to be held as incorrigible rebels, and enemies of the public

From this period, until the year 1780, various other laws and
schedules were directed against the Gitanos, which, as they contain
nothing very new or remarkable, we may be well excused from
particularising. In 1783, a law was passed by the government,
widely differing in character from any which had hitherto been
enacted in connection with the Gitano caste or religion in Spain.


CARLOS TERCERO, or Charles the Third, ascended the throne of Spain
in the year 1759, and died in 1788. No Spanish monarch has left
behind a more favourable impression on the minds of the generality
of his countrymen; indeed, he is the only one who is remembered at
all by all ranks and conditions; - perhaps he took the surest means
for preventing his name being forgotten, by erecting a durable
monument in every large town, - we do not mean a pillar surmounted
by a statue, or a colossal figure on horseback, but some useful and
stately public edifice. All the magnificent modern buildings which
attract the eye of the traveller in Spain, sprang up during the
reign of Carlos Tercero, - for example, the museum at Madrid, the
gigantic tobacco fabric at Seville, - half fortress, half
manufactory, - and the Farol, at Coruna. We suspect that these
erections, which speak to the eye, have gained him far greater
credit amongst Spaniards than the support which he afforded to
liberal opinions, which served to fan the flame of insurrection in
the new world, and eventually lost for Spain her transatlantic

We have said that he left behind him a favourable impression
amongst the generality of his countrymen; by which we mean the
great body found in every nation, who neither think nor reason, -
for there are amongst the Spaniards not a few who deny that any of
his actions entitle him to the gratitude of the nation. 'All his
thoughts,' say they, 'were directed to hunting - and hunting alone;
and all the days of the year he employed himself either in hunting
or in preparation for the sport. In one expedition, in the parks
of the Pardo, he spent several millions of reals. The noble
edifices which adorn Spain, though built by his orders, are less
due to his reign than to the anterior one, - to the reign of
Ferdinand the Sixth, who left immense treasures, a small portion of
which Carlos Tercero devoted to these purposes, squandering away
the remainder. It is said that Carlos Tercero was no friend to
superstition; yet how little did Spain during his time gain in
religious liberty! The great part of the nation remained
intolerant and theocratic as before, the other and smaller section
turned philosophic, but after the insane manner of the French
revolutionists, intolerant in its incredulity, and believing more
in the ENCYCLOPEDIE than in the Gospel of the Nazarene.' (41)

We should not have said thus much of Carlos Tercero, whose
character has been extravagantly praised by the multitude, and
severely criticised by the discerning few who look deeper than the
surface of things, if a law passed during his reign did not connect
him intimately with the history of the Gitanos, whose condition to
a certain extent it has already altered, and over whose future
destinies there can be no doubt that it will exert considerable
influence. Whether Carlos Tercero had anything farther to do with
its enactment than subscribing it with his own hand, is a point
difficult to determine; the chances are that he had not; there is
damning evidence to prove that in many respects he was a mere
Nimrod, and it is not probable that such a character would occupy
his thoughts much with plans for the welfare of his people,
especially such a class as the Gitanos, however willing to build
public edifices, gratifying to his vanity, with the money which a
provident predecessor had amassed.

The law in question is dated 19th September 1783. It is entitled,
'Rules for repressing and chastising the vagrant mode of life, and
other excesses, of those who are called Gitanos.' It is in many
respects widely different from all the preceding laws, and on that
account we have separated it from them, deeming it worthy of
particular notice. It is evidently the production of a
comparatively enlightened spirit, for Spain had already begun to
emerge from the dreary night of monachism and bigotry, though the
light which beamed upon her was not that of the Gospel, but of
modern philosophy. The spirit, however, of the writers of the
ENCYCLOPEDIE is to be preferred to that of TORQUEMADA AND MONCADA,
and however deeply we may lament the many grievous omissions in the
law of Carlos Tercero (for no provision was made for the spiritual
instruction of the Gitanos), we prefer it in all points to that of
Philip the Third, and to the law passed during the reign of that
unhappy victim of monkish fraud, perfidy, and poison, Charles the

Whoever framed the law of Carlos Tercero with respect to the
Gitanos, had sense enough to see that it would be impossible to
reclaim and bring them within the pale of civilised society by
pursuing the course invariably adopted on former occasions - to see
that all the menacing edicts for the last three hundred years,
breathing a spirit of blood and persecution, had been unable to
eradicate Gitanismo from Spain; but on the contrary, had rather
served to extend it. Whoever framed this law was, moreover, well
acquainted with the manner of administering justice in Spain, and
saw the folly of making statutes which were never put into effect.
Instead, therefore, of relying on corregidors and alguazils for the
extinction of the Gypsy sect, the statute addresses itself more
particularly to the Gitanos themselves, and endeavours to convince
them that it would be for their interest to renounce their much
cherished Gitanismo. Those who framed the former laws had
invariably done their best to brand this race with infamy, and had
marked out for its members, in the event of abandoning their Gypsy
habits, a life to which death itself must have been preferable in
every respect. They were not to speak to each other, nor to
intermarry, though, as they were considered of an impure caste, it
was scarcely to be expected that the other Spaniards would form
with them relations of love or amity, and they were debarred the
exercise of any trade or occupation but hard labour, for which
neither by nature nor habit they were at all adapted. The law of
Carlos Tercero, on the contrary, flung open to them the whole
career of arts and sciences, and declared them capable of following
any trade or profession to which they might please to addict
themselves. Here follow extracts from the above-mentioned law:-

'Art. 1. I declare that those who go by the name of Gitanos are
not so by origin or nature, nor do they proceed from any infected

'2. I therefore command that neither they, nor any one of them
shall use the language, dress, or vagrant kind of life which they
have followed unto the present time, under the penalties here below

'3. I forbid all my vassals, of whatever state, class, and
condition they may be, to call or name the above-mentioned people
by the names of Gitanos, or new Castilians, under the same
penalties to which those are subject who injure others by word or

'5. It is my will that those who abandon the said mode of life,
dress, language, or jargon, be admitted to whatever offices or
employments to which they may apply themselves, and likewise to any
guilds or communities, without any obstacle or contradiction being
offered to them, or admitted under this pretext within or without
courts of law.

'6. Those who shall oppose and refuse the admission of this class
of reclaimed people to their trades and guilds shall be mulcted ten
ducats for the first time, twenty for the second, and a double
quantity for the third; and during the time they continue in their
opposition they shall be prohibited from exercising the same trade,
for a certain period, to be determined by the judge, and
proportioned to the opposition which they display.

'7. I grant the term of ninety days, to be reckoned from the
publication of this law in the principal town of every district, in
order that all the vagabonds of this and any other class may retire
to the towns and villages where they may choose to locate
themselves, with the exception, for the present, of the capital and
the royal residences, in order that, abandoning the dress,
language, and behaviour of those who are called Gitanos, they may
devote themselves to some honest office, trade, or occupation, it
being a matter of indifference whether the same be connected with
labour or the arts.

'8. It will not be sufficient for those who have been formerly
known to follow this manner of life to devote themselves solely to
the occupation of shearing and clipping animals, nor to the traffic
of markets and fairs, nor still less to the occupation of keepers
of inns and ventas in uninhabited places, although they may be
innkeepers within towns, which employment shall be considered as
sufficient, provided always there be no well-founded indications of
their being delinquents themselves, or harbourers of such people.

'9. At the expiration of ninety days, the justices shall proceed
against the disobedient in the following manner:- Those who, having
abandoned the dress, name, language or jargon, association, and
manners of Gitanos, and shall have moreover chosen and established
a domicile, but shall not have devoted themselves to any office or
employment, though it be only that of day-labourers, shall be
considered as vagrants, and be apprehended and punished according
to the laws in force against such people without any distinction
being made between them and the other vassals.

'10. Those who henceforth shall commit any crimes, having
abandoned the language, dress, and manners of Gitanos, chosen a
domicile, and applied themselves to any office, shall be prosecuted
and chastised like others guilty of the same crimes, without any
difference being made between them.

'11. But those who shall have abandoned the aforesaid dress,
language and behaviour, and those who, pretending to speak and
dress like the other vassals, and even to choose a domiciliary
residence, shall continue to go forth, wandering about the roads
and uninhabited places, although it be with the pretext of visiting
markets and fairs, such people shall be pursued and taken by the
justices, and a list of them formed, with their names and
appellations, age, description, with the places where they say they
reside and were born.

'16. I, however, except from punishment the children and young
people of both sexes who are not above sixteen years of age.

'17. Such, although they may belong to a family, shall be
separated from their parents who wander about and have no
employment, and shall be destined to learn something, or shall be
placed out in hospices or houses of instruction.

'20. When the register of the Gitanos who have proved disobedient
shall have taken place, it shall be notified and made known to
them, that in case of another relapse, the punishment of death
shall be executed upon them without remission, on the examination
of the register, and proof being adduced that they have returned to
their former life.'

What effect was produced by this law, and whether its results at
all corresponded to the views of those who enacted it, will be
gathered from the following chapters of this work, in which an
attempt will be made to delineate briefly the present condition of
the Gypsies in Spain.



ABOUT twelve in the afternoon of the 6th of January 1836, I crossed
the bridge of the Guadiana, a boundary river between Portugal and
Spain, and entered Badajoz, a strong town in the latter kingdom,
containing about eight thousand inhabitants, supposed to have been
founded by the Romans. I instantly returned thanks to God for
having preserved me in a journey of five days through the wilds of
the Alemtejo, the province of Portugal the most infested by robbers
and desperate characters, which I had traversed with no other human
companion than a lad, almost an idiot, who was to convey back the
mules which had brought me from Aldea Gallega. I intended to make
but a short stay, and as a diligence would set out for Madrid the
day next but one to my arrival, I purposed departing therein for
the capital of Spain.

I was standing at the door of the inn where I had taken up my
temporary abode; the weather was gloomy, and rain seemed to be at
hand; I was thinking on the state of the country I had just
entered, which was involved in bloody anarchy and confusion, and
where the ministers of a religion falsely styled Catholic and
Christian were blowing the trump of war, instead of preaching the
love-engendering words of the blessed Gospel.

Suddenly two men, wrapped in long cloaks, came down the narrow and
almost deserted street; they were about to pass, and the face of
the nearest was turned full towards me; I knew to whom the
countenance which he displayed must belong, and I touched him on
the arm. The man stopped, and likewise his companion; I said a
certain word, to which, after an exclamation of surprise, he
responded in the manner I expected. The men were Gitanos or
Gypsies, members of that singular family or race which has diffused
itself over the face of the civilised globe, and which, in all
lands, has preserved more or less its original customs and its own
peculiar language.

We instantly commenced discoursing in the Spanish dialect of this
language, with which I was tolerably well acquainted. I asked my
two newly-made acquaintances whether there were many of their race
in Badajoz and the vicinity: they informed me that there were
eight or ten families in the town, and that there were others at
Merida, a town about six leagues distant. I inquired by what means
they lived, and they replied that they and their brethren
principally gained a livelihood by trafficking in mules and asses,
but that all those in Badajoz were very poor, with the exception of
one man, who was exceedingly BALBALO, or rich, as he was in
possession of many mules and other cattle. They removed their
cloaks for a moment, and I found that their under-garments were

They left me in haste, and went about the town informing the rest
that a stranger had arrived who spoke Rommany as well as
themselves, who had the face of a Gitano, and seemed to be of the
'errate,' or blood. In less than half an hour the street before
the inn was filled with the men, women, and children of Egypt. I
went out amongst them, and my heart sank within me as I surveyed
them: so much vileness, dirt, and misery I had never seen amongst
a similar number of human beings; but worst of all was the evil
expression of their countenances, which spoke plainly that they
were conversant with every species of crime, and it was not long
before I found that their countenances did not belie them. After
they had asked me an infinity of questions, and felt my hands,
face, and clothes, they retired to their own homes.

That same night the two men of whom I have already particularly
spoken came to see me. They sat down by the brasero in the middle
of the apartment, and began to smoke small paper cigars. We
continued for a considerable time in silence surveying each other.
Of the two Gitanos one was an elderly man, tall and bony, with
lean, skinny, and whimsical features, though perfectly those of a
Gypsy; he spoke little, and his expressions were generally singular
and grotesque. His companion, who was the man whom I had first
noticed in the street, differed from him in many respects; he could
be scarcely thirty, and his figure, which was about the middle
height, was of Herculean proportions; shaggy black hair, like that
of a wild beast, covered the greatest part of his immense head; his
face was frightfully seamed with the small-pox, and his eyes, which
glared like those of ferrets, peered from beneath bushy eyebrows;
he wore immense moustaches, and his wide mouth was garnished with
teeth exceedingly large and white. There was one peculiarity about
him which must not be forgotten: his right arm was withered, and
hung down from his shoulder a thin sapless stick, which contrasted
strangely with the huge brawn of the left. A figure so perfectly
wild and uncouth I had scarcely ever before seen. He had now flung
aside his cloak, and sat before me gaunt in his rags and nakedness.
In spite of his appearance, however, he seemed to be much the most
sensible of the two; and the conversation which ensued was carried
on chiefly between him and myself. This man, whom I shall call the
first Gypsy, was the first to break silence; and he thus addressed
me, speaking in Spanish, broken with words of the Gypsy tongue:-

FIRST GYPSY. - 'Arromali (in truth), I little thought when I saw
the errano standing by the door of the posada that I was about to
meet a brother - one too who, though well dressed, was not ashamed
to speak to a poor Gitano; but tell me, I beg you, brother, from
whence you come; I have heard that you have just arrived from
Laloro, but I am sure you are no Portuguese; the Portuguese are
very different from you; I know it, for I have been in Laloro; I
rather take you to be one of the Corahai, for I have heard say that
there is much of our blood there. You are a Corahano, are you

MYSELF. - 'I am no Moor, though I have been in the country. I was
born in an island in the West Sea, called England, which I suppose
you have heard spoken of.'

FIRST GYPSY. - 'Yes, yes, I have a right to know something of the
English. I was born in this foros, and remember the day when the
English hundunares clambered over the walls, and took the town from
the Gabine: well do I remember that day, though I was but a child;
the streets ran red with blood and wine! Are there Gitanos then
amongst the English?'

MYSELF. - 'There are numbers, and so there are amongst most nations
of the world.'

SECOND GYPSY. - 'Vaya! And do the English Calore gain their bread
in the same way as those of Spain? Do they shear and trim? Do
they buy and change beasts, and (lowering his voice) do they now
and then chore a gras?' (42)

MYSELF. - 'They do most of these things: the men frequent fairs
and markets with horses, many of which they steal; and the women
tell fortunes and perform all kinds of tricks, by which they gain
more money than their husbands.'

FIRST GYPSY. - 'They would not be callees if they did not: I have
known a Gitana gain twenty ounces of gold, by means of the hokkano
baro, in a few hours, whilst the silly Gypsy, her husband, would be
toiling with his shears for a fortnight, trimming the horses of the
Busne, and yet not be a dollar richer at the end of the time.'

MYSELF. - 'You seem wretchedly poor. Are you married?'

FIRST GYPSY. - 'I am, and to the best-looking and cleverest callee
in Badajoz; nevertheless we have never thriven since the day of our
marriage, and a curse seems to rest upon us both. Perhaps I have
only to thank myself; I was once rich, and had never less than six
borricos to sell or exchange, but the day before my marriage I sold
all I possessed, in order to have a grand fiesta. For three days
we were merry enough; I entertained every one who chose to come in,
and flung away my money by handfuls, so that when the affair was
over I had not a cuarto in the world; and the very people who had
feasted at my expense refused me a dollar to begin again, so we
were soon reduced to the greatest misery. True it is, that I now
and then shear a mule, and my wife tells the bahi (fortune) to the
servant-girls, but these things stand us in little stead: the
people are now very much on the alert, and my wife, with all her
knowledge, has been unable to perform any grand trick which would
set us up at once. She wished to come to see you, brother, this
night, but was ashamed, as she has no more clothes than myself.
Last summer our distress was so great that we crossed the frontier
into Portugal: my wife sung, and I played the guitar, for though I
have but one arm, and that a left one, I have never felt the want
of the other. At Estremoz I was cast into prison as a thief and
vagabond, and there I might have remained till I starved with
hunger. My wife, however, soon got me out: she went to the lady
of the corregidor, to whom she told a most wonderful bahi,
promising treasures and titles, and I wot not what; so I was set at
liberty, and returned to Spain as quick as I could.'

MYSELF. - 'Is it not the custom of the Gypsies of Spain to relieve
each other in distress? - it is the rule in other countries.'

FIRST GYPSY. - 'El krallis ha nicobado la liri de los Cales - (The
king has destroyed the law of the Gypsies); we are no longer the
people we were once, when we lived amongst the sierras and deserts,
and kept aloof from the Busne; we have lived amongst the Busne till
we are become almost like them, and we are no longer united, ready
to assist each other at all times and seasons, and very frequently
the Gitano is the worst enemy of his brother.'

MYSELF. - 'The Gitanos, then, no longer wander about, but have
fixed residences in the towns and villages?'

FIRST GYPSY. - 'In the summer time a few of us assemble together,
and live about amongst the plains and hills, and by doing so we
frequently contrive to pick up a horse or a mule for nothing, and
sometimes we knock down a Busne, and strip him, but it is seldom we
venture so far. We are much looked after by the Busne, who hold us
in great dread, and abhor us. Sometimes, when wandering about, we
are attacked by the labourers, and then we defend ourselves as well
as we can. There is no better weapon in the hands of a Gitano than
his "cachas," or shears, with which he trims the mules. I once
snipped off the nose of a Busne, and opened the greater part of his
cheek in an affray up the country near Trujillo.'

MYSELF. - 'Have you travelled much about Spain?'

FIRST GYPSY. - 'Very little; I have never been out of this province
of Estremadura, except last year, as I told you, into Portugal.
When we wander we do not go far, and it is very rare that we are
visited by our brethren of other parts. I have never been in
Andalusia, but I have heard say that the Gitanos are many in
Andalusia, and are more wealthy than those here, and that they
follow better the Gypsy law.'

MYSELF. - 'What do you mean by the Gypsy law?'

FIRST GYPSY. - 'Wherefore do you ask, brother? You know what is
meant by the law of the Cales better even than ourselves.'

MYSELF. - 'I know what it is in England and in Hungary, but I can
only give a guess as to what it is in Spain.'

BOTH GYPSIES. - 'What do you consider it to be in Spain?'

MYSELF. - 'Cheating and choring the Busne on all occasions, and
being true to the errate in life and in death.'

At these words both the Gitanos sprang simultaneously from their
seats, and exclaimed with a boisterous shout - 'Chachipe.'

This meeting with the Gitanos was the occasion of my remaining at
Badajoz a much longer time than I originally intended. I wished to
become better acquainted with their condition and manners, and
above all to speak to them of Christ and His Word; for I was
convinced, that should I travel to the end of the universe, I
should meet with no people more in need of a little Christian
exhortation, and I accordingly continued at Badajoz for nearly
three weeks.

During this time I was almost constantly amongst them, and as I
spoke their language, and was considered by them as one of
themselves, I had better opportunity of arriving at a fair
conclusion respecting their character than any other person could
have had, whether Spanish or foreigner, without such an advantage.
I found that their ways and pursuits were in almost every respect
similar to those of their brethren in other countries. By cheating
and swindling they gained their daily bread; the men principally by
the arts of the jockey, - by buying, selling, and exchanging
animals, at which they are wonderfully expert; and the women by
telling fortunes, selling goods smuggled from Portugal, and dealing
in love-draughts and diablerie. The most innocent occupation which
I observed amongst them was trimming and shearing horses and mules,
which in their language is called 'monrabar,' and in Spanish
'esquilar'; and even whilst exercising this art, they not
unfrequently have recourse to foul play, doing the animal some
covert injury, in hope that the proprietor will dispose of it to
themselves at an inconsiderable price, in which event they soon
restore it to health; for knowing how to inflict the harm, they
know likewise how to remove it.

Religion they have none; they never attend mass, nor did I ever
hear them employ the names of God, Christ, and the Virgin, but in
execration and blasphemy. From what I could learn, it appeared
that their fathers had entertained some belief in metempsychosis;
but they themselves laughed at the idea, and were of opinion that
the soul perished when the body ceased to breathe; and the argument
which they used was rational enough, so far as it impugned
metempsychosis: 'We have been wicked and miserable enough in this
life,' they said; 'why should we live again?'

I translated certain portions of Scripture into their dialect,
which I frequently read to them; especially the parable of Lazarus
and the Prodigal Son, and told them that the latter had been as
wicked as themselves, and both had suffered as much or more; but
that the sufferings of the former, who always looked forward to a
blessed resurrection, were recompensed by admission, in the life to
come, to the society of Abraham and the Prophets, and that the
latter, when he repented of his sins, was forgiven, and received
into as much favour as the just son.

They listened with admiration; but, alas! not of the truths, the
eternal truths, I was telling them, but to find that their broken
jargon could be written and read. The only words denoting anything
like assent to my doctrine which I ever obtained, were the
following from the mouth of a woman: 'Brother, you tell us strange
things, though perhaps you do not lie; a month since I would sooner
have believed these tales, than that this day I should see one who
could write Rommany.'

Two or three days after my arrival, I was again visited by the
Gypsy of the withered arm, who I found was generally termed Paco,
which is the diminutive of Francisco; he was accompanied by his
wife, a rather good-looking young woman with sharp intelligent
features, and who appeared in every respect to be what her husband
had represented her on the former visit. She was very poorly clad,
and notwithstanding the extreme sharpness of the weather, carried
no mantle to protect herself from its inclemency, - her raven black
hair depended behind as far down as her hips. Another Gypsy came
with them, but not the old fellow whom I had before seen. This was
a man about forty-five, dressed in a zamarra of sheep-skin, with a
high-crowned Andalusian hat; his complexion was dark as pepper, and
his eyes were full of sullen fire. In his appearance he exhibited
a goodly compound of Gypsy and bandit.

PACO. - 'Laches chibeses te dinele Undebel (May God grant you good
days, brother). This is my wife, and this is my wife's father.'

MYSELF. - 'I am glad to see them. What are their names?'

PACO. - 'Maria and Antonio; their other name is Lopez.'

MYSELF. - 'Have they no Gypsy names?'

PACO. - 'They have no other names than these.'

MYSELF. - 'Then in this respect the Gitanos of Spain are unlike
those of my country. Every family there has two names; one by
which they are known to the Busne, and another which they use
amongst themselves.'

ANTONIO. - 'Give me your hand, brother! I should have come to see
you before, but I have been to Olivenzas in search of a horse.
What I have heard of you has filled me with much desire to know
you, and I now see that you can tell me many things which I am
ignorant of. I am Zincalo by the four sides - I love our blood,
and I hate that of the Busne. Had I my will I would wash my face
every day in the blood of the Busne, for the Busne are made only to
be robbed and to be slaughtered; but I love the Calore, and I love
to hear of things of the Calore, especially from those of foreign
lands; for the Calore of foreign lands know more than we of Spain,
and more resemble our fathers of old.'

MYSELF. - 'Have you ever met before with Calore who were not

ANTONIO. - 'I will tell you, brother. I served as a soldier in the
war of the independence against the French. War, it is true, is
not the proper occupation of a Gitano, but those were strange
times, and all those who could bear arms were compelled to go forth
to fight: so I went with the English armies, and we chased the
Gabine unto the frontier of France; and it happened once that we
joined in desperate battle, and there was a confusion, and the two
parties became intermingled and fought sword to sword and bayonet
to bayonet, and a French soldier singled me out, and we fought for
a long time, cutting, goring, and cursing each other, till at last
we flung down our arms and grappled; long we wrestled, body to
body, but I found that I was the weaker, and I fell. The French
soldier's knee was on my breast, and his grasp was on my throat,
and he seized his bayonet, and he raised it to thrust me through
the jaws; and his cap had fallen off, and I lifted up my eyes
wildly to his face, and our eyes met, and I gave a loud shriek, and
cried Zincalo, Zincalo! and I felt him shudder, and he relaxed his
grasp and started up, and he smote his forehead and wept, and then
he came to me and knelt down by my side, for I was almost dead, and
he took my hand and called me Brother and Zincalo, and he produced
his flask and poured wine into my mouth, and I revived, and he
raised me up, and led me from the concourse, and we sat down on a
knoll, and the two parties were fighting all around, and he said,
"Let the dogs fight, and tear each others' throats till they are
all destroyed, what matters it to the Zincali? they are not of our
blood, and shall that be shed for them?" So we sat for hours on
the knoll and discoursed on matters pertaining to our people; and I
could have listened for years, for he told me secrets which made my
ears tingle, and I soon found that I knew nothing, though I had
before considered myself quite Zincalo; but as for him, he knew the
whole cuenta; the Bengui Lango (43) himself could have told him
nothing but what he knew. So we sat till the sun went down and the
battle was over, and he proposed that we should both flee to his
own country and live there with the Zincali; but my heart failed
me; so we embraced, and he departed to the Gabine, whilst I
returned to our own battalions.'

MYSELF. - 'Do you know from what country he came?'

ANTONIO. - 'He told me that he was a Mayoro.'

MYSELF. - 'You mean a Magyar or Hungarian.'

ANTONIO. - 'Just so; and I have repented ever since that I did not
follow him.'

MYSELF. - 'Why so?'

ANTONIO. - 'I will tell you: the king has destroyed the law of the
Cales, and has put disunion amongst us. There was a time when the
house of every Zincalo, however rich, was open to his brother,
though he came to him naked; and it was then the custom to boast of
the "errate." It is no longer so now: those who are rich keep
aloof from the rest, will not speak in Calo, and will have no
dealings but with the Busne. Is there not a false brother in this
foros, the only rich man among us, the swine, the balichow? he is
married to a Busnee and he would fain appear as a Busno! Tell me
one thing, has he been to see you? The white blood, I know he has
not; he was afraid to see you, for he knew that by Gypsy law he was
bound to take you to his house and feast you, whilst you remained,
like a prince, like a crallis of the Cales, as I believe you are,
even though he sold the last gras from the stall. Who have come to
see you, brother? Have they not been such as Paco and his wife,
wretches without a house, or, at best, one filled with cold and
poverty; so that you have had to stay at a mesuna, at a posada of
the Busne; and, moreover, what have the Cales given you since you
have been residing here? Nothing, I trow, better than this
rubbish, which is all I can offer you, this Meligrana de los

Here he produced a pomegranate from the pocket of his zamarra, and
flung it on the table with such force that the fruit burst, and the
red grains were scattered on the floor.

The Gitanos of Estremadura call themselves in general Chai or
Chabos, and say that their original country was Chal or Egypt. I
frequently asked them what reason they could assign for calling
themselves Egyptians, and whether they could remember the names of
any places in their supposed fatherland; but I soon found that,
like their brethren in other parts of the world, they were unable
to give any rational account of themselves, and preserved no
recollection of the places where their forefathers had wandered;
their language, however, to a considerable extent, solved the
riddle, the bulk of which being Hindui, pointed out India as the
birthplace of their race, whilst the number of Persian, Sclavonian,
and modern Greek words with which it is checkered, spoke plainly as
to the countries through which these singular people had wandered
before they arrived in Spain.

They said that they believed themselves to be Egyptians, because
their fathers before them believed so, who must know much better
than themselves. They were fond of talking of Egypt and its former
greatness, though it was evident that they knew nothing farther of
the country and its history than what they derived from spurious
biblical legends current amongst the Spaniards; only from such
materials could they have composed the following account of the
manner of their expulsion from their native land.

'There was a great king in Egypt, and his name was Pharaoh. He had
numerous armies, with which he made war on all countries, and
conquered them all. And when he had conquered the entire world, he
became sad and sorrowful; for as he delighted in war, he no longer
knew on what to employ himself. At last he bethought him on making
war on God; so he sent a defiance to God, daring him to descend
from the sky with his angels, and contend with Pharaoh and his
armies; but God said, I will not measure my strength with that of a
man. But God was incensed against Pharaoh, and resolved to punish
him; and he opened a hole in the side of an enormous mountain, and
he raised a raging wind, and drove before it Pharaoh and his armies
to that hole, and the abyss received them, and the mountain closed
upon them; but whosoever goes to that mountain on the night of St.
John can hear Pharaoh and his armies singing and yelling therein.
And it came to pass, that when Pharaoh and his armies had
disappeared, all the kings and the nations which had become subject
to Egypt revolted against Egypt, which, having lost her king and
her armies, was left utterly without defence; and they made war
against her, and prevailed against her, and took her people and
drove them forth, dispersing them over all the world.'

So that now, say the Chai, 'Our horses drink the water of the
Guadiana' - (Apilyela gras Chai la panee Lucalee).


'The region of Chal was our dear native soil,
Where in fulness of pleasure we lived without toil;
Till dispersed through all lands, 'twas our fortune to be -
Our steeds, Guadiana, must now drink of thee.

'Once kings came from far to kneel down at our gate,
And princes rejoic'd on our meanest to wait;
But now who so mean but would scorn our degree -
Our steeds, Guadiana, must now drink of thee.

'For the Undebel saw, from his throne in the cloud,
That our deeds they were foolish, our hearts they were proud;
And in anger he bade us his presence to flee -
Our steeds, Guadiana, must now drink of thee.

'Our horses should drink of no river but one;
It sparkles through Chal, 'neath the smile of the sun,
But they taste of all streams save that only, and see -
Apilyela gras Chai la panee Lucalee.'


IN Madrid the Gitanos chiefly reside in the neighbourhood of the
'mercado,' or the place where horses and other animals are sold, -
in two narrow and dirty lanes, called the Calle de la Comadre and
the Callejon de Lavapies. It is said that at the beginning of last
century Madrid abounded with these people, who, by their lawless
behaviour and dissolute lives, gave occasion to great scandal; if
such were the case, their numbers must have considerably diminished
since that period, as it would be difficult at any time to collect
fifty throughout Madrid. These Gitanos seem, for the most part, to
be either Valencians or of Valencian origin, as they in general
either speak or understand the dialect of Valencia; and whilst
speaking their own peculiar jargon, the Rommany, are in the habit
of making use of many Valencian words and terms.

The manner of life of the Gitanos of Madrid differs in no material
respect from that of their brethren in other places. The men,
every market-day, are to be seen on the skirts of the mercado,
generally with some miserable animal - for example, a foundered
mule or galled borrico, by means of which they seldom fail to gain
a dollar or two, either by sale or exchange. It must not, however,
be supposed that they content themselves with such paltry earnings.
Provided they have any valuable animal, which is not unfrequently
the case, they invariably keep such at home snug in the stall,
conducting thither the chapman, should they find any, and
concluding the bargain with the greatest secrecy. Their general
reason for this conduct is an unwillingness to exhibit anything
calculated to excite the jealousy of the chalans, or jockeys of
Spanish blood, who on the slightest umbrage are in the habit of
ejecting them from the fair by force of palos or cudgels, in which
violence the chalans are to a certain extent countenanced by law;
for though by the edict of Carlos the Third the Gitanos were in
other respects placed upon an equality with the rest of the
Spaniards, they were still forbidden to obtain their livelihood by
the traffic of markets and fairs.

They have occasionally however another excellent reason for not
exposing the animal in the public mercado - having obtained him by
dishonest means. The stealing, concealing, and receiving animals
when stolen, are inveterate Gypsy habits, and are perhaps the last
from which the Gitano will be reclaimed, or will only cease when
the race has become extinct. In the prisons of Madrid, either in
that of the Saladero or De la Corte, there are never less than a
dozen Gitanos immured for stolen horses or mules being found in
their possession, which themselves or their connections have
spirited away from the neighbouring villages, or sometimes from a
considerable distance. I say spirited away, for so well do the
thieves take their measures, and watch their opportunity, that they
are seldom or never taken in the fact.

The Madrilenian Gypsy women are indefatigable in the pursuit of
prey, prowling about the town and the suburbs from morning till
night, entering houses of all descriptions, from the highest to the
lowest; telling fortunes, or attempting to play off various kinds
of Gypsy tricks, from which they derive much greater profit, and of
which we shall presently have occasion to make particular mention.

From Madrid let us proceed to Andalusia, casting a cursory glance
on the Gitanos of that country. I found them very numerous at
Granada, which in the Gitano language is termed Meligrana. Their
general condition in this place is truly miserable, far exceeding
in wretchedness the state of the tribes of Estremadura. It is
right to state that Granada itself is the poorest city in Spain;
the greatest part of the population, which exceeds sixty thousand,
living in beggary and nakedness, and the Gitanos share in the
general distress.

Many of them reside in caves scooped in the sides of the ravines
which lead to the higher regions of the Alpujarras, on a skirt of
which stands Granada. A common occupation of the Gitanos of
Granada is working in iron, and it is not unfrequent to find these
caves tenanted by Gypsy smiths and their families, who ply the
hammer and forge in the bowels of the earth. To one standing at
the mouth of the cave, especially at night, they afford a
picturesque spectacle. Gathered round the forge, their bronzed and
naked bodies, illuminated by the flame, appear like figures of
demons; while the cave, with its flinty sides and uneven roof,
blackened by the charcoal vapours which hover about it in festoons,
seems to offer no inadequate representation of fabled purgatory.
Working in iron was an occupation strictly forbidden to the Gitanos
by the ancient laws, on what account does not exactly appear;
though, perhaps, the trade of the smith was considered as too much
akin to that of the chalan to be permitted to them. The Gypsy
smith of Granada is still a chalan, even as his brother in England
is a jockey and tinker alternately.

Whilst speaking of the Gitanos of Granada, we cannot pass by in
silence a tragedy which occurred in this town amongst them, some
fifteen years ago, and the details of which are known to every
Gitano in Spain, from Catalonia to Estremadura. We allude to the
murder of Pindamonas by Pepe Conde. Both these individuals were
Gitanos; the latter was a celebrated contrabandista, of whom many
remarkable tales are told. On one occasion, having committed some
enormous crime, he fled over to Barbary and turned Moor, and was
employed by the Moorish emperor in his wars, in company with the
other renegade Spaniards, whose grand depot or presidio is the town
of Agurey in the kingdom of Fez. After the lapse of some years,
when his crime was nearly forgotten, he returned to Granada, where
he followed his old occupations of contrabandista and chalan.
Pindamonas was a Gitano of considerable wealth, and was considered
as the most respectable of the race at Granada, amongst whom he
possessed considerable influence. Between this man and Pepe Conde
there existed a jealousy, especially on the part of the latter,
who, being a man of proud untamable spirit, could not well brook a
superior amongst his own people. It chanced one day that
Pindamonas and other Gitanos, amongst whom was Pepe Conde, were in
a coffee-house. After they had all partaken of some refreshment,
they called for the reckoning, the amount of which Pindamonas
insisted on discharging. It will be necessary here to observe,
that on such occasions in Spain it is considered as a species of
privilege to be allowed to pay, which is an honour generally
claimed by the principal man of the party. Pepe Conde did not fail
to take umbrage at the attempt of Pindamonas, which he considered
as an undue assumption of superiority, and put in his own claim;
but Pindamonas insisted, and at last flung down the money on the
table, whereupon Pepe Conde instantly unclasped one of those
terrible Manchegan knives which are generally carried by the
contrabandistas, and with a frightful gash opened the abdomen of
Pindamonas, who presently expired.

After this exploit, Pepe Conde fled, and was not seen for some
time. The cave, however, in which he had been in the habit of
residing was watched, as a belief was entertained that sooner or
later he would return to it, in the hope of being able to remove
some of the property contained in it. This belief was well
founded. Early one morning he was observed to enter it, and a band
of soldiers was instantly despatched to seize him. This
circumstance is alluded to in a Gypsy stanza:-

'Fly, Pepe Conde, seek the hill;
To flee's thy only chance;
With bayonets fixed, thy blood to spill,
See soldiers four advance.'

And before the soldiers could arrive at the cave, Pepe Conde had
discovered their approach and fled, endeavouring to make his escape
amongst the rocks and barrancos of the Alpujarras. The soldiers
instantly pursued, and the chase continued a considerable time.
The fugitive was repeatedly summoned to surrender himself, but
refusing, the soldiers at last fired, and four balls entered the
heart of the Gypsy contrabandista and murderer.

Once at Madrid I received a letter from the sister's son of
Pindamonas, dated from the prison of the Saladero. In this letter
the writer, who it appears was in durance for stealing a pair of
mules, craved my charitable assistance and advice; and possibly in
the hope of securing my favour, forwarded some uncouth lines
commemorative of the death of his relation, and commencing thus:-

'The death of Pindamonas fill'd all the world with pain;
At the coffee-house's portal, by Pepe he was slain.'

The faubourg of Triana, in Seville, has from time immemorial been
noted as a favourite residence of the Gitanos; and here, at the
present day, they are to be found in greater number than in any
other town in Spain. This faubourg is indeed chiefly inhabited by
desperate characters, as, besides the Gitanos, the principal part
of the robber population of Seville is here congregated. Perhaps
there is no part even of Naples where crime so much abounds, and
the law is so little respected, as at Triana, the character of
whose inmates was so graphically delineated two centuries and a
half back by Cervantes, in one of the most amusing of his tales.

In the vilest lanes of this suburb, amidst dilapidated walls and
ruined convents, exists the grand colony of Spanish Gitanos. Here
they may be seen wielding the hammer; here they may be seen
trimming the fetlocks of horses, or shearing the backs of mules and
borricos with their cachas; and from hence they emerge to ply the
same trade in the town, or to officiate as terceros, or to buy,
sell, or exchange animals in the mercado, and the women to tell the
bahi through the streets, even as in other parts of Spain,
generally attended by one or two tawny bantlings in their arms or
by their sides; whilst others, with baskets and chafing-pans,
proceed to the delightful banks of the Len Baro, (45) by the Golden
Tower, where, squatting on the ground and kindling their charcoal,
they roast the chestnuts which, when well prepared, are the
favourite bonne bouche of the Sevillians; whilst not a few, in
league with the contrabandistas, go from door to door offering for
sale prohibited goods brought from the English at Gibraltar. Such
is Gitano life at Seville; such it is in the capital of Andalusia.

It is the common belief of the Gitanos of other provinces that in
Andalusia the language, customs, habits, and practices peculiar to
their race are best preserved. This opinion, which probably
originated from the fact of their being found in greater numbers in
this province than in any other, may hold good in some instances,
but certainly not in all. In various parts of Spain I have found
the Gitanos retaining their primitive language and customs better
than in Seville, where they most abound: indeed, it is not plain
that their number has operated at all favourably in this respect.
At Cordova, a town at the distance of twenty leagues from Seville,
which scarcely contains a dozen Gitano families, I found them
living in much more brotherly amity, and cherishing in a greater
degree the observances of their forefathers.

I shall long remember these Cordovese Gitanos, by whom I was very
well received, but always on the supposition that I was one of
their own race. They said that they never admitted strangers to
their houses save at their marriage festivals, when they flung
their doors open to all, and save occasionally people of influence
and distinction, who wished to hear their songs and converse with
their women; but they assured me, at the same time, that these they
invariably deceived, and merely made use of as instruments to serve
their own purposes. As for myself, I was admitted without scruple
to their private meetings, and was made a participator of their
most secret thoughts. During our intercourse some remarkable
scenes occurred. One night more than twenty of us, men and women,
were assembled in a long low room on the ground floor, in a dark
alley or court in the old gloomy town of Cordova. After the
Gitanos had discussed several jockey plans, and settled some
private bargains amongst themselves, we all gathered round a huge
brasero of flaming charcoal, and began conversing SOBRE LAS COSAS
DE EGYPTO, when I proposed that, as we had no better means of
amusing ourselves, we should endeavour to turn into the Calo
language some pieces of devotion, that we might see whether this
language, the gradual decay of which I had frequently heard them
lament, was capable of expressing any other matters than those
which related to horses, mules, and Gypsy traffic. It was in this
cautious manner that I first endeavoured to divert the attention of
these singular people to matters of eternal importance. My
suggestion was received with acclamations, and we forthwith
proceeded to the translation of the Apostles' creed. I first
recited in Spanish, in the usual manner and without pausing, this
noble confession, and then repeated it again, sentence by sentence,
the Gitanos translating as I proceeded. They exhibited the
greatest eagerness and interest in their unwonted occupation, and
frequently broke into loud disputes as to the best rendering - many
being offered at the same time. In the meanwhile, I wrote down
from their dictation; and at the conclusion I read aloud the
translation, the result of the united wisdom of the assembly,
whereupon they all raised a shout of exultation, and appeared not a
little proud of the composition.

The Cordovese Gitanos are celebrated esquiladors. Connected with
them and the exercise of the ARTE DE ESQUILAR, in Gypsy monrabar, I
have a curious anecdote to relate. In the first place, however, it
may not be amiss to say something about the art itself, of all
relating to which it is possible that the reader may be quite

Nothing is more deserving of remark in Spanish grooming than the
care exhibited in clipping and trimming various parts of the horse,
where the growth of hair is considered as prejudicial to the
perfect health and cleanliness of the animal, particular attention
being always paid to the pastern, that part of the foot which lies
between the fetlock and the hoof, to guard against the arestin -
that cutaneous disorder which is the dread of the Spanish groom, on
which account the services of a skilful esquilador are continually
in requisition.

The esquilador, when proceeding to the exercise of his vocation,
generally carries under his arm a small box containing the
instruments necessary, and which consist principally of various
pairs of scissors, and the ACIAL, two short sticks tied together
with whipcord at the end, by means of which the lower lip of the
horse, should he prove restive, is twisted, and the animal reduced
to speedy subjection. In the girdle of the esquilador are stuck
the large scissors called in Spanish TIJERAS, and in the Gypsy
tongue CACHAS, with which he principally works. He operates upon
the backs, ears, and tails of mules and borricos, which are
invariably sheared quite bare, that if the animals are galled,
either by their harness or the loads which they carry, the wounds
may be less liable to fester, and be more easy to cure. Whilst
engaged with horses, he confines himself to the feet and ears. The
esquiladores in the two Castiles, and in those provinces where the
Gitanos do not abound, are for the most part Aragonese; but in the
others, and especially in Andalusia, they are of the Gypsy race.
The Gitanos are in general very expert in the use of the cachas,
which they handle in a manner practised nowhere but in Spain; and
with this instrument the poorer class principally obtain their

In one of their couplets allusion is made to this occupation in the
following manner:-

'I'll rise to-morrow bread to earn,
For hunger's worn me grim;
Of all I meet I'll ask in turn,
If they've no beasts to trim.'

Sometimes, whilst shearing the foot of a horse, exceedingly small
scissors are necessary for the purpose of removing fine solitary
hairs; for a Spanish groom will tell you that a horse's foot behind
ought to be kept as clean and smooth as the hand of a senora: such
scissors can only be procured at Madrid. My sending two pair of
this kind to a Cordovese Gypsy, from whom I had experienced much
attention whilst in that city, was the occasion of my receiving a
singular epistle from another whom I scarcely knew, and which I
shall insert as being an original Gypsy composition, and in some
points not a little characteristic of the people of whom I am now

'Cordova, 20th day of January, 1837.

'After saluting you and hoping that you are well, I proceed to tell
you that the two pair of scissors arrived at this town of Cordova
with him whom you sent them by; but, unfortunately, they were given
to another Gypsy, whom you neither knew nor spoke to nor saw in
your life; for it chanced that he who brought them was a friend of
mine, and he told me that he had brought two pair of scissors which
an Englishman had given him for the Gypsies; whereupon I,
understanding it was yourself, instantly said to him, "Those
scissors are for me"; he told me, however, that he had already
given them to another, and he is a Gypsy who was not even in
Cordova during the time you were. Nevertheless, Don Jorge, I am
very grateful for your thus remembering me, although I did not
receive your present, and in order that you may know who I am, my
name is Antonio Salazar, a man pitted with the small-pox, and the
very first who spoke to you in Cordova in the posada where you
were; and you told me to come and see you next day at eleven, and I
went, and we conversed together alone. Therefore I should wish you
to do me the favour to send me scissors for trimming beasts, - good
scissors, mind you, - such would be a very great favour, and I
should be ever grateful, for here in Cordova there are none, or if
there be, they are good for nothing. Senor Don Jorge, you remember
I told you that I was an esquilador by trade, and only by that I
got bread for my babes. Senor Don Jorge, if you do send me the
scissors for trimming, pray write and direct to the alley De la
Londiga, No. 28, to Antonio Salazar, in Cordova. This is what I
have to tell you, and do you ever command your trusty servant, who
kisses your hand and is eager to serve you.



'That I may clip and trim the beasts, a pair of cachas grant,
If not, I fear my luckless babes will perish all of want.'


'If thou a pair of cachas grant, that I my babes may feed,
I'll pray to the Almighty God, that thee he ever speed.'

It is by no means my intention to describe the exact state and
condition of the Gitanos in every town and province where they are
to be found; perhaps, indeed, it will be considered that I have
already been more circumstantial and particular than the case
required. The other districts which they inhabit are principally
those of Catalonia, Murcia, and Valencia; and they are likewise to
be met with in the Basque provinces, where they are called
Egipcioac, or Egyptians. What I next purpose to occupy myself with
are some general observations on the habits, and the physical and
moral state of the Gitanos throughout Spain, and of the position
which they hold in society.


ALREADY, from the two preceding chapters, it will have been
perceived that the condition of the Gitanos in Spain has been
subjected of late to considerable modification. The words of the
Gypsy of Badajoz are indeed, in some respects, true; they are no
longer the people that they were; the roads and 'despoblados' have
ceased to be infested by them, and the traveller is no longer
exposed to much danger on their account; they at present confine
themselves, for the most part, to towns and villages, and if they
occasionally wander abroad, it is no longer in armed bands,
formidable for their numbers, and carrying terror and devastation
in all directions, bivouacking near solitary villages, and
devouring the substance of the unfortunate inhabitants, or
occasionally threatening even large towns, as in the singular case
of Logrono, mentioned by Francisco de Cordova. As the reader will
probably wish to know the cause of this change in the lives and
habits of these people, we shall, as briefly as possible, afford as
much information on the subject as the amount of our knowledge will

One fact has always struck us with particular force in the history
of these people, namely, that Gitanismo - which means Gypsy
villainy of every description - flourished and knew nothing of
decay so long as the laws recommended and enjoined measures the
most harsh and severe for the suppression of the Gypsy sect; the
palmy days of Gitanismo were those in which the caste was
proscribed, and its members, in the event of renouncing their Gypsy
habits, had nothing farther to expect than the occupation of
tilling the earth, a dull hopeless toil; then it was that the
Gitanos paid tribute to the inferior ministers of justice, and were
engaged in illicit connection with those of higher station, and by
such means baffled the law, whose vengeance rarely fell upon their
heads; and then it was that they bid it open defiance, retiring to
the deserts and mountains, and living in wild independence by
rapine and shedding of blood; for as the law then stood they would
lose all by resigning their Gitanismo, whereas by clinging to it
they lived either in the independence so dear to them, or beneath
the protection of their confederates. It would appear that in
proportion as the law was harsh and severe, so was the Gitano bold
and secure. The fiercest of these laws was the one of Philip the
Fifth, passed in the year 1745, which commands that the refractory
Gitanos be hunted down with fire and sword; that it was quite
inefficient is satisfactorily proved by its being twice reiterated,
once in the year '46, and again in '49, which would scarcely have
been deemed necessary had it quelled the Gitanos. This law, with
some unimportant modifications, continued in force till the year
'83, when the famous edict of Carlos Tercero superseded it. Will
any feel disposed to doubt that the preceding laws had served to
foster what they were intended to suppress, when we state the
remarkable fact, that since the enactment of that law, as humane as
DISTINCT PEOPLE? The caste of the Gitano still exists, but it 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.

There are fierce and discontented spirits amongst them, who regret
such times, and say that Gypsy law is now no more, that the Gypsy
no longer assists his brother, and that union has ceased among
them. If this be true, can better proof be adduced of the
beneficial working of the later law? A blessing has been conferred
on society, and in a manner highly creditable to the spirit of
modern times; reform has been accomplished, not by persecution, not
by the gibbet and the rack, but by justice and tolerance. The
traveller has flung aside his cloak, not compelled by the angry
buffeting of the north wind, but because the mild, benignant
weather makes such a defence no longer necessary. The law no
longer compels the Gitanos to stand back to back, on the principal
of mutual defence, and to cling to Gitanismo to escape from
servitude and thraldom.

Taking everything into consideration, and viewing the subject in
all its bearings with an impartial glance, we are compelled to come
to the conclusion that the law of Carlos Tercero, the provisions of
which were distinguished by justice and clemency, has been the
principal if not the only cause of the decline of Gitanismo in
Spain. Some importance ought to be attached to the opinion of the
Gitanos themselves on this point. 'El Crallis ha nicobado la liri
de los Cales,' is a proverbial saying among them. By Crallis, or
King, they mean Carlos Tercero, so that the saying, the proverbial
saying, may be thus translated: THE LAW OF CARLOS TERCERO HAS

By the law the schools are open to them, and there is no art or
science which they may not pursue, if they are willing. Have they
availed themselves of the rights which the law has conferred upon

Up to the present period but little - they still continue jockeys
and blacksmiths; but some of these Gypsy chalans, these bronzed
smiths, these wild-looking esquiladors, can read or write in the
proportion of one man in three or four; what more can be expected?
Would you have the Gypsy bantling, born in filth and misery, 'midst
mules and borricos, amidst the mud of a choza or the sand of a
barranco, grasp with its swarthy hands the crayon and easel, the
compass, or the microscope, or the tube which renders more distinct
the heavenly orbs, and essay to become a Murillo, or a Feijoo, or a
Lorenzo de Hervas, as soon as the legal disabilities are removed
which doomed him to be a thievish jockey or a sullen husbandman?
Much will have been accomplished, if, after the lapse of a hundred
years, one hundred human beings shall have been evolved from the
Gypsy stock, who shall prove sober, honest, and useful members of
society, - that stock so degraded, so inveterate in wickedness and
evil customs, and so hardened by brutalising laws. Should so many
beings, should so many souls be rescued from temporal misery and
eternal woe; should only the half of that number, should only the
tenth, nay, should only one poor wretched sheep be saved, there
will be joy in heaven, for much will have been accomplished on
earth, and those lines will have been in part falsified which
filled the stout heart of Mahmoud with dismay:-

'For the root that's unclean, hope if you can;
No washing e'er whitens the black Zigan:
The tree that's bitter by birth and race,
If in paradise garden to grow you place,
And water it free with nectar and wine,
From streams in paradise meads that shine,
At the end its nature it still declares,
For bitter is all the fruit it bears.
If the egg of the raven of noxious breed
You place 'neath the paradise bird, and feed
The splendid fowl upon its nest,
With immortal figs, the food of the blest,
And give it to drink from Silisbel, (46)
Whilst life in the egg breathes Gabriel,
A raven, a raven, the egg shall bear,
And the fostering bird shall waste its care.' -


The principal evidence which the Gitanos have hitherto given that a
partial reformation has been effected in their habits, is the
relinquishment, in a great degree, of that wandering life of which
the ancient laws were continually complaining, and which was the
cause of infinite evils, and tended not a little to make the roads

Doubtless there are those who will find some difficulty in
believing that the mild and conciliatory clauses of the law in
question could have much effect in weaning the Gitanos from this
inveterate habit, and will be more disposed to think that this
relinquishment was effected by energetic measures resorted to by
the government, to compel them to remain in their places of
location. It does not appear, however, that such measures were
ever resorted to. Energy, indeed, in the removal of a nuisance, is
scarcely to be expected from Spaniards under any circumstances.
All we can say on the subject, with certainty, is, that since the
repeal of the tyrannical laws, wandering has considerably decreased
among the Gitanos.

Since the law has ceased to brand them, they have come nearer to
the common standard of humanity, and their general condition has
been ameliorated. At present, only the very poorest, the parias of
the race, are to be found wandering about the heaths and mountains,
and this only in the summer time, and their principal motive,
according to their own confession, is to avoid the expense of house
rent; the rest remain at home, following their avocations, unless
some immediate prospect of gain, lawful or unlawful, calls them
forth; and such is frequently the case. They attend most fairs,
women and men, and on the way frequently bivouac in the fields, but
this practice must not be confounded with systematic wandering.

Gitanismo, therefore, has not been extinguished, only modified; but
that modification has been effected within the memory of man,
whilst previously near four centuries elapsed, during which no
reform had been produced amongst them by the various measures
devised, all of which were distinguished by an absence not only of
true policy, but of common-sense; it is therefore to be hoped, that
if the Gitanos are abandoned to themselves, by which we mean no
arbitrary laws are again enacted for their extinction, the sect
will eventually cease to be, and its members become confounded with
the residue of the population; for certainly no Christian nor
merely philanthropic heart can desire the continuance of any sect
or association of people whose fundamental principle seems to be to
hate all the rest of mankind, and to live by deceiving them; and
such is the practice of the Gitanos.

During the last five years, owing to the civil wars, the ties which
unite society have been considerably relaxed; the law has been
trampled under foot, and the greatest part of Spain overrun with
robbers and miscreants, who, under pretence of carrying on partisan
warfare, and not unfrequently under no pretence at all, have
committed the most frightful excesses, plundering and murdering the
defenceless. Such a state of things would have afforded the
Gitanos a favourable opportunity to resume their former kind of
life, and to levy contributions as formerly, wandering about in
bands. Certain it is, however, that they have not sought to repeat
their ancient excesses, taking advantage of the troubles of the
country; they have gone on, with a few exceptions, quietly pursuing
that part of their system to which they still cling, their
jockeyism, which, though based on fraud and robbery, is far
preferable to wandering brigandage, which necessarily involves the
frequent shedding of blood. Can better proof be adduced, that
Gitanismo owes its decline, in Spain, not to force, not to
persecution, not to any want of opportunity of exercising it, but
to some other cause? - and we repeat that we consider the principal
if not the only cause of the decline of Gitanismo to be the
conferring on the Gitanos the rights and privileges of other

We have said that the Gitanos have not much availed themselves of
the permission, which the law grants them, of embarking in various
spheres of life. They remain jockeys, but they have ceased to be
wanderers; and the grand object of the law is accomplished. The
law forbids them to be jockeys, or to follow the trade of trimming
and shearing animals, without some other visible mode of
subsistence. This provision, except in a few isolated instances,
they evade; and the law seeks not, and perhaps wisely, to disturb
them, content with having achieved so much. The chief evils of
Gitanismo which still remain consist in the systematic frauds of
the Gypsy jockeys and the tricks of the women. It is incurring
considerable risk to purchase a horse or a mule, even from the most
respectable Gitano, without a previous knowledge of the animal and
his former possessor, the chances being that it is either diseased
or stolen from a distance. Of the practices of the females,
something will be said in particular in a future chapter.

The Gitanos in general are very poor, a pair of large cachas and
various scissors of a smaller description constituting their whole
capital; occasionally a good hit is made, as they call it, but the
money does not last long, being quickly squandered in feasting and
revelry. He who has habitually in his house a couple of donkeys is
considered a thriving Gitano; there are some, however, who are
wealthy in the strict sense of the word, and carry on a very
extensive trade in horses and mules. These, occasionally, visit
the most distant fairs, traversing the greatest part of Spain.
There is a celebrated cattle-fair held at Leon on St. John's or
Midsummer Day, and on one of these occasions, being present, I
observed a small family of Gitanos, consisting of a man of about
fifty, a female of the same age, and a handsome young Gypsy, who
was their son; they were richly dressed after the Gypsy fashion,
the men wearing zamarras with massy clasps and knobs of silver, and
the woman a species of riding-dress with much gold embroidery, and
having immense gold rings attached to her ears. They came from
Murcia, a distance of one hundred leagues and upwards. Some
merchants, to whom I was recommended, informed me that they had
credit on their house to the amount of twenty thousand dollars.

They experienced rough treatment in the fair, and on a very
singular account: immediately on their appearing on the ground,
the horses in the fair, which, perhaps, amounted to three thousand,
were seized with a sudden and universal panic; it was one of those
strange incidents for which it is difficult to assign a rational
cause; but a panic there was amongst the brutes, and a mighty one;
the horses neighed, screamed, and plunged, endeavouring to escape
in all directions; some appeared absolutely possessed, stamping and
tearing, their manes and tails stiffly erect, like the bristles of
the wild boar - many a rider lost his seat. When the panic had
ceased, and it did cease almost as suddenly as it had arisen, the
Gitanos were forthwith accused as the authors of it; it was said
that they intended to steal the best horses during the confusion,
and the keepers of the ground, assisted by a rabble of chalans, who
had their private reasons for hating the Gitanos, drove them off
the field with sticks and cudgels. So much for having a bad name.

These wealthy Gitanos, when they are not ashamed of their blood or
descent, and are not addicted to proud fancies, or 'barbales,' as
they are called, possess great influence with the rest of their
brethren, almost as much as the rabbins amongst the Jews; their
bidding is considered law, and the other Gitanos are at their
devotion. On the contrary, when they prefer the society of the
Busne to that of their own race, and refuse to assist their less
fortunate brethren in poverty or in prison, they are regarded with
unbounded contempt and abhorrence, as in the case of the rich Gypsy
of Badajoz, and are not unfrequently doomed to destruction: such
characters are mentioned in their couplets:-

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