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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 corporeal.

‘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 WANDERING THEY SHALL SERVE AS SLAVES DURING THEIR WHOLE LIFE TO 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 TERRA: OMNIS IGITUR QUI INVENERIT ME, OCCIDET ME. Now, the IGITUR 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 people.

‘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 HOC MORTALIUM EJICIMUS EX HAC URBE VELUT PURGAMINA. Now the 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 IS COMMITTED BY ANY UNIVERSITY, IT IS WELL TO PUNISH ALL. And the 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 fortunes.

‘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 crime.

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 vile.

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 ORDER THAT, FORASMUCH AS THEY ARE NOT SUCH BY NATION, THIS NAME AND MANNER OF LIFE MAY BE FOR EVERMORE CONFOUNDED AND FORGOTTEN. They 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 possession.

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 families.

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 peace.’

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 empire.

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 Second.

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 root.

‘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 contained.

‘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 writing.

‘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 rags.

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 not?’

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 Spaniards?’

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 Bengues.’

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. (44)

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 ignorant.

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 bread.

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 writing.

‘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 permit.

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 the others were unjust, WE HAVE HEARD NOTHING MORE OF THE GITANOS FROM OFFICIAL QUARTERS; THEY HAVE CEASED TO PLAY A DISTINCT PART IN THE HISTORY OF SPAIN; AND THE LAW NO LONGER SPEAKS OF THEM AS A 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 SUPERSEDED GYPSY LAW.

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 them?

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 insecure.

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 subjects.

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:-