A Continuación mostramos el téxto íntegro con la conferencia de Lolo (Jorge Bernal), del pasado 5 y 6 de Noviembre en la Universidad de Södernton, en Estocolmo, Suecia, donde se realizó un seminario internacional sobre el pentecostalismo en el Pueblo Gitano y su repercusión en la comunidad roma.
Did Pentecostalism come to fill a gap within the Romani Community in South America?
Romani culture in the 70’s mostly was declining its influence upon many Romani families all over the world, modernism, and the acceptance of new cultural patterns coming from the main society, were weakening our oral traditions. At that time in France, a gadjo Pastor Clement Lecossec (may his soul rest in peace!), approached the Romani people in Paris with a new message, that of the Evangelism, some Rom from Paris, in 1961 took that message of Salvation and accepted the Word of God, Lulu Demeter, Stevo, and later Nono, Lulu was the first pastor of that new movement and church, once the first Romani Church in Paris was open, later on, during the 70’s they took this message to the United States and South America. Currently, in Argentina, our people were settled in the major cities of our country. At the beginning of their arrival they were Orthodox, later becoming Catholic, and from then on have been participating in this powerful Evangelical movement.
Romani groups in Argentina
Since the last decades of the XIXth century and incessant wave of Romani groups was arriving to these Southern American Lands escaping poverty, wars and persecutions in Europe, the following groups can be found in Argentina:
The Greek-Serbian Kalderash who arrived between 1880-1890. They were the first among the Kalderash Rom who came from Eastern Europe. At their arrival all of them were nomads and used to sell horses and agricultural tools, and worked also as coppersmiths. In the 30’s they started to move to the big cities and discovered new opportunities in car trading.
The Romani language is preserved within this group, despite the introduction of some Spanish loanwords.
Currently, these Rom are settled in the major cities of Argentina. Being Orthodox at their arrival, later became Catholic, and in the last few years have been actively participating in the Evangelical movement, having their own pastors and churches.
Greek Kalderash in general are economically well inserted in the major society.
The arrival of Moldavian Kalderash occurred between 1900 and the 1920s. As Kalderash they identify with the same cultural patterns and traditions, and male and female roles within the community. Although, this group arrived later than the above-mentioned one, they do not take as much care of the language. Families preserve Romanes, but speak much more in Spanish or in a mixture of both languages, because they do not see the necessity of using it except in social gatherings. The vast majority of the members of this group also follow the evangelical movement.
Economy: Part of them work as independent traders with new and second-hand cars, with metals, plastics, and repairing hydraulic machinery, etc. But most of them work for non-Rom in many kinds of professions: engineers, employees, mechanics, etc.
Russian Kalderash: Part of them came at the beginning of the century and another wave later around the mid-20’s. Many of them arrived from Russia after a certain stay in countries like Sweden and France; and even now have many relatives abroad with whom they are in contact. The cultural aspects and traditions are similar to the other Kalderash here. Though this is the smallest group, it is considered the most prestigious one among the Kalderash here. They preserve the language, and contribute to its conservation among all the groups. It is this group which started the local Evangelical movement among the Rom here in the ‘60s, at a familiar level, and later on, in the 70,s, by proselytizing within the other Kalderash Communities.
Following Kalderash custom, their incomes come from car-selling, metalworking and other independent businesses.
An important role within this community is played by the Romani Kris (the Romani Court). This specific body operates strongly among the entire Kalderash Rom. The Romani Kris and the Evangelical church are the most respected institutions among all the Kalderash clans.
Generally, the Kalderash in this country are considered to be wealthy people by the gadjé, even though in many cases this is not truth, and those who do business with them see them as good and trustworthy businessmen; but there is a small percentage of the local population which displays suspicion, prejudice and distrust towards the Romani community.
Although each group has its own distinct Romani identity, there are strong ties between the various groups. Marriages between different Kalderash groups and now with other Romani groups is absolutely normal. Many times the Kalderash Romani group is considered the most prestigious one by other Romani groups.
Some Lovari family live or used to live in Argentina, but their number do not exceed the 20 people as a whole.
Boyash: They started to immigrate at the end of the last century from Romania and Serbia. Certain cultural aspects, such as Romani self-identity, type of women’s clothing, etc. are the same as those of the Kalderash. But they do not follow the “mahrimé” rules nowadays (concepts of purity and impurity which regulate the life of many Romani groups throughout the world. Among them it is called spurcat). They are not so strict regarding masculine and feminine roles and relationships within the group.
Economically, they have the lowest status among the Romani groups in Argentina. Most of them are taxi or bus drivers, truckers, photographers, etc. But their biggest difference with the Kalderash group apart from the economical one is the language. They speak Romanian (nowadays almost forgotten). In many families they have substituted it completely with Spanish. Their marriages with non-Roma are more frequent. They also have their own churches and pastors, even though among them the Evangelical movement is newer.
Currently, in Argentina, something like 5% of the Rom live a semi-nomadic life. Among the Boyash this stems from financial problems, while among some families of the so-called Greek Kalderash, it is mainly because of the business they do at harvest time, when they sell trucks, tractors and other agricultural machinery, over a period lasting only a number of weeks.
As a matter of fact, in the 50’s the nomadic life was forbidden through a law by General Perón and the Rom in Argentina were forced to settle.
Spanish Kalé (Gitanos, Rom of Spanish origin). Here there are two subgroups known by the following nominations:
Both of the subgroups, as it was mentioned above, have Spanish background. The subdivision comes from the time of each one’s arrival in Argentina.
a) Argentineans reached the country at the end of the last century, and some even before this. Many say that they have arrived at the time of the conquest, but there is not available record of that. They are, however, the first Rom, Spanish and non-Spanish, to have arrived and settled here.
Most of their women wear long colorful skirts, which are distinct from those of Kalderash women.
Argentinean Kalé run small construction businesses where they employ Gadjé. Another kind of income is from bulk selling. They practice mostly the Catholic religion. Among them they speak mostly Spanish with an Argentinean accent, but they know the Kalé dialect even better than those Roma Kalé who live in Spain. They have preserved flamenco as their Romani music. Evangelical movement is timidly doing its way among them too.
b) Spaniards came from Spain in the 60’s but they travel constantly between Spain and Argentina. Though they have the same background as the Argentinean Kalé practically there is no mutual interaction between the two subgroups.
The language they speak is Spanish with the same accent as in Spain. There is no acceptance of marriages either with Rom of other groups or with non-Rom.
They are good traders of textile products. Some of them have small textile factories. They also have good flamenco musicians. Their women dress in a fashionable way but are more conservative in some aspects. They put aside the trousers, and the skirts have to reach a little bit beyond their knees.
Evangelical movement is strong within this group, and their pastors, believers altogether with Kalderash pastors and followers have permanent contacts to a religious and church level, despite the fact that there is not mutual contact between both communities.
These Kalé reside in the downtown area of Buenos Aires, which in the past was inhabited by Spanish revolutionaries who had fought in the Spanish Civil War.
In the last five or six years a big crowd of Romanian Rom has arrived. They do not practice any kind of profession – they beg on the streets. They claim to have been humiliated and treated as second class people in Romania during all the years of oppression, and especially in the last years of changes and intolerance extended as in the majority of the Eastern European countries.
The Romanian Rom also identify themselves with the Evangelical Movement, and they had in the past their own church with their own pastor, the group has diminished in number, some went back to Romania or reach other countries in the region or in Europe, then their church was closed.
The Romani churches in Argentina
The message of the Romani churches was brought to South America in the 70’s, the Rom from Paris came to visit their relatives in Argentina and left the message of this new movement, many people accepted at that time the word of the gospels with rejoicing, and Juan Kalmycoff was anointed as the first pastor of this congregation in formation, the members mostly belonged to the branch of the so-called Russian Kalderash, some months later the second pastor elected was Ricardo Papadopulos, father-in-law of Kalmycoff’s daughter, people who attended the religious meetings, at that time, which were celebrated in the houses of any of the members, were mocked by the non converted Rom of the community.
At the beginning churches were a melting pot where people from different Kalderash Groups and others coming from abroad like Brazilian Machwaya or Chilean Xoraxa could share together the word of God, it lasted for many years, but the tendency was changing in the last decade, where almost every vitsa (lineage) opened its own church, many times these churches did not last in time, and sometimes they split up to conform new regional congregations.
Argentina has been visited in the last decades by many Evangelical Romani pastors from everywhere, mostly from Europe, and in the last 5 years from Mexico, where was born a new Romani Evangelical Youthful Movement called Mahanaim (a biblical name), which has also been performing various meetings in Europe, its pastors and leaders in average are in their early 30’s.
Some of the local pastors, as for example Mr. Ricardo Papadopulos, now in his early 60’s, who is also well-known in Europe and in other countries through his missionary labour, travel a lot to that continent as well as to other parts of the Americas too, to take the message of God to every Rom and to every corner where a Romani family could be inhabiting, these mutual contacts among pastors, believers and followers of the movement strengthens the ties among the Romani lineages and families, and also fortify the use of the Romani language and create for it some kind of standard which contains words from various sources, mostly Spanish and English, which is mostly used at a church level and is entering the daily speech of many Romani families.
Other countries of the region
Uruguay, with a local population of approximately 3.000.000, does not have a large Romani population. The local Rom, who are Kalderash of Serbian and Greek origin make up some 2.000 or 5.000 individuals according to our sources. Most of them travel a lot, to Brazil and Argentina as well to other countries in the region where they also have relatives and links with the local groups. In the city of Montevideo they inhabit a neighborhood called “Las Piedras”.Their way of living is similar to that of other Rom of the region, and many Uruguayan Romani families nowadays live in Argentina or Brazil. The local population has many prejudices and stereotypes - fed by the collective subconscious or the media- regarding the Rom. This group added to the Evangelical faith, both in Brazil and Argentina, due to the contact with their relatives.
Bolivia never had settled Rom living there, but many Romani families from everywhere used to cross the country in many opportunities in the past and in the present. We have lately heard of Peruvian or Venezuelan Romani families wishing to establish themselves in the city of La Paz.
There are no settled Rom in Paraguay nowadays; when Stroessner’s government forbade the Rom to enter the country, this was a hidden policy preventing those with Slavic last names and dark complexion from entering Paraguay. Gendarmes always found excuses to stop their entrance. Nevertheless, today many Brazilian and Argentinean Rom visit the country and do business there, the local population does not seem to show so many prejudices against Rom.
The situation in Chile
Origin and filiation of the Xoraxane Rom in South-America
Despite scholars saying that Rom came from India, this is mainly based upon linguistic studies on Romanes (the Romani language) in the last centuries, and as do many Kalderash and other Rom from the Americas, the Xoraxane Rom from Chile also proclaim: “We are one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and from there the first Rom have come”.
The Xoraxane Rom in South-America; Chile and Brazil have been arriving in these lands since the beginning of the XXth century and before, almost exclusively from the regions of Bosnia and Serbia. Their traditional fairytales relate this origin, and most of these end with the phrase: “This is the whole truth because it has happened in Serbia”.
Some authors, even Romani ones, and mainly in Brazil, erroneously suggest that Xoraxane Rom are a Kalderash subgroup of Turkish origin, with a similar way of life to that of the Machwaya, other authors and most of the Kalderash Rom even confuse both Groups.
The Xoraxane Rom have been Christians since their early arrival in the Americas, and are very assimilated with the Kalderash and Machwaya with whom they now share almost the same traditions, including the institution of the kris, and although they have preserved the Muslim ceremony of the kurbáno as in the Balkans, their traditional ceremonies are: (biáu), (bávine), (kristénje), (pomána), (pachíu) and (slávas) which are also typical of the Kalderash and Machwaya Rom, while their language is that of the Xoraxane groups of Italy, Serbia, Rumania and Bulgaria.
The question of the original reason for this group to change its traditions can be perplexing: If they were Dasikane (Christian) Rom in origin, then why the kurbáno (the traditional Muslim feast of sacrificing a sheep asking for health)? It is hard to believe that they were not Muslims, especially when many old men hold some knowledge about this; and, although they use the word gadjé for the non-Rom, they also have the word “das” (Christian non-Rom in some parts of the Balkans), though used here to mean: owner, boss. Why then did they change their religion?
The reasons, I suppose, cannot be other than the old spirit of surviving and adaptation of the Rom. Although they were the first to arrive in certain parts of the Americas, they are a real minority compared to the Kalderash Rom, who arrived later in great numbers, bringing with them what some authors have called Kalderashocentrism13, and what the Kalderash call Rromaníya (the way of living, thinking, and the traditions of the Rom). This is the only thing that could explain this change by itself; the rejection suffered by them in confrontation not only with Kalderash groups but also with the prejudices of the Gadjé of European origin who dominated these lands, considering also that all the countries in the Americas are predominantly Christian (whether Catholicism, Protestantism, etc.).
There is a big number of Boyash Rom in Chile, mostly in Santiago, who have the same cultural patterns as those from Argentina and Brazil, and who also have relatives there.
Traditions and Religion
The Rom in Chile are a people genuinely fond of their traditions, no matter how old fashioned they might appear to the eyes of the Gadjé. The men go out to work or to do business, selling new and old cars or metals of all kinds, while the women stay home taking care of the children, selling goods or telling their clients’ fortunes. The bride must marry as a virgin and even nowadays it is not uncommon for parents to arrange their children’s marriages. These customs additionally intermingle with the religion, because even though many of them are catholic and devoted to the virgin of Guadalupe, at least in Chile the Romani International Evangelical Movement is gaining ground, as it also happens among Romani people in many countries of the world.
There are two Romani churches nowadays co-existing in Chile among the Rom Xoraxane that of the adventists and that of the Pentecostals, Juan and Petre are the pastors of the Adventist Romani Church, and both have a Traditional Seminarist Non-Romani formation, which despite its denomination it is not so far away from the Romani Pentecostal Church, some disputes appear from time to time between both churches, the second one has no official pastor yet, but when the Mahanaim movement celebrated its itinerant event in Chile in 2008, all the churches participated, included a new one that is held by the Boyash Rom from Santiago.
The Romani groups in Brazil
This group was the first to arrive in Brazil, deported by the Portuguese from the XVIth century onwards. It has also been documented that in 1808, some Portuguese Rom (Kalons) entertained the Portuguese Royal Court on the occasion of its establishment in Rio de Janeiro and maintained a further degree of familiarity with them.
This group mostly conducts a nomadic life, and like other Rom, nomadic Kalons travel mostly for reasons of economic survival. For that reason they participate in the various Brazilian festivals, especially those of a religious nature, and the summer tourist season when they head for the seaside resorts where the men practice small-scale craftwork and the women tell fortunes. The women can also be seen in the big cities of the country telling fortunes on the street.
There are very few of these. Some live in Minas Gerais and others in São Paulo and in Salvador, but the largest group is to be found in the Catumbi quarter of Rio de Janeiro, where today some practice traditional professions while others have a University degree and work in several independent professions; as lawyers, doctors, etc. Many, however are illiterate, especially among the women, who are however capable of improvising extraordinary old songs which they sing at parties. The men are excellent musicians, following a tradition they brought from Portugal similar to fado. They are also good performers of flamenco. Other sedentary Kalons deal in gold jewellery and precious stones, carpets, cars, and so on, and live in excellent economic conditions. We do not have information about the Evangelical movement among this group and the above mentioned.
Rom (Kalderash, Lovaria):
They have been in Brazil since the turn of the XIXth century and the beginning of the XXth century and many came during the second world war and after this; Italian Kalderash in the ‘60s and some German Lovari families after and before the war, these last fleeing the Nazi persecution.
Generally speaking, their social-economic conditions are good. This is particularly true for the Kalderash, who regard themselves as the élite group embodying Gypsy tradition. Their illiteracy rate is high in some families, because they take their children out of school as soon as they have learned basic reading, writing and some mathematics, the general reason being: so they will not be poisoned by the Gadjé. The truth is that they fear that at school their children will lose -or begin to feel ashamed of- their traditions, which non-Rom consider ‘primitive’. Over the last few decades, however, many of them have gone on to university, adding lawyers, social workers, teachers, anthropologists and doctors to the community.
They may be either sedentary (Rrom foroske) or semi-nomadic (Rrom dromeske). The latter own beautiful houses, but most of them keep a tent on the grounds, where they live for most part of the time, entertain guests, and with which they even travel. The tent will have an oven, a refrigerator, television and radio. Almost all the clans added to the Pentecostal Movement, and many events have ben celebrated in Brazil in the last decades, among them those held by the Romani Mexican Movement called Mahanaim with the assistance of pastors and believers from many countries of Europe and the Americas.
Originally from the city of Macva (Serbia), whence their name, they are really closed to the Kalderash and have almost no relatives left in Europe. The two main countries where they can be found are Brazil and the USA. In this last country theirs is considered the most prestigious group. In Brazil, along with the Kalderash they are considered the most important and prestigious groups.
The Machwaya are expert traders in new and old cars and other occupations. They are really wealthy and have among them many university professionals like lawyers, engineers and so on. Many of them, because of prejudices, hide their Romani origin; they intermarry with Kalderash and Xoraxane. They also added to the Pentecostal movement.
This group is like that from Chile and it is probable that at the time of their arrival in the Americas 100 years ago they were Muslims. They are very assimilated to the Kalderash in traditions and way of living, but they continue speaking their own Romani dialect. They also intermarry with Kalderash and Machwaya. Many of them are still nomadic, but others possess their own houses in many of the big cities of the country. Some Xoraxane families have even continued coming during the Yugoslavia’s communist period; many of them arriving in the ‘60s and even in the ‘70s from that region.The Pentecostal movement is also important among them.
The Boyash are Rom of Romanian and Serbian origin who speak among them an old dialect of the Romanian language, they work mainly as animal trainers and sell all kind of goods, other families own circuses and travel all over Brazil, (it seems to be that these Rom were who brought this tradition to the country), they are in contact with their relatives in other countries. Their living standards are lower than those of the Kalderash, Xoraxane and Machwaya, but higher than those of the Portuguese Kalons. There are still among them some families which continue their nomadic life, they also intermarry with Xoraxane, Machwaya and Kalderash, as a matter of fact, these last groups are which take brides from them, but they are considered of lower status because they do not speak Romanes. Some of them added to the Pentecostal Church in Brazil due to the tight contacts that they maintain with the Kalderash, Machwaya and Xoraxane Rom.
Romani churches in Brazil
As it happens in other countries of the region , in Brazil also flourish Romani churches all the time, and some of their Pastors are very well known abroad and also perform missionary duties in other countries of the region and in Europe, like Pastor Maks, or Pastor Ghigo, an Italian Kalderash who has his residence in Europe and Brazil.
Peru has an unknown number of Rom living in those lands, mostly belonging to the Kalderash and Xoraxane groups, in Lima, the Capital City, lives the clan of the Petereshti, Rom who arrived to those lands from Russia a century ago, alongside with some Peruvian and Chilean Xoraxane. Peruvian Rom have relatives in many parts of the Americas, United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia , Chile, and one of their best known pastors is Xulupi, wo often travels to Europe and other places in the American continent, his church is very well-known abroad, and many of his messages and preachings can be found in internet and in other Pentecostal Romani Churches’ sites on the net.
Romani People in Colombia and Venezuela
From where have the Colombian and the Venezuelan Rom come?
Many Rom insist mostly in Colombia that they are Colombians, of Colombian descent, when in reality they are Colombian Rom (a form of protection against the extreme nationalism of some parts of the country). Some people also point to the origin of the Rom as being depicted in the Holy Bible, the Rom here being one of the twelve tribes of Israel, the lost one (this is heard throughout the Americas and Europe), and because of this they will be favored by God.
There are not so many written sources to be consulted about the arrival of the Rom in Colombia. For this reason, Romani oral tradition is the original source from where one can extract the necessary information to reconstruct this historical moment, (this is also valid everywhere in the Americas).
In Colombia, most of the Rom belong to families with more than three or four generations of presence in the country, according to our sources, and due to the origin of the Rom in the majority of the countries in the Americas (here mainly can be found Vlax groups, Kalderash and Xoraxane, since Colombia does not have Spanish Kalé or other groups) we can fix the time of arrival by the turn of the XIXth century, approximately between1880 and the 1920s. From then until now, -with the exception of the Second World War, when some families came- the country has not undergone significant extra or continental flows.
The recent conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia generated a displacement of people. Many of the Rom who escaped the conflicts came to the Americas, arriving in Colombia or Ecuador, some three or four families then from there moved to Argentina, but the vast majority of the Yugoslavian Rom who were looking for refuge travelled from Europe directly to the USA or Canada.
The Bolochog and the Mihais; two of the existing clans in Colombia, date their arrivals around the 1920s, the former from France and Spain, and the latter from Russia, but both groups are considered Russian Rom by other Rom. The first to arrive here were the Grekos, who mostly came directly from Serbia around 1880. These until recently were nomads, and many of these groups moved to Ecuador and Venezuela.
Several kumpanyas (family groups which establish alliances to share a common community life) can be identified in Colombia, and are located in almost all the country’s cities: Bogota, D.C., many neighborhoods, in Girón (Santander), in Cúcuta, in Cali, in Medellín, Itagüí and Envigado among others.
Of these kumpanyas, the most important in terms of numbers are those of Bogotá, Girón and Cúcuta. Some years back, one of the most important kumpanyas was that of Itagüí, but because of Colombian drug dealers and their associated violence, most of the families moved to other cities in search of a better life.
The incessant violence which fell upon Colombia in the last decades has lately been creating an important phenomenon of displacement of Romani families to the frontiers of the country. Particularly numerous is the group of Romani families who migrated to Venezuela. It is also important to mention the fact that many Romani families move to other places like Argentina, Brazil and USA, in that order. The lack of opportunities in the country due to insecurity, made the traditional Romani professions like metalworking, horse dealing and the sale of leather goods, all needful of constant travelling, the cause of many families’ leaving the territory. We can safely speak of more than 200 families having moved to Venezuela, and some 60 or 70 more to Argentina. Many Rom in Colombia have suffered persecution by drug dealers, guerillas and paramilitaries, the latter permanently racketeering the Romani families.
In Colombia the Romani Evangelical movement grew fast, the movement has been also succesful in those lands, some Colombian Romani pastors due to the conflicts in that country moved to the United States, México, Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina, where they also have relatives, one of the churches of Buenos Aires, Argentina is now under the command of a pastor who was born in Colombia and who has been living in Argentina for the last 7 years, links with other churches in the American continent are something normal, Colombia had the first single woman made up Pastor in the Continent, the late Josefina, no others can be found nowadays occupying that position, except the wives of some of the pastors.
The Romani people in Ecuador
At the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s through the southern border with Peru, and the Northern frontier with Colombia, the first Rom started to arrive in Ecuador, travelling in small groups (vitsas or kumpanyas). From these early groups some merely transited through Ecuador while others remained there. Those who inhabit the country are as follows: Grekuya, Mihay, Bolochok (all of these Kalderash in origin), Xoraxane and some Boyash (who speak these languages: Romanian and Romanes, because they have acquired the last one on the new continent).
The Romani People from Ecuador are concentrated in the provinces of Carchi, Imbabura, Cotopaxi, Pichincha, Tungurahua, Chimborazo, El Oro, Manabí, El Guayas and in the city of Quito. The number of Rom living there has been estimated at some 2.000 persons (ASOROM, personal communication).
Social situation of the Romani People
The major society obliges the Rom to maintain a state of invisibility due to the rejection of the non-Rom (Gadjé). The Romani people are never taken into account when new development projects for the major society are realized, e.g.: health care, education, economic development, housing. They do not recognize the Rom as part of any of the sectors of the population. Some schools do not accept Romani children because they do not speak Spanish and because the Rom have a different culture.
In the health sector, the Gadjé do not treat the Rom adequately. The attention Romani people receives is not equivalent to that of the non-Rom. Police authorities do not accept that the Rom are Ecuadorian at all, besides which they state is that there are no Rom in Ecuador.
In the economic sector, and when the Rom go out in search of work, some people do not want to pay what we ask for the tasks performed by our people and want to pay what they want for those services. Regarding housing the Rom cannot set up their encampments in many places were they would wish to do so, and where while it is not forbidden for others it certainly is for the Rom,. The same happens when someone wants to rent a house, because the Gadjé many times reject our people because they are afraid, thinking that they are going to loose their houses or are going to be robbed by us (ASOROM).
Churches in Ecuador
There is a well known church in Quito and maybe others through the country, because in Ecuador Evangelism was fast accepted by the Romani Population as it happened in other parts of the Americas, some of the pastors and followers of the Romani churches of Ecuador, migarted to Mexico or the United States in the last years in search of new economical horizons. But those who remained were under the tutelage of Pastor Daniel, a Kalderash of Serbian-Greek origin.
Origins of the Romani People according to pentecostalism
There is also a process that has to deal with the necessity of constructing a new sense of ethnic and religious ownership, that has to be firstly with the stereotypes that have been having through the centuries the gadje regarding our people, and this re-construction of our identity also reflects some the ancient traditions of many of the Romani groups. Evangelism reinforces a biblical origin of our people which starts to be related to some biblical characters such as Rehab and his tribe, Cain, Cam, or such as being part of one of the lost twelve tribes of Israel. Even some pastors look for coincidences in some Romani terms with their Hebrew counterparts, such as manro with manna, Del with EL, the Holy Name of God, etc., and it also accomplishes the role of seeking a recognition of our people within and by the major society . Persecution suffered by the Romani People reinforces the ties to something tangible and powerful as it is the Evangelical movement and all the messages coming from the bible, which many times can be identified and equated with those existing inside the old Romani traditions of ourselves, such as the bride price, cohesion of the group, the role of the Romani kris in setting up disputes, and so on. This sense of ownership, can also be seen as something positive in the confront of the Romani People with Institutions and with non-Romani people.
Its positive side and its negative side
This movement also came to give us not only a religious revival, but the revival of our culture and language, and cohesion among the different Kalderash and Lovari groups and with many other Romani groups, not so close to the traditions of the Vlax communities, e.g.: Sintis, Spanish Kalé and Rom from the Balkans.
But somehow the Pentecostal movement was not so positive in some other aspects of our culture, such as fortune telling (drabarimos), which always has been a means of income among many Romani families, and now forbidden by the church, besides Pentecostal churches also forbid traditional ceremonies such as the pomana (ceremony of the dead). These facts create internal conflicts inside many families between the preservation of the traditional way of life and the new beliefs, a new recreation of the traditions based upon the bible also gives some confidence, many aspects of the Romani life some decades ago have been changed by new forms and traditions coming from the Evangelical World in general, which also introduces some non-Romani ways of living and seeing the world, this affects the concept of mahrimé and Rromaníya, and even the relationship within the family and those aspects related to gender and roles, which, despite that, many people perceive as positive and of reinforcing the internal links.
Why a gap?, conclusions
The gap we are refering to, was the lack and the need of an organized religion within our community, administrated by its members.
This has been mainly, as it could be perceived, a need of institutional nature, a need that may have come from a minority that required integration in the major society, in this case, e.g.: an obliged, according to our point of view, former nomad minority escaping persecution and incomprehension through the centuries and looking for its own acceptance as an Ancient Nation spread out all over the world, and also looking for the acceptance of the others in this intercommunicated and globalised world.
Jorge M. F Bernal
Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 2009
The existing bibliography about our people in the Americas is almost null, our sources were mostly our investigations for more than 20 years, with permanent contacts with Mateo Maximoff, Clement Lecossec, Pastor Savka Mitchel, the Community elders and members in all the countries of America and our own archives in the local Associations, our collaborators and the Pan-American Association (SKOKRA).
Armendáriz García, Lorenzo, La Lumea de Noi, About the Boyash Rom in Mexico, México, Feb. 2001.
F. Bernal, Jorge M., General Overview of the Life of Various Gypsy Groups in Argentina, in Roma Gypsy Traveler, Pavee Point Publications, 1997. Papers of the International Study Conference, Rome, 1991, p. 35/36.
F. Bernal, Jorge M., The Rom in the Americas, Independent Dossier, presented in Geneva, in 2003, in front of the extinct Working Group on Minorities, 39 pages.
F. Bernal, Jorge M., ¿y los gitanos de Argentina?, Magazine I Tchatchipen, n. 37, Spain, Jan.- May 2002.
God’s Gypsy Christian Church, Congregation of Romani Pastors from all over the World, Three video tapes, Los Angeles, May 1998.
Godwin, Peter & Armendáriz García, Lorenzo, Gitanos Perpetuos Extraños and Viajeros incansables, in the magazine of the National Geographic, April 2001, Spanish Edition.
Gómez Fuentes, Vénecer & Gamboa, Juancarlos, Los Rom de Colombia, Bogotá 2000. (PROROM)
Gropper, Rena C., Gypsies in the city, Darwin Press, 1975.
Hancock, Ian, We are the Romani People, Collection Interface, University of Hertfordshire Press, Hatfield 2002, Great Britain.
Magazine Interface n. 23, Insert, Université de Paris, France.
Miguelí, Perla, Esoterismo gitano, Ediciones Predicciones, Obelisco S.A., Buenos Aires, 1996.
Revista de la UNESCO, magazine, Los gitanos, Spanish Edition, October 1984.
Revue Vie et Lumiére, year 1983-1986.
Starkie, Walter, Don Gitano, Ediciones Pal-las, Barcelona, 1944.
TV Chile, Gitanos, Documentary, Chile 2000.
The Rom in the Americas, Independent Documentary, Colombia 2001.
Tziboulka, Iván, Gitanos sin carpa, documentary, Chile 2002.
First time that Lulu Demeter came in Buenos Aires was in 1965 approximately. during that time he was already pastor of the Romani church in Paris, France. Personal Communication Juan Carlos Atanasio (Yanko).