The Gypsy history and customs exhibition in Bil Bil Castle. / T. Bryant

Gypsy contribution to Spanish culture highlighted in new exhibition

The exhibition focuses on the origins of the Gypsy race and their arrival in Spain in the fifteenth century

TONY BRYANT

The Castillo El Bil Bil in Benalmádena is hosting a new exhibition called Historia y Cultura Del Pueblo Gitano, an initiative aimed at promoting the history and traditions of the Gypsies. The exhibition focuses on the origins of the Gypsy race, the diaspora from India more than 1,000 years ago, and their arrival in Spain in the fifteenth century.

As well, it details the contributions the Gypsy community has made to the Andalusian and Spanish culture, from their music and dance and regional costume, to the many Calo words which have enriched the Spanish language. Special attention is given to flamenco, a style of music and dance - declared a World Heritage Treasure in 2010 - that’s roots are undoubtedly rooted within the Gypsy culture.

A series of information boards explains the many legislations that were enforced by the Spanish Crown in an attempt to wipe out their lifestyle and customs.

The Catholic Monarchs enforced the first of a series of laws in the late 15th century, and the persecution and prejudices against them would continue for almost 300 years.

It also features current Gypsy politicians and campaigners who now work tirelessly to eradicate hatred, discrimination and injustices suffered by Gypsies in the work place.

Celebrities

The exhibition, which continues until 3 December, also focuses on Spanish Gypsy sports personalities and celebrities, along with a special section dedicated to some of the of world’s top personalities who have Romany roots. These include actors Charles Chaplin, Michael Caine and Helen Mirren; and musicians such as Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, and Elvis Presley, who, it is claimed, descended from German Gypsies who emigrated to the USA in the early 18th century.

The initiative is organised by the Asociación de Enseñantes con Gitanos, an association that strives to alleviate the many prejudices that the Gypsies have been subjected to.

The exposition, which was inaugurated by representatives of the Federación Andaluza Hermandad Gitana (Andalusian Gypsy Brotherhood Federation), was organised to coincide with the Day of the Andalusian Gypsy (22 November), an event that is celebrated every year by the more than 500,000 Gypsies that reside in the region, a community that represents 50 per cent of the Roma population of Spain.

The day was recognised by the Andalusian government in 1996, because it was on this day in 1462 that the first Gypsies arrived in Andalucía. Since then, the Gypsies of Andalucía have integrated into society more so than in any other area in Europe, and their contribution to the culture and customs of the region is undeniable.