Gypsy

“Gypsies” is a word that describes an ethnic group actually composed of a number of peoples. Gypsies are also called the Rom or Romani. They appeared in Europe in the Middle Ages, and were thought to have come from Egypt, hence “Gypsies.” They’ve been in Europe for a thousand years but are not often considered to be “European.” Some groups of Rom had (and some still have) a migratory lifestyle that fit poorly with settled societies. Current research has concluded that their homeland was in the Punjab area of India. The Rom form substantial minorities in several European countries, and UNICEF estimates their overall population there at 12 to 15 million. The Rom have often been discriminated against, and a quarter million were victims of Nazi genocide. As a consequence of centuries of often violent discrimination, some groups of Rom became secretive and kept to themselves. There is no clear estimate, but perhaps a million Americans have Gypsy roots. Bias against Gypsies remains strong, as you can tell by such words as “gyp” and “gypsy cab.” There has been some Rom influence on culture: the Spanish flamenco dance and guitar style owes heavily to them.

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