Accessible Algarve
Don’t Call Them Gypsies

Don’t Call Them Gypsies


First Published March 17, 2013 by Constance

The life of a group of Gypsies looks very hard, something out of the past. We have been living a stone’s throw from three large tents with real Gypsies.  They have been camped in the field in back with their horses, carts and family.  We watch them, amazed that their life lived from the back of a horse cart, traveling from place to place, still exists today.   Just a few steps from the solidly middle class homes of our neighborhood.

They are, to be culturally correct, called Romanys. The Romani people and have lived in Portugal since the 2ndhalf of the 15th Century, there are 30,000 to 50,000 in the country.  These are the most hated people in Europe. I was amazed when I went to Google to see some sites on them; people post advice that goes way beyond “don’t let your daughters near them”.  When they pull their horse and cart up to the supermarket, store security goes into high alert.

This morning after picking up the day’s bread, we took a path by the soccer field that would lead us quite close to their camp.  We passed a group of blossoming trees filling the air with a wonderful scent.  Were they apple?  Cherry?  No, it was some kind of nut, hazelnut ? After looking one nut over carefully we discovered an almond and the reason for all the lovely almond pastries in the region.  These trees are everywhere, blooming like crazy and we have been wondering what they were, mystery solved.

The citizen stops me and points through the bushes, a sheep with her lamb was less than 50 yards away hiding in the shrubs.  She was still breathing heavily and the baby couldn’t stand.  Mama was licking the lamb getting it to nurse and was clearly uneasy with our attention.  We worried about this newborn’s safety, what if one of the dogs that run freely around the neighborhood should come across it?  Where was its flock? Sheep mom

Soon a Romani delegate from the camp was sent to check us out and ask for a Euro, we had spent all our money on bread and didn’t have a Euro on us and he went back to the family.  We watched as they packed their lives on their horse drawn carts and pointed their horses east to the next empty pasture.
We have lived in Lagos long enough to recognize our Romany neighbors.  We smile and wave when we pass them waiting to pick their children up from school,or hear the clip clopping of their horse on the roads. They graze their horses wherever there is a decent overgrown field tied to a stake and provided with a bucket of water.  

Knowing the locals, especially here in Lagos since it recently became the new "It" town for vacations, keeps me grounded.  Whenever I run into and share a smile with someone I am reminded I get to live in Portugal.  Where it's normal to have neighbors who drive on city streets in a horse drawn cart and live in their tented community sitting around the fire at night.
However, we don't have a daughter.
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