Professor Vincent Bruce
I have always been fascinated by the gypsies this singular community who lives and travels in caravans , rarely staying in the same place for 6 months who loves music and pretends that they can read the future of someone by looking at the lines of his hands. For centuries their origin remained a mystery. The most fantastic hypotheses were advanced. Were they the children of Adam and a woman before Eve, the sons of a lost tribe of Israel? Today researchers seem unanimous in recognizing the Indian origin of Gypsies. For this assignment I enjoyed watching a good documentary about their live and especially how they celebrates their weddings.
I cannot talk about the gypsies, their life style and their weddings without making a brief review of their origins. Many received ideas circulate about them, testifying to both fear and fascination, and often ignorance: “Gypsies come from India”, “Gypsies live in camps”, ” The Roma are nomadic Gypsies from the East “,” They do not send their children to school “, but also” The gypsies can read the lines of the hand “,” Gypsies have music in their blood” . The Roma as they are commonly called are an ethnic people who have migrated from India across Europe for a thousand years. The reasons for their departure from India are not known. Their first migrations brought them from the north India to Iran, Greece and Europe via the Byzantine Empires. The Roma culture has a rich oral tradition, with an emphasis on family. They are often also called travelers because they are nomads rarely staying more than 6 months at the same place. Portrayed as exotic and strange, the Roma have faced discrimination and persecution for centuries. Today, they are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Europe about 12 million to 15 million people, with 70 percent of them living in Eastern Europe. Roma immigration to the United States began with the colonization of the Spanish and they were embarked as slaves and some escaped arriving in the Americas with small groups in Virginia and Louisiana. Their traditions and lifestyles so different from ours and the fear they inspire, nourished by firmly anchored prejudices often make it difficult to coexist with sedentary populations.
Gypsies are people who get married very young. For them when you get marry at 18 year old you marry very old. The documentary was about two young people Carlene 14 and Antonio 15 both gypsi who wanted to get married. They lives at Montpellier, a city in the north of France in their gypsi community. They had had a secret relationship for 5 years without ever seeing intimacy of each other. For gypsies two people can not sleep together without being married. I was surprised to learn that this rule still exist nowadays. Even the law requires that everyone must get high school diploma before stopping school the gypsies don’t respect that. Their kids exceptionally the girls habitually just go to school to learn how to read and write and after that they leave the school or they become home schooled to protect them from the world according to their parents. For gypsies the women are made just to be a wife, mum and to raise her kids. Carlene did not escape this law. So after primary school she stopped the school.
A few days before the ceremony the two families met to make official acquaintance. Antonio, his uncles and their patriarch came officially to demand Carlene’s hand. Carlene very shy was hiding in her room. She was calling by her parents to be seen by her beloved just a few minutes and she disappeared again very uncomfortable that all eyes were on her. She was also very concerned about the event of the next day: “the famous tissue ceremony” who will be presiding by Paloma a 70 year old woman. It was also strange to me and I was eager to find out more.
The next morning Carlene was awakened early by her mother so she could take a shower. A special pink night gown was planned for the occasion. After makeup by the women of her family Carlene and everyone waited with impatience for Paloma’s arrival. Carlene who had never drank alcohol asked to her mum: “Mum may I have a glass of whiskey without coca”. Her mum answered “No” and trying to comfort her with a smile. Suddenly the house was filled by all the women of the neighborhood. Indeed, many women had to attend the tissue ceremony in order to be able to testify later. Finally Paloma arrived and ordered all unmarried women to go out. Carlene knowing that the fateful moment was finally arrived began to sob. Her mother and sisters took her in their arms: “Don’t cry”, “be relaxed”, “we were all going through this”, “the more you will be relaxed, the more everything will pass quickly…” and the ceremony of the tissue was explained to us. Indeed every young gypsi girl have to be a virgin before getting married and it was the role of Paloma to prove that. If it turns out that she is not a virgin, she will shame all her family and will not be able to get married and will be banned from the clan forever. Anyone who will try to get in touch with her will be banish too. Carlene was carried by two of her aunts and lying on a central table under the eyes of about forty women. Antonio and his family’s member were in the backyard waiting for the big new. Paloma approached to check the hymen of Carlene with a white tissue. Anxious like Carlene’s parents I also held my breath while waiting for the result. Paloma introduced the tissue in Carlene’s private parts and after about fifteen minutes cry of joy began to come from everywhere, the virginity of Carlene was proved. Phew!! I let out a cry of relief too. Paloma waved the white tissue covered by Carlene’s blood sign of her virginity. The women started throwing flowers on Carlene. Her mother and sisters surrounded her and kissed her proudly. The famous tissue covered with blood was brought outside where was gathered men and all the rest of the guests. The cloth was stretched from hand to hand, everyone wanted to see with his own eyes. After all the famous tissue was given to Antonio mother who will keep it in the family safe. Carlene’s father very proud began firing rifles in the air to alert the entire neighborhood of his daughter virginity. Antonio relieved and proud of his future wife opened a bottle of champagne and began to drink without a glass. All of a sudden people started to yell Carlene dressed in a dress embroidered with precious stones entered to dance with her beloved. Gypsi’s music was sung by women and men played guitar, flute and all kinds of musical instruments I didn’t know. All this was very foreign to me. The two lovers finally allowed finally to touch each other in public approached one another looking at each other tenderly. Antonio took the hands of his beloved and whispered in her ear “I love you”. Carlene answered “I even more” .In a fortnight a big party will be organized to finally seal the fate of the two lovers. I caught myself shedding tears marveling at their pure and childlike love.
For a short while I had the feeling of being totally in a gypsy’s world and participating in person at the wedding ceremony. I really enjoyed watching this documentary. It made me finally satisfy my curiosity about gypsy culture and all its mysteries. Even though it has some gaps and it is not always right I do not think it is totally old school. Would our world not be better if we embrace some of their values? If like them, it was demanded that all women be virgins before marriage, the world will not be spared of all the depravation we see nowadays?