December 7, 2010

BEING ASSIMILATED DOESN'T MAKE NATIVES STOP HATING YOU:

In Spain, Gypsies Find Easier Path to Integration (SUZANNE DALEY and RAPHAEL MINDER, 12/05/10, NY Times)

Here, more than 30 years of government programs to help Gypsies have begun to show signs of success. Virtually all young Gypsy children are in elementary school. Nearly half of their parents own their own homes. And like Ms. Jiménez, many are holding down mainstream jobs, moving away from more traditional Gypsy livelihoods like selling cattle and other goods.

Spain has become so successful, in fact, that it now serves as a model for other European countries, including Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. Some experts say Spain’s secret is that it has concentrated on practical issues, such as access to housing and jobs. In contrast, they say, some European institutions have concentrated too much on issues of prejudice and political rights.

“Perhaps as a result, a lot of money has been spent in other parts of Europe to integrate Gypsies but with few results,” said Isidro Rodríguez, director of Fundación Secretariado Gitano, a state-financed organization that administers the Acceder, or “to access,” job program that helped Ms. Jiménez. “The Spanish approach has really been different because it has been first and foremost about improving living standards.”

There are still problems. The school dropout rate for Gypsy children between 12 and 18 is a staggering 80 percent. Nearly 4 percent of the population still live in shacks.

And tales of day-to-day indignities are not hard to come by. At present, for instance, a troupe of Gypsy women is touring the country in a production of “The House of Bernarda Alba” by the poet Federico García Lorca, a performance that has been widely covered by the news media and won largely rave reviews.

But in Madrid, the actresses — who live in a shantytown in Seville and dress in traditional long Gypsy skirts — had trouble getting a taxi. Though accompanied by government officials, they were also refused service in a local bar.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 7, 2010 5:12 PM
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