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CHAPTER IV

THE Moors, after their subjugation, and previous to their expulsion from Spain, generally resided apart, principally in the suburbs of the towns, where they kept each other in countenance, being hated and despised by the Spaniards, and persecuted on all occasions. By this means they preserved, to a certain extent, the Arabic language, though the use of it was strictly forbidden, and encouraged each other in the secret exercise of the rites of the Mohammedan religion, so that, until the moment of their final expulsion, they continued Moors in almost every sense of the word. Such places were called Morerias, or quarters of the Moors.

In like manner there were Gitanerias, or quarters of the Gitanos, in many of the towns of Spain; and in more than one instance particular barrios or districts are still known by this name, though the Gitanos themselves have long since disappeared. Even in the town of Oviedo, in the heart of the Asturias, a province never famous for Gitanos, there is a place called the Gitaneria, though no Gitano has been known to reside in the town within the memory of man, nor indeed been seen, save, perhaps, as a chance visitor at a fair.

The exact period when the Gitanos first formed these colonies within the towns is not known; the laws, however, which commanded them to abandon their wandering life under penalty of banishment and death, and to become stationary in towns, may have induced them first to take such a step. By the first of these laws, which was made by Ferdinand and Isabella as far back as the year 1499, they are commanded to seek out for themselves masters. This injunction they utterly disregarded. Some of them for fear of the law, or from the hope of bettering their condition, may have settled down in the towns, cities, and villages for a time, but to expect that a people, in whose bosoms was so deeply rooted the love of lawless independence, would subject themselves to the yoke of servitude, from any motive whatever, was going too far; as well might it have been expected, according to the words of the great poet of Persia, THAT THEY WOULD HAVE WASHED THEIR SKINS WHITE.

In these Gitanerias, therefore, many Gypsy families resided, but ever in the Gypsy fashion, in filth and in misery, with little of the fear of man, and nothing of the fear of God before their eyes. Here the swarthy children basked naked in the sun before the doors; here the women prepared love draughts, or told the buena ventura; and here the men plied the trade of the blacksmith, a forbidden occupation, or prepared for sale, by disguising them, animals stolen by themselves or their accomplices. In these places were harboured the strange Gitanos on their arrival, and here were discussed in the Rommany language, which, like the Arabic, was forbidden under severe penalties, plans of fraud and plunder, which were perhaps intended to be carried into effect in a distant province and a distant city.

The great body, however, of the Gypsy race in Spain continued independent wanderers of the plains and the mountains, and indeed the denizens of the Gitanerias were continually sallying forth, either for the purpose of reuniting themselves with the wandering tribes, or of strolling about from town to town, and from fair to fair. Hence the continual complaints in the Spanish laws against the Gitanos who have left their places of domicile, from doing which they were interdicted, even as they were interdicted from speaking their language and following the occupations of the blacksmith and horse-dealer, in which they still persist even at the present day.

The Gitanerias at evening fall were frequently resorted to by individuals widely differing in station from the inmates of these places - we allude to the young and dissolute nobility and hidalgos of Spain. This was generally the time of mirth and festival, and the Gitanos, male and female, danced and sang in the Gypsy fashion beneath the smile of the moon. The Gypsy women and girls were the principal attractions to these visitors; wild and singular as these females are in their appearance, there can be no doubt, for the fact has been frequently proved, that they are capable of exciting passion of the most ardent description, particularly in the bosoms of those who are not of their race, which passion of course becomes the more violent when the almost utter impossibility of gratifying it is known. No females in the world can be more licentious in word and gesture, in dance and in song, than the Gitanas; but there they stop: and so of old, if their titled visitors presumed to seek for more, an unsheathed dagger or gleaming knife speedily repulsed those who expected that the gem most dear amongst the sect of the Roma was within the reach of a Busno.

Such visitors, however, were always encouraged to a certain point, and by this and various other means the Gitanos acquired connections which frequently stood them in good stead in the hour of need. What availed it to the honest labourers of the neighbourhood, or the citizens of the town, to make complaints to the corregidor concerning the thefts and frauds committed by the Gitanos, when perhaps the sons of that very corregidor frequented the nightly dances at the Gitaneria, and were deeply enamoured with some of the dark-eyed singing-girls? What availed making complaints, when perhaps a Gypsy sibyl, the mother of those very girls, had free admission to the house of the corregidor at all times and seasons, and spaed the good fortune to his daughters, promising them counts and dukes, and Andalusian knights in marriage, or prepared philtres for his lady by which she was always to reign supreme in the affections of her husband? And, above all, what availed it to the plundered party to complain that his mule or horse had been stolen, when the Gitano robber, perhaps the husband of the sibyl and the father of the black-eyed Gitanillas, was at that moment actually in treaty with my lord the corregidor himself for supplying him with some splendid thick-maned, long-tailed steed at a small price, to be obtained, as the reader may well suppose, by an infraction of the laws? The favour and protection which the Gitanos experienced from people of high rank is alluded to in the Spanish laws, and can only be accounted for by the motives above detailed.

The Gitanerias were soon considered as public nuisances, on which account the Gitanos were forbidden to live together in particular parts of the town, to hold meetings, and even to intermarry with each other; yet it does not appear that the Gitanerias were ever suppressed by the arm of the law, as many still exist where these singular beings 'marry and are given in marriage,' and meet together to discuss their affairs, which, in their opinion, never flourish unless those of their fellow-creatures suffer. So much for the Gitanerias, or Gypsy colonies in the towns of Spain.

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