We were in a cab trying to get to a museum, and noticed a lady out in the hot sun, trying to wash the windshield of the car idling in front of her. The lady was about 40, but looked older, with a flowered scarf tied around her head, a long flowing purple skirt, socks and sneakers. The angry Spanish driver slammed the car into reverse, so that the lady couldn't squirt or squeegee the glass, or collect any money from the driver for the service she was providing. "Gypsy" my cab driver muttered. "They are from Croatia."
I had always heard of gypsies, but in the US they are thought of in more romantic terms: rovers, elusive, and dare I say, a tad sexy. Kids even dress up a merry gypsies at Halloween.
But in Spain, the gypsies exist as a mysterious tribe on the fringes of the larger population. The word "Gypsy" was derived from the word Egypt, denoting a nomadic person from the Middle East. Many gypsies are refugees from the ethnic cleansing campaigns in Kosovo or Serbia. The majority of Gypsies live in trailers or tents, choosing to not set up a permanent home.
Even though the Spanish image of a gypsy is much romanticized, most of our guidebooks warned about possible unhappy encounters with street gypsies. Some gypsies elect to beg or pickpocket, but one wonders what options are available to them for employment.
On the whole, Spain is the most welcoming country to gypsies in the European Union. That Spanish driver must not have gotten the memo.