The Romani people, Iberian Kale, first arrived in Portugal in the 15th century, when they crossed the border from Spain. Almost immediately found themselves subject to suspicion and persecution. From the early 16th century until the early 19th century, multiple discriminatory laws were passed including ones which expelled them from the country, forced them into exile in the colonies, and forbid from using their language and even wearing their traditional attire. Sadly the 19th and 20th centuries have not been much better as despite being Portuguese citizens since 1822 they still experience discrimination, and up until 2010 some of the persecution remained legal. The gendarmerie could search their camps without a warrant until as late as 1989, towns could expel them from their land and special surveillance measures remained in place until 2010. It is therefore worrying there has been anti-Roma comments in the recent election. Portugal though is no different to the UK and other European Countries in the way it has discriminated against Romani people and other travellers.
The Romani people are the biggest ethnic minority within the European Union, with around 10 to 12 million across Europe of which 6 million of them are EU citizens or residents. There is much diversity within the umbrella description of Romani people including Roma, Sinti, Kale, Romanichels, Boyash/Rudari, Ashkali, Egyptians, Yenish, Dom, Lom, Rom and Abdal, as well as Traveller populations.
Of the 30,000 to 50,000 in Portugal many still live an itinerant lifestyle whilst others have settled into permanent housing. Recently a small family unit have been camping near us, but this weekend they had to move. Some aspects of modern life they have incorporated into their lives, but when it comes to removal day this family unit remain very traditional. It was an honour to observe.
By the way if you are wondering why there are no photographs of the Romani themselves, it is because a) I wasn’t close enough to ask them if I could take their photographs, and b) know they would probably say no anyway. As you may recall from a post I shared a few years ago it is illegal in Portugal to take a picture of a person who opposes to being photographed, and it is a law which is enforced. Also worth noting consent is required to publish photographs of people even if the person is in a public place in Portugal. The only exceptions are if the photographs are of public figures, are being published for scientific, educational or cultural purposes or related to facts of public interest. So whilst I probably would have been okay as my photos would have been unidentifiable and this is an educational post and related to facts of public interest, I just felt it wasn’t respectful for me to include any of them.
Portugal is not the only country with strict consent rules so if you enjoy capturing portraits and street photography do check the laws for photographs of identifiable people where you are especially if you plan to share them on your blog or social media. As one of my friends recently discovered here in Portugal ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse.