A different way of life

Monday Portrait – a Cattle Egret hitching a ride on a horse belonging to the Romani people

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.

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

21 thoughts

  1. Yikes! I’d better check my Portuguese photos and see if any of them have identifiable people in them. I’m afraid a lot of Travellers here have a bad reputation as you know, not helped by some dodgy folk or people leaving trash behind. I taught a couple of traveller kids who suffered from their disrupted education.

  2. I had no clue Portugal was that strict. I really don’t know any official rules here in the US. I know I would never sell photos with people who could be identified, but that is my preference. I take candids all the time though.

    I so adore your first photo. 😀 😀

    1. Portugal is strict on a surprising assortment of things, but then chilled on others. Quite fascinating country

      You’re so brilliant at candids xx

  3. Such a good piece, Becky. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and your thoughts, and the (legitimate) photo, of course

    1. Thanks Mari – it has been really interesting having them camp so close for the past week or so. Really put things into perspective

  4. That is indeed a fine photo. Yes, this is a group widely discriminated against here too. Part of the problem is that their way of life attracts others who are not part of their tradition, and who for various reasons exhibit anti-social behaviours. Then everyone gets tarred with the same brush.

  5. It’s sad that a bad name clings to these folk, Becky. People always seem to mistrust a lifestyle that is different from their own. I can only speak from experience. For many years there was a small encampment on the edge of Altura. I often walked by and was usually accosted by small boys begging. This didn’t do them any favours and they have since been moved on. Whether these were true Romanis or no, I can’t say, but the few can tarnish the many.

    1. That is so true . . although somehow the behaviours of the few of other groups such as white males doesn’t have the same tarnishing effect.

Love to hear your thoughts