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Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, [1899], at

In South America.

For South America our information was, quite recently, even more meagre. Twenty years ago I just knew from Henry Koster's Travels in Brazil (Lond. 1816, p. 399) of the presence of Ciganos there, whom he described as ' a people of a brownish cast, with features which resemble those of white persons, and tall and handsome. They wander from place to place in parties of men, women, and children, exchanging, buying, and selling horses, and gold and silver trinkets. . . . They are said to be unmindful of all religious observances, and never to hear Mass or confess their sins. It is likewise said that they never marry out of their own nation.' Since then, however, Mello Moraes has published Os Ciganos no Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, 1886), which, besides a Rómani glossary, gives a good historical and statistical account of the Brazilian Gypsies. They seem to be the descendants of Ciganos transported from Portugal towards the close of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century. Thus, by a decree of 27th August 1685, the Gypsies were henceforth to be transported to Maranhão, instead of to Africa; and in 1718, by a decree of 11th April, the Gypsies were banished from the kingdom to the city of Bahia, special orders being given to the governor to be diligent in the prohibition of the language and 'cant ' (giria), not permitting them to teach it to their children, that so it might die out. It was about this time, according to 'Sr. Pinto Noites, an estimable and venerable Gypsy of eighty-nine years,' that his ancestors and kinsfolk arrived at Rio de Janeiro--nine families transported hither by reason of a robbery imputed to the Gypsies.

p. xvii

[paragraph continues] The heads of these nine families were João da Costa Ramos, called João do Reino, with his son, Fernando da Costa Ramos, and his wife, Dona Eugenia; Luis Rabello de Aragão; one Ricardo Frago, who went to Minas; Antonio Laço, with his wife, Jacintha Laço; the Count of Cantanhede; Manoel Cabral and Antonio Curto, who settled in Bahia, accompanied by daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, and grandchildren, as well as by wife and sons. They applied themselves to metallurgy--were tinkers, farriers, braziers, and goldsmiths; the women told fortunes and gave charms to avert the evil eye. In the first half of the nineteenth century the Brazilian Gypsies seem to have been great slave-dealers, just as their brethren on this side of the Atlantic have always been great dealers in horses and asses. We read on p. 40 of 'M . . ., afterwards Marquis of B . . ., belonging to the Bohemian race, whose immense fortune proceeded from his acting as middleman in the purchase of slaves for Minas.' And there are several more indications, scattered through the book, that the Brazilian nation, from highest to lowest, must be strongly tinctured with Rómani blood. We know far too little about the Chinganéros or Montanéros, wandering minstrels of Venezuela, to identify them more or less vaguely with Gypsies (Gypsy Lore Journal, i. 306, 373); and a like remark applies, even more strongly, to the Lowbeys of Gambia, who have been described as the 'Gypsies of North-West Africa,' who never intermarry with another race, and who confine themselves almost exclusively to the making of the various wooden utensils in use by natives generally (ib. i. 54). Still, these Lowbeys may be the descendants of Gypsies transported from Portugal, or of the Basque Gypsies, whole bands of whom so lately as 1802 were caught by night as in a net, huddled on shipboard, and landed on the coast of Africa (Michel's Pays Basque, p. 137).

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