Gypsies in Spanish Literature and Culture (Panel)


Spanish/Portuguese

Itziar Rodríguez de Rivera (Cornell University)

Since their arrival in the Iberian Peninsula from India in the early fifteenth century the Roma, known more commonly as “gypsies” or “gitanos,” have played an important, yet ambivalent part in Spanish cultural representations. Roma culture has signified at times as other to Spanishness—part of Spain, and yet set apart and often denigrated—on one hand, even as it has also become the very essence of Spanish identity, on the other. As contemporary representations engage with Roma culture and customs in more positive ways, earlier stereotypes are not so easily shed. After all, the figure of the “gypsy” has been instrumental in managing—strategically stoking or allaying—anxieties about race and identity for much of Spanish culture.

This panel seeks to explore the literary and cultural representations of the Spanish Roma community in different historical contexts, as well as literary genres and media. It welcomes contributions that think critically about “gypsy” imaginaries across (and as) a varied archive, focusing on Spain, but also, potentially, with a comparative or transcultural perspective: from Cervantes’ novella The Gypsy Girl to García Lorca’s poems and plays; from the musical comedies between the 1920s and the 1950s to current reality shows like Los Gypsie Kings; from the passionate fandango dancers observed by foreign travelers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to flamenco in modern day Spain.

The Roma, known more commonly as “gypsies,” have played an ambivalent part in Spanish cultural representations. At times Roma culture has signified as other to Spanishness, even as it has also become the very essence of Spanish identity. The figure of the “gypsy” has been instrumental in managing anxieties about race and identity for Spanish culture. This panel seeks contributions that explore the literary and cultural representations of the Spanish Roma community in different historical contexts, as well as literary genres and media and think critically about “gypsy” imaginaries in Spain and beyond.