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Occidental College

Publication Date

Fall 2011

Program Name

Morocco: Migration and Transnational Identity


Flamenco performance – which scholars often describe in terms of the three dimensions of cante, or singing, baile, or dance, and toque, or instrumentation – is a complex synthesis of cultural influences across several centuries. In discussing the evolution of flamenco, scholars typically begin with the history of the gitanos, the subgroup of the Romani or Gypsy people that settled in Spain. Drawing upon a large body of ethnographic, historic and scientific evidence, scholars agree that the gitanos originated in the northwestern regions of contemporary India and

Pakistan – specifically, Rajasthan and the Punjab region (Iovita 275; Hancock) – and had arrived in Andalucía, or southern Spain, by the first half of the 15th century (Iovita 279; Manuel 50).

Within these efforts to document the migratory movements of the Romani, scholars often emphasize the genetic data that suggest that endogamy figured largely in the cultural practices of the Romani and genetic data that, as Radu P. Iovita and Theodore G. Schurr note, “imply that Gypsies have experienced some degree of isolation from other ethnic groups following their establishment as founding populations in various regions in Europe” (270). The recognition of this isolation by Iovita and Schurr is significant for its cultural implications on the integration and assimilation of the gitanos into mainstream Spanish society. As Iovita and Schurr go on to add, the gitanos, as well as the majority of the other Romani migrant groups, have been and in many cases, continue to be, discriminated against and politically disenfranchised (268). In addition, Timothy Dewaal Malefyt notes that the gitanos synthesized the influences that constitute flamenco while occupying one of the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder in Spain (65), while other flamenco scholars assert that the gitanos’ sense of oppression in fact characterizes the art form (Manuel 48).


Arts and Humanities | Dance | Ethnomusicology | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures


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