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 MIGRATION MEMORIES WITH NO FOOTPRINTS: 

FROM “BACK AND FORTH” ROMA TO “MOORISH ROMA”. MEMORIAL AND HISTORICAL UPROOTING OF THE MIGRANT SPANISH “CALÉS” IN NORTH AFRICAN COLONIES (END XIXc. -1960)

 

 

 

 

There is, among the many modern and contemporary migrations, a typical example of migration memories with no footprints: that of the Spanish Calé Roma that migrated to the Maghreb at the end of the XIX c. and the beginning of the XX c. Representations of this migration case have no institutional existence. The memory and the human heritage left by the Romani experience in


North Africa throughout generations is kept alive only through the family tales, the artistic representations and the self-recognition within the broader Roma group. Those Spanish Roma that migrated to the French and/or Spanish colonies of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco were mainly natives of Andalusia and the Levante region. Firstly, at the end of the XIX c. and the beginning of the XX c., they were part of the seasonal migration flux, typical of the financially driven migration movements of that time. However, this seasonal migration turned into a permanent one, and the Romani communities finally settled (out of place somehow) in the demographical and cultural context of the African colonies. Not Europeans, nor indigenous, nor “colons”, nor “moors”. The decolonization and the following arrival in France of the vast majority of this population meant a series of traumatic experiences, the cause of “memorial mismatches”: the migrating immigrants were no less Roma, half Spanish half French Roma, “Pieds Noirs” Gypsies, parked in slums outside Marseille, Toulon and Sète, sometimes for more than two generations. If we consider that a reflection on the representations and the memories of migrations is fundamental, the memorial experience of the “Moorish Roma” stands as an antinomy. The institutionalized representation of those Romani migrations to the Maghreb is absolutely inexistent. Such a phenomenon has many reasons, some being endogenous to the current realities of the Romani People, others being exogenous and consequence of the many taboos surrounding this people on the one hand, and the French historical memory on the other hand. 

1. The transnational nature of the Romani People, devoid of political institutions, is an obstacle to the development and the writing of a historical and memorial narrative. 

2. The ignorance of the domestic and international historical realities of the Romani People from the majority in society and its intellectual body is widespread and is due to multiple reasons: 

    - A stereotypical look on the Romani People by the academic body and a lack of interest due to a schizophrenic situation: the academic “invisibility” of a group highly “visibilised” and alive in the individual memory among the majority in society (whenever their recollection is called upon). 

    - The difficulty for the “Moorish Roma” themselves, despite a strong sense of self-representation, to mobilize their memories as such, due to a traumatic history of repeated uprooting. 

    - A problematic identification vis-à-vis the majority in society (“pieds noir”, but not quite the same as the others, Spanish Roma but “moorish”, more recently French Roma by nationality, but Spanish Roma by culture...) 

However, there are many channels that could help recover the memories of this migration history: 

   - The culture and music of the “Moorish Roma” and postcolonial literature. 

   - The current, rather peaceful, coexistence in French districts between the “Moorish Roma” and the North African communities.

    - Redefinitions of the French individual and collective stand in view of the colonial memory. Considering the fact that the “cognitive implications in the narrative choices” are obvious in the Romani historiography and have been destructive, we will reflect on the memorial self-feeding of the “Moorish Roma” in southern France. We will stress the role played by the women in the preservation, and sometimes manipulation, of that memory as a strategy for survival Sarah carmona.

Last modified on Friday, 28 December 2012 16:15
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