episode XII: Marseilles

Our drive from Cavaillon to Marseilles followed the typical pattern: we argued about theories of war, peace and revolution, listened to music, and fought over who would actually call the gentleman who we were desperately hoping to meet. When we finally reached the city and found he was still at work, we took the opportunity to park by the port and wander, splitting up for a couple of hours to have a little alone time. The area was beautifully busy, the typical crowded and multicultural hubbub of a small metropolis.


Uncle Pascual


Mirar este articulo en Español abajo.

By now, Uncle Pascual has already  left us. As we Roma say he departed, to a world where the racism that he experienced during his lifetime can never reach him anymore, the kingdom of  heaven where the gilded rooms are home to Roma and Angels alike, where the voices of our Elders and our loved ones forever resonates, joyfully giving thanks to our God, the God of Roma.

I write this article to the memory of Uncle Pascual. It was originally in his own language, Spanish — or, as he called it, “Gitano”.  Because as many Roma in France, our brothers and sisters, although far from us in Spain, they never forgot where they came from or who they were. Roma, yes, and more even: Kalos.

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Tío Pascual


The English language version of this article will appear on the blog shortly. 

Pascual con nosotros.

Pascual con nosotros. [Photo por Luis]

El Tío Pascual ya se marcho, partió como decimos los gitanos, a un mundo donde el racismo que el experimento durante toda su vida no podrá alcanzarle jamás, el reino de los cielos, donde las doradas habitaciones son el hogar de los gitanos y de los ángeles por igual, donde la voz de nuestros ancianos y de nuestros seres queridos resuena para siempre llena de alegría dándole gracias al Dios nuestro, el Dios de los Gitanos.

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Making an Impression


[A testimony in song, composed by a congregation member.]

“Just to let you know, they’ll probably be dressing up for church,” Vicente advised me, “I think even a little bit more here than they would in Spain.”

I had just been trying to get myself together after a long day; we’d gotten back to the apartment just in time for church, so we knew we’d end up heading right back out the door.

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Lost In Cavaillon


This article follows the narrative history of the Vicentes. For an extended background please read the article recently published: Vicente’s Black Legend.

Posing with the pastor. [Photo by Louis]

Posing with the pastor. [Photo by Luis]

The small French Village of Cavaillon has witnessed many things during its long history, but probably the arrival of my relatives was the most surprising phenomenon ever experienced by the Cavallonaises.

The Coverteras searched long and hard for their promised land before the Spanish crisis forced them to beg in the streets as in old times. They thought that the huge seasonal farming industry in this French village well known for its famous melons was the grant of a better future for their children and they decided to move.

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Vicente’s Black Legend


The micro-histories you can find in many Roma familes are stunning. Roma people are extraordinary storytellers; the oral tradition plays a key role in order to enable youth and children to recognize their own origin and background, the name of their family, their relatives, and also the histories of other Roma in the place. The tales, the legends, all these things get mixed and as the centuries passed they have remained the guide for young Roma in their life experience.

I would like to share with you some of these histories, the saga I belong to, The Coverteras…

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Family Matters


The ladies. [Photo by VICENTE]

The ladies. [Photo by VICENTE]

Since getting to the home of Vicente’s Uncle Luis in Cavaillon, family and friends had not stopped to offer us things: first, the evening table was loaded with food; next they suggested we stay with them for a couple of nights instead of searching for a place on the road. Meanwhile, another uncle had lugged in an air mattress for Vicente to share with his younger cousin, while I was offered the bed; we all drank coffee, ate cookies and chatted into the night.

The next day, we came downstairs as they were beginning to plan the afternoon meal: more family from out of town filed in, catching up with Vicente and introducing themselves to me; meanwhile, Louis’ wife Ana and another uncle started to prepare what was soon to be the most delicious Paella I have ever tasted.

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