Gypsy Law: Romani Legal Traditions and Culture

By Walter O. Weyrauch | Go to book overview

NINE
The Rom-Vlach Gypsies
and the Kris-Romani

Ronald Lee

INTRODUCTION: LEADERSHIP AMONG THE ROM-VLACH GYPSIES

Before discussing the kris-Romani, or “Gypsy Court, ” it may be useful to describe the leadership structure among the large group of Rom in Canada and the United States who have been defined as the Rom-Vlach Gypsies.1 Many Gypsiologists and writers who have written about this group have borrowed from previous sources and, in my opinion, have failed to clarify the exact nature of leadership among them. In some ways, they have created a new set of stereotypes to replace those they have attempted to demolish—for example, the semi-mythological “Gypsy Chieftain” or “tribal leader” has now been redefined as the “big man, ” or baro. Some of these modern “big men” have even been cast as all-powerful urbangangster types in the image of the typical Hollywood godfather.2 The term baro is

The opinions expressed in this article are the author'S own and do not reflect the official policy of the Romani Union. As a Canadian Rom of British descent he respects the anonymity of living Roma. Those named herein are deceased, or referred to in other published sources in connection with information that itself is already public. The spelling of Romani words is his own. For equivalent spellings see Hancock, “Glossary of Romani Terms, ” chap. 8 in this volume.

____________________
1
The Rom-Vlach Gypsies are a widespread group of interrelated clans and families who exist in Romania, and by emigration in Western Europe and elsewhere, including in North and South America. Their Romani dialects contain a large battery of athematic items or loan words taken from the Rumanian, in contrast to the non-Vlach Romani dialects, whose speakers have borrowed words from other languages. The ancestors of the present-day Rom-Vlach were held as slaves in the former slaveholding principalities of Wallachia (hence Vlach, from Vlachiya/Vlaxiya). The term Rom-Vlach is used by Gypsiologists and others who study the Rom and is not a term used by the Gypsies themselves. In Romani linguistics, it is a convenient term to categorize the Romani dialects spoken by this particular group.
2
Peter Maas, King of the Gypsies (1975). The slant of this book, based on dubious source material, presents a picture of an urban-gangster type (at 4ff) not in keeping with the image of its subject, “King” Tene Bimbo, held by the Rom themselves. I met him a few times in Montreal and found him an affable man, with many friends among his contemporaries who admired and respected him. The film, itself only loosely based on the book, is Hollywood fiction bearing little reality to the man and his milieu.

-188-

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Gypsy Law: Romani Legal Traditions and Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Editor's Note on Terminology vii
  • Foreword - Angela P. Harris ix
  • One - Walter O. Weyrauch 1
  • Two - Walter O. Weyrauch and Maureen Anne Bell 11
  • Three - Thomas Acton, Susan Caffrey, and Gary Mundy 88
  • Four - Susan Caffrey and Gary Mundy 101
  • Five - Calum Carmichael 117
  • Six - Angus Fraser 137
  • Seven - Martti Grönfors 149
  • Eight - Ian Hancock 170
  • Nine - Ronald Lee 188
  • Ten - Anne Sutherland 231
  • Eleven - Walter O. Weyrauch 243
  • Contributors 277
  • Index 279
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