The Romani association movement

As we have seen, in a context of diversity a process of education progressively unfolded. New roles and new schools of thought emerged. And also at such a time, the Romani association movement, which we will now examine in detail, emerged at the hand of the Catholic Church. It must be said that while the Church was the main driver in the mid-1960s, in certain places the first lay associations, which were of an ethnic and activist character, were also begun. All this happened years before democracy was established in Spain.

Humberto García [1] published a review of the history of these movements years later. Using it as a guide, we will delve into the relevant facts and events from their beginnings up to the present:

Entre 1958 i 1970 es donen els primers moviments a favor dels gitanos, encara que són moviments que no sempre conten amb gitanos i gitanes.

   As I said, the start of this process was at the official initiative of the Catholic Church, which in 1958 drafted the articles of association for a charity intended to provide social services and moral guidance to a nomadic population.

In 1964 the Law of Associations was enacted.

Years later, in September 1965, the First International Apostolate Congress on Roma was held in the Italian city of Pomezia. Parallel to these events, between 1964 and 1968, a series of retreats and pilgrimages was held in Spain and Catalonia. These initial events, which were dispersed and the result of highly localised initiatives, lead to the creation of the first Barcelona Romani Secretariat in 1966.

  The definitive beginning of the Romani Association Movement occurred sometime between 1971 and 1978. The 1970s saw the start of several associations of a civil and non-religious nature as part of the general process of social mobilisation during the final stages of Spain’s dictatorship and the subsequent introduction of democracy.

Between 1982 and 1996, great expectations were generated. It was at this stage when specific actions targeted at Roma communities were promoted, and advisory bodies serving Romani organisations were founded.

Local governments began to take an interest in the problems experienced by Roma communities, leading to the allocation of resources and staff. However, it was evident that their goodwill exceeded their knowledge and technical capacity.

The first federations of Romani associations emerged.

In 1985, a non-legislative proposal was passed calling for the creation of an administrative body to carry out development programmes for Roma in Spain.

The Unión Romaní was founded in 1986, supported by Juan de Dios Ramírez Heredia, then an MP for Spain’s Socialist Party.

In December 1986 the fortnightly newspaper Nevipens Romaní (published at the time by the Unión Romaní, and today by the Instituto Romanó) was launched. It was created to be a platform for the expression of issues and concerns of interest to the Romani population.

The Romani Development Programme was launched in 1988.

In 1989, grants originating from optional income tax contributions included the possibility of subsidising programmes designed to benefit the Romani population.

The 1st “Roma in History and Culture” National Congress was held in Granada. It represented a milestone in the recent history of the Romani community.

In 1994, the 1st Romani Congress of the European Union was held in Seville.

Most of the Romani women’s associations were also created in this period, boosting the role of women both within and outside their cultural sphere.

In 1997, the European Congress of Romani Youth was held in Barcelona, providing young people with the opportunity to express their concerns and share experiences.

At this stage associations and federations driven by the evangelical movement in many cities began to emerge.

The Caló Nationalist Party was founded as the first Roma political party.

Some Roma, though few in number at this time, appeared as candidates on local and regional election ballots.

In 2010, the European Roma Summit was held in the city of Cordoba.

[1] H. García (1995), “El movimiento asociativo gitano: claves para un diálogo intercultural” in Los gitanos en la historia y la cultura. Actas de un Congreso, Granada: Regional Government of Andalusia, Department of Labour and Social Affairs. Provincial Government of Granada.
(1999), “El movimiento asociativo gitano: retos de futuro” in Los gitanos andaluces. No. 30, monographic. Seville: Demófilo. Fundación Machado.
Written by Carme Méndez.