Arrival to the peninsula


Roma went to Spain as groups of pilgrims on their way to Compostela and other holy sites to purge their apostasy. Alfonso V of Aragón (12 January 1425) granted them safe passage to travel for three months through his territory. On 9 June 1447 they arrived in Barcelona, and Juan II of Castile granted them safe conduct in 1460.

The Romani “counts” and “dukes” for whom documented accounts have been found are:

  • Juan of Little Egypt (12 January 1425)
  • Tomás, Count of Little Egypt (8 May 1425)
  • Duke Andrés and Count Pedro (9 June 1447)
  • Jacob of Little Egypt (14 March 1460)
  • Martín and Tomás (1460)
  • Duke Pablo of Little Egypt (28 June 1484)
  • Luis and Felipe, Counts of Little Egypt (29 May 1484)
Romani Caravan. Engraving by Jacques Callot.

Each of these counts and dukes was accompanied by about 100 people, which suggests that no more than 1,000 Roma originally made their way into Spain. They were highly mobile and the cause of great excitement and amazement for the population because of the way they dressed and their behaviour. They were very well received by kings and nobles, who gave them safe conduct passes, gifts and food for themselves and their animals, as was customary to do with pilgrims.


This period began in 1499 with the Pragmatic Decree of the Catholic Kings and ended in 1783 with the Pragmatic Decree of Carlos III.

They were persecuted for the simple fact of being Roma and expected to settle in a fixed place and to serve a Lord. Gradually they acquired many common and legal rights (they were not permitted to speak their language, wear their traditional clothes, freely choose where to live, hold public office, etc.).


This period began with the Pragmatic Decree of Carlos III and went up to the introduction of democracy.

The Pragmatic Decree of Carlos III purported to grant equal rights to Roma, although in reality these were only de facto rights. They acquired all the rights of ordinary citizens, including the freedom to live anywhere they wanted but they had to do so in a fixed location, because people without a permanent place of residence were not considered to be Spanish citizens. All equality that was granted was in exchange for them giving up their culture as a positive element in a diverse society. Roma do not legally exist.

Article from the “Maj Khetane” educational project.
Written by Jesús Salinas.