On April 8th was the Día Internacional del Pueblo Gitano, a holiday that celebrates the first International Congress of the Roma people. The celebration included flamenco dancing, speeches and a throwing of flower petals into the River Genil in remembrance of the Nazi genocide of Roma during the Holocaust and other persecution in times since. Gitanos, which means gypsies in Spanish, still face marginalization in Spain and many community organizations are working to fix this.
I’ve been lucky to intern at one of these organizations, Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG), a EU funded non-profit that works directly with the Gitanos across Spain to help them access education and work opportunities. My internship has me in the classroom where people my age are learning skills that will help them gain employment and then complete an internship at a local business.
These past months I have been in a class for people wanting to become waiters, where they learn the nuances of working in a restaurant. Because Granada is a large tourist destination, FSG teaches the students basic English phrases so that they can serve English-speaking tourists. While the teacher does teach some of the English, I help the students with pronunciation as the teacher is not a native speaker. It’s a blast to be working with people my age and trying to explain the difference between there, their and they’re, a difference that even I struggle with sometimes in writing. Another fun lesson was the pronunciation difference between sheet and shit.
While I’m teaching my friends in the class English words, they have taught me much more through their thoughts about Gitano culture, the Spanish government, and Spanish life. Their eagerness to tell me about their hopes and struggles has allowed to view the city and country I’m living in with both a more critical and appreciative outlook. Also, just as I speak English very quickly and with lots of slang with my American friends, my friends in the course do the same in Spanish, which has been a challenge but has allowed me to improve my comprehension and grow my slang vocabulary. Now instead of saying muy bien, I can say que guay. Lastly, the people in my class are all super stylish and I’ve picked up a few style tips so look out fashion world.
I think one thing that has made interning at FSG so interesting is that the U.S.’s Roma population is smaller and not as well known. However, America still has some of the negative stereotypes of gypsies that Spain has, such as them being dishonest or deceiving. FSG is trying to break these stereotypes that people have by making sure that Gitanos finally have equal chances for work and for getting an education and through educating Spaniards about Gitano culture. The stereotypes about Gitanos that I have heard in Spain and in the US are completely wrong and I’m reminded of this every time I go to FSG and spend time with both the motivated and genuine students and staff there. Thanks FSG for a wonderful internship so far!