• Spain's news in English

Spain 'Miss Gypsy' contest aims to empower

AFP · 11 May 2014, 16:12

Published: 11 May 2014 16:12 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

With flowery shawls and crop-tops for the girls, black waistcoats and gelled hair for the boys, dozens of teenagers auditioned on Friday in the first round of the "Mister and Miss Gypsy" contest.

"I want to be a model. I love it," said Libertad Barrull, 17, her hair pinned up in an elaborate bun, as she waited excitedly to go before the judges.

Spain's gypsy traditions of flamenco singing and dancing may have a romantic image, but the ancient community of so-called "gitanos" here remains among the most underprivileged, figures show. Gypsies are also known as Roma.

The contest "gives them a helping hand to become something in life, like our generation couldn't be," said Libertad's mother Rosario, 56.

Flocking to a Madrid hotel for the audition, the young contestants posed for photographs and crowded round tables where the organisers noted their names, education, interests and ambitions.

The contest aims to help gypsy women "be a bit more independent", says Maria Jimenez of the Northern Flamenco Association, the organiser of the contest.

"For a gypsy woman, the aim is always just to get married very young, at 14 or 15, and have children," she said.

"I want the gypsy woman to study and become independent so she doesn't depend on her husband to give her 10 euros so she can eat."

The jury -- five non-gypsies from fashion and show business -- is therefore encouraged to judge not just the contestants' looks but their minds.

"It's not just about being pretty," said another of the organisers, Eva Jimenez. "It's about studying and being intelligent."

Half the gypsies in Spain leave school by the age of 16, according to the latest figures from Secretariado Gitano, a rights group, which date to 2011.

"Things have changed a lot" for the gypsies over time, said Rosario's friend, Sonia Heredia, 36.

"People have started to realise now that you can't get married so soon because you're tying yourself down to being a housewife when you're still a

The unemployment rate for the 725,000-strong minority is painfully high, however: 36 percent in 2011, according to the rights group. That was way above Spain's already high national rate of 26 percent.

For those hoping to make it to the final of Mister and Miss Gypsy on October 6th, the contest is a fun chance to show off -- but these youngsters and their families see the serious side too.

One prospective Mister Gypsy, Jesus Heredia, came to audition dressed in a spotless white shirt and dark red scarf.

"I hope it can open some doors," said his mother, Esther, 45. "We will see what comes of it. It is a start, but it won't stop the kids getting married the way they do."

Story continues below…

Jesus, who works in an ice cream parlour, came along to audition with his cousins.

"I want to be the best-looking," he said. "But I'm also in it to show that we gypsies are people, just like the rest."

The Roma, a traditionally nomadic people whose ancestors left India centuries ago, have long suffered from discrimination.

They were killed in their hundreds of thousands by the Nazis during World War II, alongside Jews and homosexuals.

Discrimination continues today as some countries blame Roma for a rise in petty crime.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available