Marcelo recalls gypsies who died for Restoration of Independence
Portugal’s Roma association has welcomed what it calls “the act of courage” by president Marcelo yesterday, by remember the Portuguese gypsies who fought for the independence of Portugal, celebrated in the December 1 Bank Holiday.
Bruno Gonçalves, vice president of the Letras Nómadas association said that “for the first time in five centuries someone has had the courage to remember that the Portuguese are also Roma, who fought, who were also in historical records that often do not appear in textbooks or educational programmes”.
This courage has come at a time when “hatred is being spread by one (political) party”, he said, in reference to right-wing CHEGA. “We want to be full citizens in this country. We are fighting (for that), but it is not easy to live in a society where the behaviour of a few idiots who exist in any group is taken as the generalised behaviour of a community”.
Since he took up his mandate in 2016, Marcelo has been a defender of Portuguese Roma gypsies, even attending the International Day of the Roma people in Maia, in 2018 – for which he “suffered criticism mainly on social media”, Gonçalves acknowledges.
The gypsy leader said he hopes Marcelo will go on to “promote inclusion policies” that will reverse the current situation of a community “plunged into extreme poverty,” with 30% living in unhealthy housing, very low levels of education and, in health, with life expectancy 15 to 18 years lower than average”.
Following the release of Bruno Gonçalves’ message, CHEGA leader André Ventura “criticised public authorities that ‘rejoice over Roma participation’ without making “a critical exercise” of this community.
But he showed ignorance over the Roma’s involvement in the war of independence five centuries ago.
“I have no knowledge of the participation of the Roma community in that process of independence”, he told reporters, rejecting the suggestion at his party has ever “called into question” or despised the Roma community, despite repeated critical statements over the years, such as the suggestion, in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, that there should have been a specific confinement plan for gypsies.
Says Lusa, “what André Ventura would like to see “is that, at the same time that public authorities rejoice in Roma participation in national life, which is important”, they are also “able to draw the attention of the Roma community when it also has to be drawn to attention”.
“When it is to do a laudatory exercise, one can say it is the Roma community, but when it is to do a critical exercise, one can no longer mention the Roma community”, he complained.
Ventura nonetheless agreed with Marcelo’s premise that “nobody in Portugal should be discriminated against, whether they are Roma, Afro-descendents, Asians or immigrants”.