A four-year old blonde girl set off a whirlwind of international publicity in October of 2013 when she was found living in Greece with a Romany couple who were not her biological parents. The girl was scurried off to Child Protective Services, the couple arrested, and dormant prejudices reignited.
The worldwide publicity has refueled long-held fears that Gypsies are child stealers. Where did this myth begin? In a recent article in the Huffington Post (10/24/13), Peter McGuire, an Irish Folklore lecturer at University College Dublin explains that Romany child abduction is an age-old folk story that warns the mainstream to “watch your kids around the Gypsies, or they’ll steal them.” According to McGuire, “Across the Western world, the folk image of men in white vans cruising around housing estates and attempting to abduct children, has become a popular expression of a very natural parental terror.” Even though there is no documented case of Roma or Travellers stealing non-Gypsy children anywhere, the myth persists.
There is not much we can do about what people choose to believe. But we can offer our own experiences in the hope that someday the truth will trump the myth. Here’re a few images I took of a Spanish Gypsy family in Seville.
Image #1: Sulamita
This little girl, Sulamita, is the daughter of the man below, owner of the white van. Her father did not cruise the neighborhood nor steal her away in his big white van. She is his legitimate, light skinned, blonde, and very much loved youngest daughter.
Image #2: Manolo
Now let’s take a look a little closer to home. That’s me on the left, my daughter on the right. Of the two families—mine and the Gypsy family above, whose do you think will be the first to be accused of “stealing a child?” The answer, unfortunately, is obvious.
Image #3: Susan and Sita
For more information on the myth of Gypsy child abduction, click here to read Peter McQuire’s article:
What about you? Have you ever found yourself being fearful of the Gypsies?.