Characteristics of fairy tales are occasionally woven into the story of Petre and his wife, Maida. The focus of the story, however, is on becoming sedentary and thus adapting, at least in part, to the way of life of Argentina’s majority society. Ultimately, the theme of the novel is the emergence of the nueva gitanidad latinoamericana (new Latin-American ‘Gypsyness’) based on this ethno-cultural intermediate.
Petre wants to buy a dancing bear in order to keep travelling and continue the ‘traditional nomadic lifestyle’ of the Roma. At the end of the novel, he owns the longed-for bear but eventually decides to settle down and leave it to his son. The process repeatedly leads to attempts by the protagonists to start a dialogue with non-Roma, which regularly leave them feeling a sense of exclusion while being aware of their own ‘otherness’. Furthermore, it is a story about breaking away from the strict rites and laws of Romani culture.
By offering the payo (non-Romani) reader an internal perspective – and thus insights into the life and culture of the Roma – the novel seeks to increase awareness, a goal that is explicitly expressed at the end: ‘Había que cambiar la mala fama que perseguía a los romaníes’ (The bad reputation that has haunted the Roma had to be changed).
Nedich, Jorge Emilio. 2005. El aliento negro de los Romaníes. Buenos Aires: Planeta, p. 11-19.