Roma Civil Rights movement


Development of Roma Civil Rights Movements in Argentina and Latin America

Jorge Bernal


The first Roma may have arrived in the Americas with the third voyage of Christopher Columbus in 14981. Since then, there have been different waves of Roma migration originating from Europe. As a result, the Roma population in the countries of North and Latin America are very diverse in their sub-groups and nationalities.

There is little reliable data regarding the size of Roma populations; only in few countries (Colombia, Brazil and Canada and the USA), does the national census allow Roma ethnicity to be declared. It is estimated that there are between 1,500,000 – 4,000,000 Roma in the Americas2. Roma remain a largely invisible, often assimilated minority throughout the continents. Today, however, emerging processes of political activism and mobilization aiming at seeking recognition in some countries have led to a growing public and political presence; Roma NGOs include lawyers, doctors, psychologists, anthropologists, musicians, actors and others.

The arrival of the first Roma in the Americas in the 16th ccentury was often the result persecution in Europe, or deportation as indentured labour,3 specially of Roma (Kalon) from Portugal to Brazil. Spain similarly, tried to rid itself of its Romani population after 1492.

Although, Romani NGOs are hardly a mass movement amongst the Romani populations in the Americas, little-by-little acceptance has grown with the traditional structures of the Kris system, which remain strong in the Americas and of the Romani evangelical churches, spread throughout the entire American continent.4

The key to the achievement of full civil rights and status of Roma in Latin America and their contribution to that of Roma in the world, is the mastering of the benefits of the formal educations system without being subjugated by it, thus contributing to a better life for the Romani people and the preservation of their traditions in the Americas, as well as building towards the formation of a true worldwide Romani nation or community which could help to improve the existence of the whole of humanity.