This morning's press here brings news from the small town of Castellar, in the province of Jaen. That's about two hours north of Malaga. Unfortunately, it's a very predictable story. It seems as if the only thing that changes are the names: it begins with an insult or a fight and escalates to a full blown witch hunt against the gypsy minority, obligated to flee. Often it involves enraged parents demanding that the gypsy children be kept out of their school. And of course, the mob is always quick to insist that this has nothing to do with race. We're not racists! It's about security. In Castellar it started with a fight among some teenagers on Saturday night. Over seventy of the small town's ninety something Romani fled in fear for their safety. And some of the few who stayed behind required police protection. When I came to Spain for the first time in 1979 I was struck by the incongruence of Spaniards often asking me why Americans were so racist while I looked in vain to find a single gypsy outside the world of flamenco who had managed to find a comfort zone in the dominant society. (Or for that matter, a single minority group member of any kind.) The small Romani minority was completely segregated and Madrid seemed like an unimaginably homogeneous place for a capital of four million people. (Today it looks just like any other big multicultural metropolis.) At the time I shared an apartment with a black man who was from the Carribean, Barbados if I recall correctly. An invaluable experience for me: we'd be walking down the street and people would stop and blatantly stare. (Alito was an actor, stayed in Spain for some years and worked in theatre, tv, and the movies. He had a very small role in Almodovar's Tie Me Up, Time me Down!) Spain has changed dramatically in the past thirty years. But romaniphobia is still tremendously deep-seated. It plays out differently in rural America, where there seems to be more reason to feel optimistic regarding the eventual triumph of reason and tolerance.  I try to be optimistic, though sometimes it's hard.  (In the photo above, a street in Castellar.)

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