Esteban Montejo talks quite extensively about the Gitanos in Cuba in the 19th Century, stating that ‘Los gitanos venían de su país. Yo la verdad es que no me acuerdo de qué país, pero era un país lejano’ (1966: 143), and concluding with: ‘Yo creo que todavía hay gitanos de esos en Cuba. De caminantes que son puede que anden perdidos por ahí. Por los pueblos chiquitos.’
Esteban’s comments are fascinating – is he referring to Spanish gitanos, or is he actually referring to the distant ancestry of the gitanos? If so, who told him of this, and at what stage? It is curious that critics and historians alike appear to have avoided this particular ethnological issue. Hugh Thomas only briefly mentions gypsies as notorious child-stealers (1997: 297). A brief search through search engines and databases brings up no results about the Roma (gitano) heritage in Cuba. For a linguistic study see: Valdés Bernal, S (1994), Inmigración y lengua nacional, Havana: Editorial Academia.
In conversation with Miguel Barnet, I asked him if he knew anything of Esteban’s reference to the gitanos, or whether he knew if anyone had conducted any study in this field. His response was simply that the gypsies came and went on the boats – that many of them were imprisoned because they were thieves, and that nobody, that he knew of, had studied the area.
Anyone with any knowledge of this field, please post comments below.