Portuguese ceramic frogs recently rose to fame after an Aljazeera article revealed that they are used by shopkeepers to ‘scare away’ people from the ‘Roma’ community from their establishments
In an interview from the article itself, Helena Conceição, owner of a grocery store with honesty and frankness, tells the interviewer that “Everybody has frogs here. It’s to scare away Gypsies because they are afraid of frogs.”
Ornaments and little frog statues like these can be found all over the country, from North to South, in restaurants, traditional commerce, cafes, and private residences.
Mrs. Conceição carries on and says, “No one likes to have Gypsies around” and even after explaining that Portugal has ‘anti-discrimination laws’ she continues by standing her ground by saying “… I’m not forced to put up with people who steal and cause trouble”.
The ‘Roma’ community arrived in the country in the early 1500s and never integrated ever since, with the father of Portuguese drama, Gil Vicente writing a famous play ‘Farsa das Ciganas’ (1521), or the ‘Farse of the Gypsies’ in English where their connotations with fortune telling, bad business and scamming was already well known at the time.
Many of them were expelled to overseas with the women being sent to Africa and the men to Brazil, with the most infamous Roma being sent to Maranhão state. In the 18th century, their numbers grew so large that in 1760 the general governor at the time showed his discontent towards that people. To the issue, King Dom José the I enforced stricter laws.
Romani people officially became citizens in the constitution of 1822, after the Liberal revolutions in Portugal and one century later during Salazar’s regime they still put themselves in the margin of society as they still do today, even with all sorts of subsidies and state aids provided to them.
The Al Jazeera article quotes a series of far left, progressive organizations to explain why the Roma people are still the most discriminated in the country, not taking account what actions are made by them to cause these reactions. Truth is, besides making about 0.5% of the country’s population (about 50 thousand people), they manage to commit more crime and have an incarceration rate 10 times greater than their own population.
In some areas, like Santa Cruz do Bispo, they manage to make a whopping 26% of the inmate population or more than 1/4 of the population. Roma’s infamous reputation is well known in Portugal and even though News agencies refuse to reveal the ethnicity of criminals, usually when violent acts are done by large groups of people in public establishments, the comment boxes are already crammed with people hinting which ‘group’ could have possibly done it and in the great majority of times, being right about the ‘Romani’ mischiefs.
Taking the history of these relations with this community and their general behavior, one has to wonder, how many more centuries of ‘integration’ will it take for them to become a part of society.