Written by:

Prepared by:

Jorge M. Fernandez Bernal

Orfej Haliti



At the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s through the southern border with Peru, and the Northern frontier with Colombia, the first Rom started to arrive in Ecuador, travelling in small groups (vitsas or kumpanias)[See notes]. From these early groups some merely transited through Ecuador while others remained there. Those who inhabit the country are as follows: Grekuya, Mihay, Bolochok (all of these Kalderash in origin), Xoraxane and some Boyash (who speak these languages: Rumanian and Rromanes, because they’ve acquired the last one on the new continent).

The Romani People from Ecuador are concentrated in the provinces of Carchi, Imbabura, Cotopaxi, Pichincha, Tungurahua, Chimborazo, El Oro, Manabí, El Guayas and in the city of Quito. The number of Rom living there has been estimated at some 2.000 persons (ASOROM, personal communication).

Social situation of the Romani People

The majority society obliges the Rom to maintain a state of invisibility due to the rejection of the non-Rom (Gadjé). The Romani people are never taken into account when new development projects for the major society are realized, e.g.: health care, education, economic development, housing. They don’t recognize the Rom as part of any of the sectors of the population. Some schools don’t accept Romani children because they don’t speak Spanish and because the Rom have a different culture.

In the health sector, the Gadjé don’t treat the Rom adequately.The attention Romani people receive is not equivalent to that of the non-Rom. Police authorities don’t accept that the Rom are Ecuadorian at all, besides which they state that there are no Rom in Ecuador.

In the economic sector, and when the Rom go out in search of work, some people don’t want to pay what we ask for the tasks performed by our people and want to pay what they want for those services. Regarding housing the Rom cannot set up their encampments in many places were they would wish to do so, and where while it is not forbidden for others it certainly is for the Rom,. The same happens when someone wants to rent a house, because the Gadjé many times reject our people because they are afraid thinking that they are going to loose their houses or are going to be robbed by us.

Cultural Situation of the Rom

The Rom have an ancient culture of thousand of years enriched with values and moral principles, rules that must be respected daily and which reinforce the natural coexistence within the group, valid for women, children, youths, adults and old people.

The children of the Romani people have to be cared for until they reach adolescence. Young people have to demonstrate their intellectual capacities, and obedience to our laws until they achieve membership of the adult group.

On their part, young women have to demonstrate what they’ve learnt from their parents, -taught from childhood- and that they are ready to follow the family’s law with lots of pride. They must be virgin at the time of their marriage; from this virtue depends the honor of their family. They cannot marry a gadjo. Young people, boys or girls, must demonstrate with dignity that they are capable of their role as Rom.

On the other hand women have an important role at home, because on them depends the care of their children and husbands, as well as in large part the transmission of the language and traditional cultural patterns of the group to their offspring. Besides, if they respect Romani laws and wear the symbols of Romani culture with pride, the dikló (handkerchief which is worn by the married women) and the traditional dress which convert them into real Romani women, their reputation is enhanced within the group.

Romani men also have a big responsibility in their role before their people. They must demonstrate all the qualities of their kumpania, their economic capabilities, their intellect, the results of their work. The level of respect shown themselves, to others, and their own kumpania have to be correct, and above all they have to show respect for the Romani kris, the most important legal instance of the Romani people. They have to be Rom.

The role of the old people is one of the most important within the community. They are very much respected by both men and women; with their own lives they are living examples for all their people; their gray hair is respected by everybody, they are the wisdom, the knowledge, they are our life, they are the true Rom.

Legal representatives of the Rom

Since 2001 in Ecuador, a Romani association legally exists. ASOROM was created under the tutelage of PROROM, the Colombian Romani Association, but the main complaint Rom have is that they are not accepted as part of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Ecuador, and state that the Ecuadorian Constitution only speaks about the native Americans and those of African ancestry.

Prepared by: Orfej Haliti

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