A 10-year-old girl in southern Spain is generating an awful lot of buzz lately. Her situation has been morphed into a total news spectacle: she gave birth last week in Jerez de la Frontera, a city in the region of Andalusia. The father of the baby is also a minor, according to reports.
The reaction to this young mother has mostly been disbelief; a Ripley’s-Believe-It-or-Not! type response to what almost seems like a farce. But, as the LA Times reported, the girl’s mother wasn’t appalled or confused upon the birth of her grandchild. She was elated:
The girl’s mother told reporters earlier this week that she’s delighted to have a new granddaughter and doesn’t understand the fuss the birth has caused. She said the baby’s father is a 13-year-old boy who is still in Romania.
I have done a fair amount of research on Spanish gypsies and the Roma community, especially gypsies from southern Spain. This girl isn’t a Spanish gypsy — she’s from Romania — but as the Times wisely points out (although not until the end of the article):
Arranged “marriages” for girls reaching puberty are relatively common among Roma, who make up about 1.5 million of Romania’s 22 million people.
Not to say that I’m a proponent of arranged child marriages, but in the US, how often do you hear about gypsy or Roma culture? Never. Because (presumably), they don’t live here. But the Roma are the largest ethnic minority in the European Union, about 10-12 million people strong. The Roma are a massive, diverse, dynamic community, with customs that don’t always blend in seamlessly with “mainstream” or Western ideals.
I encourage you to do some Googling of the Roma, or of Spanish gypsies. There’s a lot to learn here, aside from “OMG BABIES HAVING BABIESSSZZ.” I posted a video below of the prueba del pañuelo (“handkerchief test”). This is customary at gypsy weddings: on her wedding day, the bride is inspected by an older female (here it’s the mother-in-law) to verify the sanctity of her virginity. A bloody handkerchief is a sign of an in-tact hymen, and cause for celebration:
(At the beginning of the video, some of the women comment on how beautiful the bride looks; the woman speaking asks if the 15-year-old bride is nervous for what’s about to happen — she says no. The bed is where her mother-in-law will perform the prueba del pañuelo. The honra de la mujer or “woman’s honor” is hugely important at a gypsy wedding.)
If the video doesn’t load, you can see it at Cuatro.com here, along with other videos from the same wedding. It helps if you speak Spanish, although you can still develop an interesting visual even if you don’t.
Thank you to José for sending me the video link.