St. Jacques' Gypsies | Overview

Perpignan St. Jacques
This long term project is about the Gipsy Community in the St. Jacques quarter of Perpignan, Southern France. With about 5.000 inhabitants it is the biggest permanent Gipsy settlement in France, and what makes it even more special is its location right in the city’s historical centre.
In the second half of the 20th Century, St. Jacques grew to be a little city within the city as Gipsies from all around Perpignan moved in. They are mostly descendants from Spanish Kalé that migrated to French Catalonia in the 19th Century, and there are still strong links to Spanish Gipsy communities.
Life in St. Jacques today has little to do with what one associate with romantic or bohemian Mediterranean Gipsy culture. People living here mostly have to organize their lives in a way that is met with suspicion – to say the least – by their French neighbours, who like to think that Gipsies don’t like to work all that much. ‚Any time I go and apply for a job, the boss will send me straight home again as soon as he sees I’m a Gipsy‘, an unemployed youth in St. Jacques claims. This being a frequent experience, it only reinforces the overwhelming community spirit in St. Jacques - it’s ‚us‘ and ‚them‘. There are a lot of problems in St. Jacques to be urgently dealt with - unemployment, illiteracy and drug abuse not being the least.

Perpignan St. Jacques
This long term project is about the Gipsy Community in the St. Jacques quarter of Perpignan, Southern France. With about 5.000 inhabitants it is the biggest permanent Gipsy settlement in France, and what makes it even more special is its location right in the city’s historical centre.
In the second half of the 20th Century, St. Jacques grew to be a little city within the city as Gipsies from all around Perpignan moved in. They are mostly descendants from Spanish Kalé that migrated to French Catalonia in the 19th Century, and there are still strong links to Spanish Gipsy communities.
Life in St. Jacques today has little to do with what one associate with romantic or bohemian Mediterranean Gipsy culture. People living here mostly have to organize their lives in a way that is met with suspicion – to say the least – by their French neighbours, who like to think that Gipsies don’t like to work all that much. ‚Any time I go and apply for a job, the boss will send me straight home again as soon as he sees I’m a Gipsy‘, an unemployed youth in St. Jacques claims. This being a frequent experience, it only reinforces the overwhelming community spirit in St. Jacques - it’s ‚us‘ and ‚them‘. There are a lot of problems in St. Jacques to be urgently dealt with - unemployment, illiteracy and drug abuse not being the least.

A family passes a hot summer afternoon on the car park in front of their house Some years ago, the house on this corner of Place du Puig collapsed and one man died. Lots of houses are in poor shape. Family and community spirit is most important in St. Jacques. Men debate in front of the Café. A breeder of roosters presents his animals to a group of men in a garage in St. Jacques. Cockfighting is officially illegal in France, but it is tolerated in most parts of Southern France as a component of Gipsy culture Cockfighting is officially illegal in France, but it is tolerated in most parts of Southern France as a component of Gipsy culture The Place du Puig is a general meeting point for youths and men any time of day or night. Jeannot Soler (second from left) rehearses with fellow musicians in the Casa Musical, a popular studio in St. Jacques / February 2018 Jeannot Soler (center) rehearses backstage with fellow musicians minutes before a concert in Perpignan City Theatre / February 2018 Salomon Espinas during a concert in Perpignan's City Theatre / February 2018 Street scene. Women in St. Jacques mostly are supposed to look after house and kids. Street scene, August 2018 Street scene. Summer street scene, August 2018 Many houses are in very poor shape, and buildings collapse frequently. Collecting scrap metal in the villages around Perpignan. Women and do not mix in the street. Women meeting outside a house. In a bar on the Place du Puig David presents his new Mercedes. Street scene. Trouble coming up. Street scene. Trouble coming up. Street scene A newly wed couple in the street. Game of cards on the Café St. Jacques Game of cards on the Café St. Jacques Christmas Eve, Granddad with grandchildren. Small boys with cigarettes are not completely uncommon in St. Jacques. Girls are not supposed to smoke. Christmas Eve. Men meet in an informal café for some drinks before going home to their families. Christmas Eve. Men meet in an informal café for some drinks before going home to their families. Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve in Maille family's living room. Michel playing the guitar in his house while his wife is cleaning up. He suffers from depression and hardly ever leaves his house. Church service. The gipsies in St. Jacques left the catholic church and turned to adventist churches instead. Baptism. The gipsies in St. Jacques left the catholic church and turned to adventist churches instead. Church service. The gipsies in St. Jacques left the catholic church and turned to adventist churches instead. Marc preaches in the streets, trying to convince youths to join the church. Men debate in fron of the café. Father and daughter on their way to a wedding Cousins watch a young man's wedding preparations Wedding day - the groom leaving his parents' house. Wedding day - the groom arrives at the bride's house Wedding day - bride and groom meet briefly before heading off separately for the celebration Wedding day - bride and groom meet briefly before heading off separately for the celebration Wedding day - the bride leaves her parents' house Wedding day - the bride leaves her parents' house Wedding party Wedding party Wedding party Wedding party coming to and end
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