Fortunetelling in California


The Associated Press ran a story that contains what appear to be some interesting elements of truth about how two Roma clans have interacted.  The story is by GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press Writer, and appeared on Yahoo news on Wed  5 Dec 2007, 2:44 PM ET.  The following tidbits were in this article:

" NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - A dispute between two Gypsy clans over control of the fortunetelling trade in this Southern California city has spilled into court, offering a rare glimpse of an insular culture that has long settled scores according to its own Old World rules of honor."

"The Stevens and Merino clans, like other Gypsy families, have run numerous fortunetelling businesses in Southern California for decades.  The trouble started two years ago when Edward Merino and his wife, Sonia, opened fortunetelling parlors in two trendy resort sections of Newport Beach, not far from where the Stevenses did business."

Alledgedly, some of Stevens "broke in, stole a credit card machine and threatened to kill the Merinos if they didn't shut the places down."  

"At the root of the conflict lies a delicate system of intermarriage and social customs that has defused tensions among Gypsy clans for generations, said Anne Sutherland, a University of California, Riverside anthropologist who has studied Gypsies."

"The Stevens and Merino clans adopted an Old World custom of uniting families through marriage to cope with intense competition, much as European nobility once did to avert war. A Merino married the Stevens patriarch, George Stevens."

Alledgedly, the Stevenses demanded the Merinos "pay $500,000 up front and $5,000 a week to open their fortunetelling businesses in the Stevenses' back yard. The Merinos refused."

"Gypsies have traditionally resolved disputes in front of a secret council of elders that can impose fines, make territorial decisions or order someone shunned. They don't like to involve non-Gypsies, who are considered impure."

Ian Hancock, an expert on Gypsy language and culture at the University of Texas, is quoted as stating:  "It used to be that the Romany world was absolutely insulated from the outside world," said Hancock, a Gypsy himself. "But it's very hard to resist the pressures of MTV, and people are beginning to see alternatives."  "He cited cases in which Gypsy women in Houston hired lawyers to get their ex-husbands to pay child support — something previously unheard of."  (Obviously, this writer has never heard the "Hahvahd joke!" - FOC)

I have paraphrased the article, except where quoted.  Read the original for full text.

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