Thursday, January 15, 2009

Iquique Gypsies

Today we observed a group of gypsy women downtown.

Several arrived together in a taxi, and one remained in the front seat with the driver for a long while after they had stopped. From the murmurs of passerby we gathered that perhaps she was reading his palm ; in the meantime, another woman approached me and said cryptically, “A usted le vamos a dar un amuleto” (“To you we are going to give a charm.”) Unsure of what she meant, I declined but continued to watch as she paced back and forth between us, the taxi, and the corner.

Soon half a dozen more gypsy ladies appeared on the opposite corner. One carried a baby, and they were also accompanied by a slender little girl who appeared to be Isabel’s age. The woman who had spoken to me called out to them in another language and soon they were involved in a deep discussion. I couldn’t help watching and wondering about them; where they live; what they do; how they came to be here in Chile and what drives them. The very little I know is from what I was told on our visit to Antofagasta nearly six years ago, that the women typically offer to read palms in the city square while picking pockets in the meantime. Most people stay away from them.

It was the little girl who fascinated me the most. She stood a little apart from the group, looking longingly at a bicycle on display. Like the women, she wore a long colorful skirt and a sleeveless top. Like them, her hair was lighter in color than the average Chilean and it was braided but messy and dusty. In that sense all of the women were the same, dusty and ragged and weather-worn. Where do they live? Outdoors, in a camp? I want to know more about them and whether anyone has tried to reach them with the gospel here. Where are the men? What do they do?

So many questions … so many things to learn in this new place!

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