We walked in brilliant sunlight to the Street of the Gypsies. On the way there I filled my basket with more gifts for Maria. I had reached the state of thought when I dared not stay to consider how I was to eke out my money for the last few days. I had reached the state of thought when I dared not stay to consider how I was to eke out my money for my last few days. I had my dog to feed, I had to get my luggage to the station and across Spain and France, and I had little more than my return tickets left. I refused to think; and gave my eyes to the interest of the sunlit Street of the Gypsies.
We were only a short distance down the street when we were met by a crowd of the most beautiful Gypsies that I have ever beheld. I knew surely that should I travel the world I would be unlikely to find other humans to excel those Valencian Gypsies gathered in the street that June noon. I might again find their equal, but nothing more perfect. There was so much chatter and laughter there, it brought again to my heart memory of one of the feasts days of Les Saintes Maries Gypsy festival. That brought a state of sadness to me: how soon the lovely things do pass, how swiftly soon. Standing in the street amongst the carefree, good humored, beautiful Romanichals, I felt further sadness then for their fellow Gypsies in the poverty, misery and squalor of the nearby encampment. There can be no denying that extreme poverty and ugliness of surroundings blight the human soul. Flowers cannot grow in full beauty from sour earth, or on rubble-heaps, and likewise human bodies and souls have difficulty in coming into full flowers. But at that gathering in the Street of the Gypsies, there were human flowers everywhere. Some like pink and ivory roses, also the carnations of Valencia, others flamboyant as tiger-lilies, or the blossom of pomegranate trees, others sultry and mysterious as passion flowers and forest orchids, and the majority tawny and sun-warmed and radiant as blooms of the sunflower: ah, that is how it was! a multitude of swaying sunflowers similar to the wild-growing groves of that flower through which I had walked on the mountains above the sea in the exotic fabulous countryside of Mexico’s Baja California. Dear God! what beauty you created in those Gypsies. Swarthy, flashing, oriental beauty.
When one beholds Gypsies such as those who had gathered in the Valencian street, then the old thought dominates the mind: Who are the Gypsies and from whence? Hitler destroyed the Gypsies in the same black hate as that in which he destroyed the Jews. Have they some kinship with each other, the Gypsies and the Jews? The two most hated races on earth and yet the most indestructible. The Jews forsaking in modern times the commandments taught to them by Moses, and later by Christ the greatest Jew of all, which teaching were to keep them eternally a great and united race, and again worshipping ardently the golden calf, have in many tribes become absolutely unbeautiful, and over many are “a mock and a laughing stock for the peoples”, as fore-warned in the Bible: and yet they are the descendants of the peerless man and woman described in the Song of Songs. But the Gypsies who follow no gold worship have remained amongst the most beautiful people on earth. Could they be descendants of Hagar, Sarah’s bondwoman, who bore Abraham a son, Ishmael? (There is a widely accepted theory that it is the Arabs who are descendants of Hagar.) For God promised Abraham: ” “And also of the sun of thy bondwoman Hagar will I make a nation, because he is thy seed”. And God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer…and, his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.” Thus had I pondered as I stood and marveled at the beauty of that Gypsy gathering in Valencia.
In the company of Maria and my three friends, I spent many happy hours in the street of the Gypsies. I held their babies and took photographs, and must admit to some romancing with the very handsome men thronging there. But it was all happiness and gaiety there in the sun, with Gypsy song and the music of guitars to make all the more memorable. When after several hours I had to leave the Gypsy company, there came calling in the distance the familiar Gypsy words of friendship:
“Come again back to the Romanichals. Come soon. Come soon. We shall not forget thee.”
And the children came running, bringing gifts of heavy perfumed carnations from the flower-sellers, and one lad presented me with a tamed lizard attached to a string, which he said was a piece of Gypsy luck and also a souvenir from his street. Only the lizard I declined, not wishing to take that creature of the sun away from the warmth of Valencia to the chill air of Paris.
I have no regrets concerning my footless days in Valencia, for if I had failed in my determination to stay until the ending of my final week in Spain, I would never have met with the Gypsy actress Rosa Gimmenes – La Diamante Negra. On my last night in Valencia, Rosa came to the inn to dance for me. She came to dance and sing for me without payment, the other Gypsies having told her about the ending of my money. The Gypsies also sent me dishes of food (and the inn also would have fed me for nothing) but all the food seemed to be soaked in olive oil or fried, therefore for me it was just uneatable, and I kept to my cups of water. The tramps of England always declare that when they are entirely without money and thus without food, they can always be sure of a good meal from the Gypsies, if they should meet with a family of them by the wayside. Years after my Valencia visit, whenI was again without money when in Granada, the Gypsies of Sacra Monte said to me: “Here there are one hundred Gypsy cuevas (cavern home of the Granada Gypsies) where you will be made welcome. Be neither without food no bed, there are both for you here with the Gypsies always – siempre (forever, spanish). Make this cueva your first stay.”
Thus La Diamate Negra came to dance for me for friendship, because the Gypsies of Valencia had told her of my years with the Gypsies and my love for them. Not only did she bewitch me with her talent, but she remains also unforgettable for her personality. My high opinion of Rosa was shared by others more knowledgable than I concerning dance and song, for she has a place in the theaters of Valencia and her fellow Gypsies praise highly her art. The day that she came to visit me she was celebrating a new theatrical contract and was in high excitement.
To write a true portrait of the fascinating Gypsy actress is not possible: for who can describe with pen or brush the fire that is within a fine and well-cut diamond. The name of Black Diamond is not unique to Rosa, a famous Gypsy bullfighter carries the same name; but there could have been no other name better suited for Rosa. In spite of the glitter and the fire, the Gypsy was very dark, so that there was much that was almost negroid about her appearance – the beauty of the negro. The fineness of the dark-hued flesh with the golden glow upon, the lightness of body, the wild and brilliant eyes, the strong teeth. Her mouth lacked beauty, the lips being over big. But her smile was rare and put much beauty upon her face, and gave revelation of the fires that had hearths within her, in the dancing feet and the throbbing breasts and throat, and charged the blood with their heat and their gold and crimson rays: all precious stones possess incandescent fires, and the diamond is especially rich.
Rose possessed none of the too general mundane quality of the professional actress. She was more the type of a singing bird in the woods, light of heart and swift and excitable. My shy Afghan hound loved her as soon as she came into the inn, and laid herself at the Gypsy’s feet, a most unusual demonstration. With Rosa was a small Gypsy girl of five years, who travelled always with her, and had been trained by Rosa in dance and song and was already skilful, also charmingly imitative of her teacher and foster-mother. La Diamonte Negra was unmarried as yet, for in her twenty-two years she had met with no man whom she could love sufficiently for marriage. She told me that for the present she had little thought for me, she wanted only to dance, to dance, to dance, and to sing. But I well saw that her vitality and her wonderful body, together with her talented dancing and singing must prove irresistible to men. The photographs that I took of Rosa on the sands of Valencia, poised in dance, have attracted the attention of every man who has seen them. Who is she? Where is she? are questions always demanded when the photographs of La Diamante Negra are produced.
Rosa herself was notable aware of her Gypsy blood. When the floor of the dining-room of the inn was cleared of tables and chairs for the Gypsy’s dancing, and she had enthralled us with the magic of her art, she between each performance and as if making excuse for the passion of her dancing and singing, would thrust out her slender rhythmical arms at me and declare with panting breath: “Sangre Gitano! Sangre Gitano!”
And always I made reply, adoring her: “The best blood in the world.”
After the dancing was over Rosa stayed on at the inn, talking with me. Talking of the Gypsy life of Spain, and the life of the theatre, two subjects of twin enchantment for her and for me. That night we wove a strong bond of friendship between us; I shall remember her. Rosa typifies the best of the true Gypsy character.
On the day of my departure from Valencia, a Gypsy woman presented me with a diminutive basket, hand-woven from green rushes: a doll size thing, fine and beautiful. I was traveling with her in the tram on my way to the station. Her arms being loaded with baskets of all types and sizes, I took from her her wailing babe, and hushed it and turned the tears into laughter.
When the Gypsy came to leave the tram before me, she put into my hands the sweet green basket in place of her brown baby. That Gypsy basket I shall keep carefully, it being representative of the Romanies. A simple product of hand-skill – those supple swart hands of the Gypsy – and made from Nature’s materials and having the green color of Nature; given to me in generosity and love. Despite what other writers have stated to the contrary concerning the Gypsies, I have found that they give nearly always as much as they take; often enough, they give more. Before leaving the Spanish frontier I filled the basket with wild lavender pulled from the crags of the Pyrenean mountains, the breath of which flower perfumes the mountain range. Souvenir all of sun-drenched Gypsy days.