St. Jacques' Gypsies View Story | Overview

Perpignan St. Jacques
This project is about the Gipsy Community in the St. Jacques quarter of Perpignan, Southern France. With about 8.000 inhabitants it is one of 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 (those being part of the Romanies) 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 project is about the Gipsy Community in the St. Jacques quarter of Perpignan, Southern France. With about 8.000 inhabitants it is one of 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 (those being part of the Romanies) 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 fighting cocks presents his animals to a group of men in a garage in St. Jacques.
A breeder of fighting cocks 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.
Street scene. Women in St. Jacques mostly are supposed to look after house and kids.
Street scene.
Street scene. Women in St. Jacques mostly are supposed to look after house and kids.
Street scene. Trouble coming up.
Street scene. Trouble coming up.
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.
Many houses are in very poor shape, and buildings collapse frequently.
In the Café St. Jacques
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.
Marc preaches in the streets, trying to convince youths to join the church.
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.
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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