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December 06, 2007

Gypsys Fight Turf War In OC Over Fortunetelling Rackets

I see restraining orders in their future.

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 turf war in well-to-do Orange County has unfolded like a gangster movie, with allegations of death threats, a graveside scuffle, and nicknames like "White Bob" and "Black Bob" details revealed in a police report and requests for restraining orders.

"The older Gypsies are pulling out their hair, not wanting the courts in our business because they'll find out too much about us," said Tom Merino, who is distantly related to one of the clans but has spurned his heritage. "Ignorance is the Gypsies' weapon against the outside world."

...

The Stevenses "are very territorial," Merino attorney Tom Quinn said. "This is crazy stuff."

At the root of the conflict lies a delicate system of intermarriage and social customs that has defused tensions among Gypsy clans for generations....

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.

But the family bond did not prevent tensions from flaring when, the Merinos say, the Stevenses demanded they pay $500,000 up front and $5,000 a week to open their fortunetelling businesses in the Stevenses' back yard. The Merinos refused to pay, and went ahead and opened their parlors. The alleged break-in soon followed.

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.

...

That the dispute wound up in court reflects an erosion of tradition among the Gypsies, said Ian Hancock, an expert on Gypsy language and culture at the University of Texas.

"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."

Thanks to neither_steve_in_hb_nor_not_steve_in_hb.


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posted by Ace at 01:46 PM

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