NPR logo The Wealthy Roma: Oxymoron Or Reality?

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The Wealthy Roma: Oxymoron Or Reality?

There are plenty of stereotypes attached to the Roma — a traditionally itinerant people, mostly in Eastern Europe and often called "gypsies" (a term derived from "Egyptian," once their assumed place of origin).

"For many of the estimated 2 million Roma in Romania, or about 10 percent of the population," according to National Geographic, "life is poor and nasty, their communities stuck in squalid city slums or in cardboard shanties on the edges of town."

That's why, to some, the idea of "wealthy Roma" may seem like an oxymoron. But a story in the magazine's September issue explores one town outside Bucharest where the Roma are building mansions that fly in the face of those stereotypes.

Writer Tom O'Neill (no relation) explains that Roma in the town of Buzescu originally made money as Kalderash, or coppersmiths. But after the fall of communism, O'Neill explains, the Kalderash traveled the country gathering scrap metal from abandoned factories and sold it for a pretty penny. "By playing the commodity market," the article reads, "some Buzescu Roma reaped hefty profits."

Without revealing too much more, it's a fascinating read about what O'Neill calls the "rarest of Europe's demographics," and there are more photos over there.

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