National Geographic : 2012 Sep
• still wielded by many non-Roma in his country, synonymous with beggar, thief, parasite, and other ugly words. In common use since the early 1600s, "Gypsy" derives from "Egyptian," from the supposed origin of the Roma. Linguistic evidence indicates that the Roma came from India. "I built one of the first mansions, in 1996," Paraschiv said, nodding toward his villa-style home, a fanciful hulk encased in gray and white marble and cornered with balconies. e names of his children, Luigi and Petu, are stenciled atop a tin-sheeted tower. "My sons want to tear down the house and build a di erent shape; they say it's out of fashion." Paraschiv shrugged. "If my sons want to, then OK." At two stories, Paraschiv's mansion is modest. Giant ve-story palaces ribbed with columns have been multiplying on the southern end of town, the Romani district. Call it the monument style. ere's also the corporate HQ look, with curved, mirrored-glass walls; the nobleman's castle, with sherbet-colored battlements and balconies arrayed like opera boxes; and the Swiss chalet, with high peaked roof and gnomes on the porch. It's gaudy, uninhibited architecture, the taste bla- tantly nouveau riche. In all, about a hundred Ro- mani mansions have sprung up in an otherwise dour farm town of 5,000 people some 50 miles southwest of the capital, Bucharest. About a third of the citizenry is Roma, not all of them rich but enough to make the town a strange, compelling statement of ethnic pride. "Wealthy Roma" looks like a misprint, a snide joke. For many of the estimated two million Roma in Romania, or about 10 percent of the population, life is poor and nasty, their commu- nities stuck in squalid city slums or in cardboard shanties on the edges of towns. ey share this fate with Roma throughout Eastern Europe, where these formerly seminomadic people are a despised underclass, conspicuous for their pov- erty, lack of education, and stubborn insularity. To many gadje, the Romani term for outsid- ers, the palatial homes of Buzescu's Roma are a thumb in the eye, a aunting of undeserved Tom O'Neill is a sta writer. Karla Gachet and Ivan Kashinsky are a married couple based in Quito, Ecuador. Kashinsky photographed Bolivian female wrestlers for our September 2008 issue. Zaharia Bureata greets Easter morning in a tie spun from solid gold thread, its front spelling out his name and the brand of his car, a Hummer. Others in town have copied his style. "People think all Roma are poor and filthy," declared one mansion dweller. "They should see us."