“No somos gitanos”: Cracking the Code of the Kale Blacksmiths of Early Modern Triana

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This ethnographically informed micro-history focuses on the Romani (Kale) blacksmiths of the Triana neighborhood in Seville in the long sixteen century, emphasizing the importance of place for this community. So often the Romani are generally assumed to have little connection to a singular location because they are “inherently nomadic wanderers.” They are portrayed in paintings, plays, poems, and laws as drifters who seek the freedom of the road to the detriment of society. This dissertation presents a starkly different reality of these blacksmithing families from Triana, focusing on this neighborhood as it was home to a notable Kale population since their arrival into the Iberian Peninsula in the fifteenth century. By focusing at the community level we now see specific ways in which this group, often assumed to exist at the margins, in fact played a central role in a centrally important trade for the ever-expanding Spanish Empire. These families, living on Castilla Street for approximately 150 years were experts in producing screws and other small iron works known as chapurrería. It appears that the Kale blacksmiths of Triana were the primary producers of small iron works in the city of Seville for centuries, and specifically for various types of ships constructed and repaired in Seville’s bustling ship building industry. The research for this dissertation is archivally based but also draws from evidence of material culture to connect Kalo individuals who would have otherwise remained historically invisible. This dissertation will also explore the process of ethnic reclassification which has contributed to the archival invisibility of the Kale, touching on the concept of race in early modern Spain. This work brings to light the story of a community who has remained largely invisible, but who played an important role in the Spanish economy both in Spain and the Americas.

Embargo status: Restricted until 01/2174. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.

Gitano, Kale, blacksmiths, Spain, Seville, Triana, race, identity, ethnicity, early modern