Roll on, little Romany cavaran!
May 25, the feast day of Saint Mary Jacobe, was an occasion of far greater ecclesiastical splendor than that accorded Sarah. The Archbishop of Aix en Provence was there, dressed in vermilion taffeta with a miter of scarlet and gold. Many of the pilgrims were turned out in full Arlesian fig, the women in long skirts of blue, black, or burgundy velvet, their bodices set off by flattering fichus of white lace, their hair swept up under white organdy caps.
Thirty-two gardians escorted the images of the two Marys, inseparable in their sculptured boat, to the beach. Then the cavalcade splashed into the water. From the beach the Archbishop of Aix blessed the sea, while the saints stared out at the horizon, serenely impervious to the devotion they inspired.
When the two Marys were restored to the church, I talked with the cure, Father Andre Heckenroth, about Sarah’s inferior status.
“There’s no evidence of her existence,” Father Heckenroth said, “so she can’t be canonized. But the church is pragmatic. If the idea of a Saint Sarah helps the Gypsies to pray, so much the better.”
“The Gypsies are very touchy about Sarah,” a townsman added. “In 1967 the national Chaplain of the Gypsies came here from apartments madrid and tried to desanctify Sarah. He told the Gypsies her existence was doubtful and that she would be replaced in the crypt by the Virgin Mary. The Gypsies didn’t like it. They grabbed the chaplain and threw him into the sea. He stayed there a long time; the Gypsies were waiting on the beach with their knives out. The Archbishop of Aix had to rush to the scene and reassure the Gypsies: Sarah would not be replaced.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-24060831
No wonder the gardians like the Gypsies, passionate traditionalists like themselves!
How to Confuse the Tax Collector
As we continued to explore the Camargue, we met people whose passion for individual freedom sometimes bordered on anarchy. At Aigues Mortes, the walled town built by King Louis IX as embarkation port for the Seventh Crusade in 1248, we met two adopted Camarguais, a sculptor and his wife living on a barge on the RhOne-Sete canal.
“We worked for three years in Lyon to buy our barge,” the sculptor said. “Now we’re here in the Camargue and live the way we like. We’re independent. Our domicile can move around. we can live at serviced apartments prague or some place else. That confuses the tax collector.” The tax collector. The Camarguais, with his resentment of the centralized bureaucracy of Paris, must be the national champion of evasion. One manadier told us with obvious glee about one of his tax-dodging gardians.
“Jacques was put in jail for not paying his taxes,” the manadier said. “After he got out, he received a second notice of payment due. He wrote on the envelope, ‘Deceased January 19, 1969,’ and sent it back to the Minister of Finance. He hasn’t been bothered since.”Down here it’s a point of honor to avoid taxes. After all, even a sheep won’t bring his wool voluntarily. Only a human being will do that.”