Friday, December 6, 2013


A little over a month ago, on Tot Sants (All Saints), I posted about going to the Figueres cemetery to see how people were celebrating and inadvertently tripped across a murder scene (see Tot Sants).

What had happened was that two gypsies, one from Figueres and the other from France, had gotten into an argument, believed to have been related to drugs.  The local gypsy shot and killed the one from France.

I encountered the aftermath when I left the cemetery, intending to return home via a circular route that would take me around the back of the cemetery along its wall.  But my way was barred by a police barricade.  Not knowing what had happened and thinking it was a traffic diversion, I was surprised that they would not let a pedestrian through.  But as I walked around I asked someone what it was about and was told that someone had been shot.

Shootings are not common here nor is there as much violent crime as in the U.S.  When violence does occur, it is most often with a knife or something at hand, usually the result of a fight or argument, or it’s domestic violence.  With the exception of people who hunt and have rifles, very few people own guns.

They apprehended the man who fired the shot immediately, and he is now sitting in jail, awaiting trial.   I thought that would be the end of the story.  But a few days later there was another installment.  The family of the Frenchman had come to Figueres and entered into the home of the family of the suspected murderer, destroying many things in the house.

I’m not sure, but I don’t think this was the home of the actual accused killer.  I have learned that in gypsy tradition, the extended family is also an acceptable target for revenge, so as the accused has a large extended family, there are many people in this area who are at risk.

A couple of weeks later yet another member of that extended family was attacked.  This time it was at a small farm in a nearby village where 13 farm animals were killed, including several horses.  No one ever said if the number 13 had any significance.

I thought to myself, goodness me, will this ever stop?  And Josep, the young man who does all my repairs and home improvements, such as they are, told me that no.  It won’t stop until the killer is dead.  In fact, he knows this young man – the alleged murderer -- who is the same age as he and who he had met on school field trips.

The local gypsies run many of the stands at the Thursday outdoor clothes market.  Ever since the Tot Sants shooting, there are been far fewer stands open.  I go there from time to time looking for bargains, and for some unfathomable reason, a couple of weeks ago I decided I would wander over and take a look at how things looked.  It was true.  There were less stands than usual and what is a generally uninteresting market was even more uninteresting, except for the noticeable police presence.

Although I wasn’t smart enough to stay away from the market, I knew in my heart that no way in hell did I want to wander into San Joan, the neighborhood that was getting all the press and police surveillance – the gypsy part of town.

So I asked Josep where San Joan was in order to be sure to avoid it.  It’s right behind where they have the weekly clothes market, near the hospital, right where my real estate agent had showed me one of the apartments for sale the day I was here shopping for my move.  Happily, I didn’t buy that apartment.

Yesterday, while taking my usual loop walk, on the one stretch, where I could see the beautiful snow-covered Pyrenees off in the distance, I could also see a helicopter hovering in the air in the middle of town.  As I walked on the copter didn’t move.  Where was it?  I figured it was hovering over San Joan.

It was the first story on the mid-day news.  There was a big police crackdown in Figueres in the barri of Sant Joan.  One hundred agents sifted through the neighborhood, ostensibly to protect the residents, but in fact, they found and confiscated 2152 marijuana plants (seven people have been charged) and numerous electrical installations that weren’t connected to any meter but bypassed those inconveniences to hook up directly to the power lines.

Figueres turns out to be far more colorful than I ever suspected.

Photo credit: Tramuntana.TV