Sunday, June 30, 2024

Rooster, Tomatoes, and Death

On our morning walk the other day, I suddenly realized I was hearing a rooster crow. I don’t live in the country; the crowing was coming from an apartment building. Maybe they have a coop on the roof. Suddenly Figueres didn’t feel so grey and urban.

My first Tot Sants (All Souls) here in Figueres, back in November 2012, I did what I usually do on that holiday, I took myself to the cemetery to take photos of all the flowers people were leaving at the tombs of their loved ones. But on that Tot Sants the cemetery turned out to be not as peaceful as cemeteries usually are. When I arrived the police had it cordoned off. There had been a shooting inside and a man had been killed.

It was a drugs-related shooting. The man killed was from France, and the assailant was from Figueres. Later I heard that they had arrested the perpetrator and I thought that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t. This was because both the French man and the Figueres man were gypsies and the aggrieved clan had a score to settle. A few days later the French clan began taking revenge on the clan here in Figueres by killing some of the livestock of an uncle and wrecking some of the homes of other family members. Suddenly Figueres didn’t feel so European.

Last Sunday, on the 23rd, the Eve of Sant Joan – midsummer night – there was a shooting in Girona where four people were shot. They were all taken to the hospital in Girona where two of them later died of their wounds. About 100 members of the clan of the victims showed up at the hospital and were kept at bay by the police.

When I heard the news and heard that the victims were from one clan and the perpetrators from another, I knew they were talking about gypsies. Everyone has families; gypsies have clans.

The victims were shot by a man called Guillermo who was using an AK-47. This is the first time I’ve heard of that kind of weapon being used here. Firearms are much less prevalent than in the U.S. and many attacks are with knives.

Guillermo disappeared immediately. And so did members of his clan who live in Figueres where he was originally from. So when 300 members of the victims’ clan, known as Los Tomates, showed up Friday night to take revenge, their three homes were vacant. The Girona clan had already destroyed Guillermo’s apartment and car in a town near Girona, now 70 of the clan went in and destroyed all three of the homes here. According to gypsy law, those three homes now belong to Los Tomates. While Los Tomates were destroying the properties, the police basically waited and kept people away. They have said that trying to confront three hundred people, many of them wielding axes and bats, would have called for an enormous police presence and would have resulted in escalating the violence. This way, at least no one was injured.

At this point, no one knows where Guillermo or the members of his clan are, and the question remains, who will find Guillermo first? Los Tomates or the police?

When I first came to see apartments in Figueres, I was shown one that bordered on Sant Joan, the gypsy neighborhood. Of course I didn’t know that at the time. Lucky me I didn’t buy it. I remember coming back from a drive a few years ago and following a sign that made my return route different than the one I used to go. All of a sudden I was in Sant Joan where the streets and small plazas were packed with people sitting on benches, chairs they had brought down, chatting, playing guitar, milling around, passing the time. It was nothing like the rest of Figueres where, except for la Rambla, the streets are meant for walking. Suddenly Figueres felt like another world.

Oh, the photo? Yesterday’s brewing storm.


  1. Goodness, Dvora! What a different world. I’m guessing the police have experience with these types of incident, but it’s odd to me that they didn’t try and interfere. What a to do! Clan violence is something I’m familiar with from living in Africa, but here in Europe, it seems alarming.

    1. I'm not sure there wasn't some criticism because it seems the police had to justify themselves. But they identified people for arrest later. I think they were wise not to escalate the situation while keeping others of the public safe. Somehow this kind of thing doesn't really frighten me. For one thing, clan disputes are almost always contained to the neighborhood where these people live. (Luckily, I didn't buy the apartment I was shown that bordered on that neighborhood, although I had no idea at the time what it was.) And then you have to consider where I came from. When I lived in the Bay Area there was a drive-by shooting on a major street just a few blocks from my home. Now that was scary. Plus the fact that so many Americans have guns.