Buzescu, Romania – In this town in southern Romania, 35 percent of the inhabitants are Roma. However, unlike the popular perception of the impoverished Roma, this community is quite affluent. Their large houses feature ornate and extravagant designs that can take years to build.
Only one road runs through the 5,000-person town, but both sides of the road are cluttered with mansions. The residents own the latest luxurious sports cars made by top brands – such as Porsche and Mercedes. Many of these Roma run large businesses, but they do not specify which ones. And when the mafia comes up in discussion, Costica Stancu, an affluent Roma, said “Mafia? What Mafia? The money comes from work – no begging or other trades.”
In Buzescu, omerta – an old code of honour that emphasises silence – reigns.
According to Steliana, another wealthy Roma, most of these Roma live in one room of their mansions because they cannot afford to heat the whole place. “We have to show that we have money, that’s it,” Steliana told Al Jazeera.
Around 1860, the first Roma families, freed from serfdom, settled in this part of Romania to work the earth and mine various metals, such as copper. Today, the landscape has not changed much except for the opulent mansions of wealthy Roma, contrasting them with the storey maisonettes of Romanian peasants in the countryside.