Italian Emigration over the years
The article “Roberto Saviano is wrong, again…” by my friend Angelo Paratico touches sensitive heartstrings and flings open a bitter abyss (human, social, and economic) on which Italy never wanted to reflect.
Italian Emigration is an endemic problem never studied in its whole because it hurts and because it is the final result of colonization, bad politics, incapacity, and corruption.
I don’t want to describe the development of this historical phenomenon over the years here and now. However, I’d like to read a good book about it, and I understand that such an essay cannot be conceived just from inside the system that generated the problem. Angelo Paratico could be a good historian, the perfect one, and could bring an objective perspective together with a non-tarnishable love for our nation. So this is a friendly and kindly request, not provocative indeed.
I would premise I’m first and foremost Sardinian, so the history of my country can blur my objectivity. And also this article reflects my personal perspective, of course. Nevertheless, I’m using official data, and so it is up to you to gauge the problem and judge the significance of Italian emigration.
1861 is the year of the unification of Italy. The first census showed we were less than twenty-four million inhabitants.
From 1861 to 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, about fourteen million Italian people emigrated because of poverty and famine. In only one year, in 1913, about nine hundred thousand people left Italy. I honestly don’t think it was a matter of ‘backwardness’ of the Piedmontese rulers as Angelo politely said. In history, Savoy always had a virtue: to be greedy pigs with whatever and whoever, equally. Milan and Genoa too were bombarded by this infamous dynasty, when the crowds protested. Italy as a whole had been despoiled in a very short period, so much that fourteen million (!) Italian people were forced to emigrate. It is a biblical exodus; there is no other word. But history, you know, hymned the Italian Unification under the Piedmontese heel.
From 1861 to 1985 about 29 million Italian people emigrated.
After the Second World War, the Italian government, starved for energy and broke, exchanged the lives of tens of thousand Italian emigrants, intended to be miners in the unsafe and inhuman mines of Belgium, for a regular supply of coal.
The agreement, signed in 1946, – then called of ‘deportazione economica,’ economic deportation – provide for the transfer of fifty thousand Italian workers under thirty-five years of age and in a proper state of health, in return for two hundred kg of coal per day, assured to Italy. The carriages from Milan to Belgium were sealed, as in the Nazi trains, to avoid workers’ escape. So were the military barracks initially. The mines were unsafe, and the Belgian miners refused to work in. Thousands of Italian people didn’t return. Only for the worst disasters (like that one of Marcinelle, on 8th August 1956, where more than 262 men died), some news arrived to Italy. Only after the disaster of Marcinelle the use of gas masks was granted to the Italian miners.
The lack of news was a great gift to the Italian government that, in this way, avoided paying the pensions to the widows.
I don’t want to add other sad episodes and any other comment, but the answer an Italian emigrant gave an Italian Minister, sec. XIX , quoted by Costantino Ianni – Homens sem paz, Civilização Brasileira, 1972, and displayed in the “Memoriale dell’immigrato” of San Paolo (I caught it in Wikipedia):
«Que coisa entendeis por uma nação, senhor ministro?” È a massa dos infelizes? Plantamos e ceifamos o trigo, mas nunca provamos do pão branco. Cultivamos a videira, mas não bebemos o vinho. Criamos os animais, mas não comemos a carne… Apesar disso, vós nos aconselhais a não abandonar a nossa pátria. Mas è uma pátria a terra em que não se consegue viver do próprio trabalho? »
This is my reflection of today: “Mas è uma pátria a terra em que não se consegue viver do próprio trabalho?”