I have interviewed many Italians who over the years have gone abroad, driven by necessity or by the hope of realizing a dream that they could not have in Italy, and their reaction was very different depending on the age group.
The link with Italy is always present but takes on different emotional backgrounds and if you wish to re-establish direct contact (where it has been lost) you must understand these emotions.
I will try to summarize in a few lines the different emotions of the generations of emigrants and their emotional bond with the countries of origin. For the first generation that left in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the link with Italy was visceral due to the presence of parents and grandparents in Italy and the desire to visit them was strong.
The first generation mostly sent money home and therefore sometimes the second generation was deprived of some attention and assumed a contrasting relationship with the country of origin.
For grandchildren, the third generation, the link takes on a more fairy-tale background. They have heard the stories from their grandparents and have a vague idea of what they might find even if sometimes they no longer have the language that helps them.
The fourth generation mostly does not speak Italian and has a desire to discover its roots. A knowledge that must however also be connected to the lifestyle with which they grew up and in which they feel comfortable.
In any case, the trip to Italy is a ‘must’ for every one of them and it is up to us Italians to turn it into an opportunity for permanent and not occasional connection. It is up to the Italians to build their own side of the bridge which will unite the two cultures for a long time.
At this time, especially in the USA, the desire to discover one’s genealogy is very strong and many companies offer this service. We have prepared a package designed for those who want to ‘Discover and enjoy their Italian roots’, a day in which we organize an ’emotional visit’ to the Italian town of origin with the discovery of the true local lifestyle.
We learn about local history but also customs and food. During the day we organize meetings with local people and our role is that of cultural mediators capable of building bridges on which many other people and many other emotions can pass.
For information https://discoverplaces.travel/discover-taste-your-italian-roots/
The Cinisi model: 5 years of work and 2020 as the ‘year of the emigrant’
It is estimated that there are around 10 million Sicilians outside (although in my opinion this figure is underestimated) and many of them have lost the direct link with their country of origin.
This is a real shame for both and a void that the municipality of Cinisi is filling with a series of targeted initiatives.
Cinisi is near Palermo, the Sicilian city where the airport is located, and is ’embraced’ by nearby Terrasini which is located by the sea and is a place loved by tourists. In reality the boundaries of Cinisi reach the sea but the real inhabited nucleus is located a few km from the coast. The territory is surrounded by beautiful mountains that at sunset take on a particular pink colour reminiscent of that of the Dolomites. It is a place where sea and mountains come together to give unforgettable colours and scents.
Cinisi has seen strong emigration since the end of the nineteenth century with several waves that have followed over time: the last was that of the 1950s towards America. Today the young people have started once again to leave the town but they do it independently, each following their own individual path also because they often graduate and have clear ideas for their future.
Until many years ago, emigrants tried to return to their country of origin as soon as they could, then slowly these visits became less frequent also due to the end of some ties such as that of parents or siblings.
But in Cinisi this process was reversed about twenty years ago and today it has a boom in visitors from America.
How was it possible to build these bridges between cultures? What is Cinisi’s secret?
Everything started from Rosolino Lo Duca, an Italian native settled near Detroit, and by a careful administration that has had a vision that has been pursued steadily for over 5 years.
Rosolino had left Cinisi for the first time at the age of 20 and had settled in America where he had 4 children with Rosa, also from Sicily. When he was widowed, he went in search of his roots and in Cinisi he found Fanni, a new love who gave him back the joie de vivre.
For various reasons, therefore, he often found himself having to make the Detroit-Palermo route and to experience his two homelands more fully. Understanding the social dynamics of both countries viscerally, Rosolino began to promote Cinisi’s life among his compatriots.
For the new generations exchanges were organized between 17 Italian and American middle school students of Cinisi origins, and the young men are still in contact thanks to social networks. American boys have discovered their grandparents’ country in a modern way and thanks to their peers, with a language they can now understand better.
And since then the relationship between the two communities has intensified to the point that in some supermarkets in Cinisi there are American products to meet the needs and desires of those who settle for a few months in Sicily but want to continue their American habits.
Since 2014 Rosolino Lo Duca has been appointed councillor for emigrants (without portfolio) precisely to increase relations between Cinisi and the communities of Detroit, New York and Chicago.
The municipal administration of Cinisi then declared 2020 a ‘year of roots’ and organized a series of activities to strengthen the relationship with its descendants.
Meetings are planned in middle schools with examples of life in America and many other events following the theme:
“There is no plant without roots, there is no future without a past, history of a town in movement“.
To let today’s youth experience the emotions of their grandparents (both those who left and those who stayed) two Italian American books will be published with very evocative titles like ‘The Spartenza’…
But all the events will have this common thread and the same logo: the famous Cinisi Carnival will also be dedicated to the theme of ‘fellow citizens abroad’.
Eventually a documentary will be made on this year of events and an Ethnographic Museum on Emigration will be opened.
We too are part of these events, dedicated to the reconstruction of new bridges between local communities and Italian emigrants, with the Town Ambassador Award to Michael Chirco, whose ceremony will take place during the summer.