Friday, April 13, 2007

SUMMARY: PEOPLE OF MAGGIA INTERVIEWS - PART I


THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEWS OF THE PEOPLE OF MAGGIA REGARDING THEIR IMMIGRATION TO THE UNITED STATES WAS SENT TO ME BY PROFESSOR CORRADO POLETTI. IT WAS TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL ITALIAN BY SIG. GINO CAMPIONI. IN MANY WAYS THE EXPERIENCES OF THESE EARLY IMMIGRANTS WERE VERY SIMILAR TO THOSE FROM OTHER PARTS OF ITALY WHO IMMIGRATED TO 'LA COSTA'.


This morning I read through the entire summary from Corrado. I gather that this is a compilation of questions he or others posed to older family members or acquaintances regarding the emigration from the Ticino of Switzerland to California and various other places.

He (the interviewer) identifies the persons questioned only by their initials. Since there were many identical questions and answers, I only included those that were different or more interesting.

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Question: What was your trade?
Answers: 1.Here at home most had no trade. They were mountaineers or peasant farmers or townspeople. My great-grandfather, when he left the first time worked as a waiter on the ship.
2. A baker 3. A mason 4. Manual laborer 5. Stone cutter 6. Woodcutter 7. Chimney sweep 8. Shoemaker 9. Waiter 10. Most of those from Ticino worked on California ranches, great farms raising cattle and horses.

Question: Why did we emigrate?
Answers: 1. There was no work, the people were starving, they were many and there was little land, and so to live we had to leave. Then there was gold discovered in Australia and California. 2. To find alternate means of earning. 3. To join a relative in California
4. To help his mother who had been left a widow with 5 children 6. Because of the poverty in Ticino.

Question: How and when did you leave?
Answers: 1. On foot to Locarno, by train to Le Havre, thence by ship. 2. Most were young, 18-20 years. They left by train, then by ship. 3. We left in Springtime on horseback, then by ship.

Question: How long was the voyage?
Answers: 1. Two to six months 2. Three to four weeks 3. Three days by airplane

Question: How much did the trip cost and how did you procure the funds?
Answers: 1. 375 Francs in third class. Money was furnished by parents or friends, eventually the community, or town elders, in hope they would eventually be repaid. 2. By their own savings. 3. By borrowing from fellow workers. 4. By selling their animals
5. By borrowing from family in America.

Question: How much did they earn?
Answers: 1. They earned very little but also spent very little. 2. My great grandfather earned $1 per day and had to milk 25 cows for that. 3. Not more than we got here. 4. We did extraordinary work to earn enough to help our families. 5. From 15 to 20 time what we earned in Ticino. 6. About $25 per month.

Question: What was done with the money? How much was sent to Ticino? To whom?
Answers: 1. Most tried to save the money, and send some of it to parents or to refund loans. Some spent on homes, or opened savings accounts. 2. More than half was sent home to families.

Question: Who remained in Ticino?
Answers: 1. Mostly the women, babies, and men who had a trade (woodcutters, stone cutters, blacksmiths, foresters, and those who had enough land to work) 2. The old and the rich.

Question: What did the people remaining in Ticino do?
Answers: They continued their usual work and the raising of children, keeping house, etc. In other words, they continued their accustomed lives.

Question: What was the feeling of those who left?
Answers: They did not feel good. There were no conveniences we know now. It took months for letters to be received and then answered, thus all the people suffered from nostalgia, plus many of the places the people went did not treat them well. 2. They were very sad and had a great desire to return. 3. They were sad having to leave loved ones behind, but also scared, not knowing what lay ahead of them.

Question: What did those returning bring back to Valle Maggia?
Answers: 1. Some brought money, others their experiences, knowledge, new jobs, some brought nothing. 2. My father brought a car which later he demolished in a crash with a train. 3. They left a mark on life, learning something new, they saw that the world was bigger than our part. 4. Some brought money with which they rebuilt our town. 5. My father and uncle stayed in California. 6. Some helped restore church buildings and cemeteries. Signs of the emigration of my town are found around the church. (the cemetery of the rich)

A few persons, though, recently immigrated back to Valle Maggia.

Question: Why did our family establish again in Valle Maggia?
Answers: 1. My parents did so because returning from around the world, they sought a nice place in Switzerland, and Valle Maggia was the one they liked best. 2. We settled there because we sought tranquility, less pollution, more space for children. 3. My grandfather did because he found work. 4 To live better 5. The mother moved to Ticino to learn Italian and to work.

A brief story: My father left in 1919 being 19 years old, and having been given the funds by his father. He went to America to be a keeper of cows in various ranches. Then he returned in 1935. He met my mother. He returned to America for 2 more years, then returned here and married and remained here; though his fortune was not yet made. He always earned what little he needed to live.

When he arrived in San Francisco he had only $1 and he thought, "I must try to spend it well'. Then he found a store with some cans of meat and some bread, which he bought. When he opened a can of meat, he discovered that it was not meat, but snuff, as he could not read English, therefore he had to be content with the bread. Then he found an Italian who gave him work on a ranch.

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1 comment:

gino campioni said...

Ciao Ivano,

Here is another song that speaks of our debt to our forefathers. Though it is written from the viewpoint of Italo Brazilians, I think it applies to us as well. I did not attempt to make the English lyrics rhyme.
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Ricordarsi dei Nostri Bisnonni, sung by Valmor Marasca and found on the Italia in Brasile web site.

It is more than a hundred years
Since the Italians arrived over here;
They arrived on steamships,
they have suffered worse than the cattle;
They found pure brushlands,
with no blankets, they slept on the ground;
They fought long and hard,
almost as if they were in a war.

Chorus: We must remember our great grandparents
for it is thanks to them we are now here!

In the morning they cut the bushes,
to plant wheat and millet;
That was for their sustenance,
upon arriving in this land;
They planted many vineyards,
They filled vats with wine;
They were Italians who showed their power
to all of Brazil.
Chorus:
On Sundays they went to mass,
Sons and daughters and their parents;
They had much faith in God
who has had much care, even for us all;
If all the people in the world,
had been like our own great grandparents,
the world today would be well different,
with no war and with less poverty!
Chorus:
When there were festival days,
they gathered in their various families;
They sang, played at bocce,
they played cards all the night long;
Well content, they played at morra,
and drank a good bit of wine;
When hunger struck them,
they ate polenta and sausage.