Italy in the heart: a correspondent in the Italian heart of America
Historically we Argentines are one of the peoples in the world that has welcomed the largest number of Italian emigrants. In our country, always, regardless of the alternation of ideologies and political currents, the reception of migrants has been promoted. With regard to European migration in particular, we have recorded three significant flows in three different historical moments. The first, from 1876 to 1915, was called the Great Exodus. The second, from 1916 to 1945, we know it simply as Emigration between wars, the third, which does not have a name properly, is that which goes from 1946 to 1976.
In 1895, during the Great Exodus, the exact half of those who landed in Argentina came from Italy. In order of quantities from Veneto, Piedmont, Campania, Friuli, Sicily and Lombardy. During the emigration between the wars, the order was Piedmont, Lombardy, Sicily, Veneto, Friuli, Campania. From 1946 onwards, Campania, Puglia, Veneto, Sicily, Calabria and Lombardy.
Regardless of the regional records, it is estimated that between 1876 and 1976 more or less 26 million Italians left their land to seek fortune. Among them, 3 million found it in Argentina.
In America to seek fortune
When we talk about emigration, we can do it by deepening the statistical data that I have just reported or we can do it without pen and paper, and without a calculator. Seated and calmly perhaps, with ears, eyes and heart open. By listening to the stories, the tales, the experiences of those who – by force or by choice – emigrated from their homeland. We will discover a variety, such an intertwining of lives and feelings that it would be unthinkable to try to sort them according to schemes or tables.
Let’s just say that for many, leaving Italy and emigrating was a forced choice. There was no work and life was very hard. For some, however, emigration was more of a challenge, a personal goal, or simply a good adventure (many, for example, chose to work with us only for a period and then return home).
Despite the different reasons that moved them, all those emigrants had one thing in common. The sense of one’s land, of the roots. A sense that time fatally transforms into nostalgia: a feeling that cannot be explained in words, much less to those who have not been forced to leave home to start again elsewhere, perhaps towards the unknown. In those days, going to find luck also meant and above all to challenge luck. Challenge the fate between known difficulties (hunger, hardship) and unknown difficulties (what will await us on the other side? I will be up to it). Challenging fate, many Italians have landed, more than from other countries, because Italians are forged with that colorful and beautiful combination of tenacity and recklessness, dedication and even irresponsibility that makes them unique. All essential qualities to leave what you love most and go in search of luck, keeping only your heart, hope, and perhaps some grains of earth in your pocket.
Italian Emigrant Day
On September 20, 1995 Law 24.561 decreed that on June 3, today, the Day of the Italian Emigrant will be celebrated in Argentina. Why this date? Because it is the anniversary of the birth of Manuel Belgrano (1770), Argentine general father of our homeland and, needless to say, a descendant of Italians!
Now as then, the Italians and their descendants are one of the most active and lively communities in Argentina. For us descendants, keeping the traditions and the link with the origins means keeping us embraced together and embracing the distant land together. What our ancestors had to leave, willingly or not. Proudly, today, like every June 3, I together with all of them celebrate our great little family history, celebrate the legacy of beauty that flows through our veins and that pulsating sends us straight back across the ocean, where it is always our heart.