The best ambassadors
for our country in the world

Second chapter of the publication, in ten chapters both in Italian and English, of the academic presentation that our periodic collaborator Goffredo Palmerini held in L’Aquila on November 3rd, on the occasion of the CRAM Assembly (Regional Council of Abruzzesi in the World). The report is entitled “Historical notes on Italian emigration” and traces the history of the Italian Diaspora.

L’AQUILA – To state the obvious, it is no secret that in our homeland, our approaches to life often reflect ancient local practices that have withstood the test of time. As a consequence, the “State” still struggles to establish a homogeneous culture wherein there is widespread acceptance of foundational principles such as authentic equality of opportunities for all, applicable in the exercise of rights but also in the discharge of duties; or wherein laws and rules of social organization rigorously govern individual behavior in everyday practice because it is ingrained in the civic conscience of all citizens.

When these goals are not met or manifested, especially by the “governing classes” themselves, there develops abroad a less than favourable perception of us as a people. Collectively we come to be judged, harshly, as a “little Italy”, rather than the great country we are and deserve to be – if we shed certain less than commendable behaviors.

In this regard, our compatriots in the Diaspora are a resounding reflection of the positives the Italian ethic has to offer. With their achievements and life experiences, they are testament of a serious and reliable image of Italy, thus confirming themselves as the best ambassadors of our country in the world.

And yet, in Italy, there persists a perception among the general population an arcane, paternalistic, view (shared by those in governing circles) perpetuating a stereotypical image of our compatriots in the diaspora that speaks to their deficit of knowledge of the Italian migratory phenomenon. This limits our ability to assess the Diaspora’s value as resource of inestimable opportunity in which to invest.

For those who have a minimum of true interest and humility, getting closer to our communities abroad allows us to discover an unimaginable heritage of human, professional and entrepreneurial resources, of civic values personified and rooted in the societies of the countries of emigration that brings them a wealth of recognition, earned in the field over decades of competitive commitment, sometimes against assumptions and prejudices.

Today, Italians abroad are valued for their human, social, creative and intellectual contributions. They have achieved important results in every field: in their work, in their businesses and in the roles of responsibility they carry out in the countries in which they live. Today, the generations following the first emigration express a host of emerging personalities in every sector of social and civic life, from entrepreneurship to the professions, from economics to academia, from research to politics.

But let’s get back to the topic at hand. When emigration “reopened” after the Second World War problems and difficulties similar to those encountered at the end of the nineteenth century recurred. Once again, the mistake of considering mass emigration as a tool to alleviate unemployment was made. Short-sighted public policy ignored the fact that an ancestral occupation in agriculture, insufficiently remunerated and pressed by intolerable burdens, could not easily be solved by “exiting” the population base. The solution should have been the facile dispersion of craftsmanship. I should have been obvious that [the State] should help in overcoming the barriers that for far too long had deprived many populations, of a sustainable income, culture and professional training.

In short, as a collective, we fell back into the same mistakes. We were unable to measure the enormity of the problem, not even from a statistical point of view, while the persistence of the economic imbalances continued to stare back at the State – whose territorial dimensions were still relatively incomplete, especially in the South.

Everything was left to private initiative – in the hope such enterprise would be able to create new job opportunities. People, in droves, sought those opportunities elsewhere…

(second chapter – continues…)

Translation in English by the Hon. Joe Volpe, Publisher

The pic above is “Sul ponte della nave” from the book “La Merica. Emigrazione dei Monteleonesi verso gli Stati Uniti dal 1882 al 1924” by Antonio De Vitto

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