Reasons for coming to America

As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
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gentilejoy@yahoo.com
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Reasons for coming to America

Post by gentilejoy@yahoo.com »

I was hoping some light might be shed on the specific reasons for the “Southern Italian” immigration to America in the 1800 and 1900s. I was told not all came due to the same exact reason (s). For example in Calabria it was due primarily to the natural disasters (earthquakes) that impoverished the land and people.

What was the reason for the people of the Sorrentine Coast to immigrant. My maternal great grandparents were from this part of Italy. My understanding was that back there -economically they were middle class. Thank you.
mosca5
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Re: Reasons for coming to America

Post by mosca5 »

I think hunger was a big reason also. My grandparents were from the north.
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Re: Reasons for coming to America

Post by jennabet »

I don't think hunger was a problem for Italian immigrants. I live in Italy. It's a fertile land from north to south and east to west. I have never known Italians to be hungry but if anyone IS hungry in Italy, Italians can't wait to feed them. This is why we Italians are particularly offended when African immigrants who came to Italy uninvited tell us that our food is bad. Please don't confuse Italians with Irish who went to the USA much earlier because they were in fact starving as Ireland was having a potato famine, which is basically the only crop they had. Obviously Ireland was not the fertile land that Italy was/is.
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DCPandaFan
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Reasons for leaving Southern Italy

Post by DCPandaFan »

Here is a little information on the Southern Italy of 100-150 years ago.

In the late 19th century, most of the people in Southern Italy were poor, and many were landless. Landless people either sharecropped or worked on other people's land in exchange for food for that day and some to take home to their families. Even in years of good harvests, many had little to eat. Most people who did own land were at subsistence level. Although feudalism had been abolished in the early 19th century, the land reform that followed provided no incentive for conservation so agricultural land was exhausted by overuse (it never was allowed to recover its fertility), and forests were cut down for fuel wood with no thought to the soil erosion that resulted. And, due to better (still not optimal) obstetrical care, fewer babies died resulting in population increases that, by the late 1800s, the rural economy of Southern Italy no longer could sustain.

The poor of Southern Italy were barely in the money economy. (They earned food, not money, and bartered for everything else because there was little or no money.) Thus the saving of money (capital formation) by the rural poor in Southern Italy was all but impossible. But if a man wanted to buy more land to support his family, or invest in better equipment to work the land, or build a house, etc., he needed a much larger sum of money than he could ever accummulate in that economy. The only way for a poor person to accummulate money was to work someplace that had a money economy, such as Northern Italy, other European countries, or overseas. A lot of people (men especially) worked overseas intending to return to Italy with enough money to buy what was needed. A lot who worked overseas decided life was better there and used the money they earned to bring their families abroad.

Southern Italy today is more industrialized and all in the "money economy", and the rural areas where the land is still being "worked" benefit from better conservation knowledge and better technology, so the land's fertility is protected. That is why Italy has abundant food today. Italy's economy is strong enough that few people want to emigrate. Instead, people from other countries want to immigrate to Italy!

There is much detailed information in English on the conditions in Southern Italy. Just google "Italian emigration".
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lafemmeamrcn
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Re: Reasons for coming to America

Post by lafemmeamrcn »

I also was wondering why Italians, our ancestors, would want to leave Italy to come to the USA. This article from Mount Holyoke College gives an explanation.

https://www.mtholyoke.edu/~molna22a/cla ... story.html
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Re: Reasons for coming to America

Post by Italysearcher »

The middle class may have emigrated becasue they were being persecuted for being anarchists.
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Re: Reasons for coming to America

Post by NickAndreola »

Interesting articles on that website--thanks for the link! Her 'personal' story is very similar to my ancestors.
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Re: Reasons for coming to America

Post by joetucciarone »

This is a good question. It's partly answered by a statement made 149-years-ago-today in the lower house of the Italian parliament (Camera dei deputati). On May 20, 1872, representative Guglielmo Tocci was discussing routine financial matters when he suddenly changed the subject and spoke directly to the Minister of the Interior, Giovanni Lanza, who was attending the session:

“The Italians are leaving, Minister! Emigration is assuming frightening proportions. The people are hit with the salt tax, the grist tax, the lotto and emigration from those places where you need workers the most, and from where nourishment comes to the cities. What about this, honorable minister? Have you studied this very serious social phenomenon that is occurring in Italy? Doesn't it seem worthy of your attention as a statesman?”
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Re: Reasons for coming to America

Post by MarcuccioV »

On a familial note, in my maternal grandfather's case he descended from a long line of "contadini" -- tenant farmers (not landowners) that had little/no education or skills and were "stuck" in that post-feudal society rut.

He obviously had higher goals for himself and future family.

As the story goes, he has leading a beast of burden across town en route to the fields when it suddenly refused to cross a bridge over a creek. No matter what he did, it would not cross. My grandfather was 18. That was it -- he had enough. There were opportunities in America (his older sister had gotten married and left only a year or two before). It was 1909.

He settled in Detroit (after a brief stint in Philadelphia) after arriving in 1910. I believe he studied English and educated himself while in Philly. Once in Detroit he hired on as a janitor at the "new" Ford Motor Co around 1913 (around the time of the invention of the 'assembly line').

He joined the US Army in WWI to faclitate his US citizenship.

Little by little, driven by sheer guts and determination, he slowly climbed the ladder to drill press operator, machinist, and finally body stamping press operator. He retired at 65 (40 years at Ford) and moved to Southern California, where he enjoyed his grandchildren.

He would have likely never accomplished those goals had he stayed in Italy. I always admired his fortitude...
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