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Ken Borelli
Jul 20, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
In an introduction to my site, I shared a story that I discovered about a reason for the migration of so many people from my ancestorial village, Verbicaro, Prov Cosenza, Calabria. during the 1910s through the so-called "great war"(nothing great about it!) in 1916. It seems the relatively new Kingdom of Italy, joined the race late in the game to secure European colonies abroad and attempted colonies in East Africa, and parts of North Africa. In order to do so, the government drafted many young men from Southern Italian villages to serve in their colonial expeditions. The problem with that, aside from the wars, many families depended on this labor to work their farms. It was pretty much an issue of survival. It got so bad, that combined with a cholera epidemic, to the point that there was open resistance to the conscription. One such riot occurred in 1911 in Verbicaro and was chronicled in the book La Paura di Verbicaro, by Felice Spingola. I have a copy of the book and included were the draft trial proceedings. The fear on the part of the Italian Government at the time was if these riots spread it would have been devastating to their colonial efforts and brutally suppressed the, in essence, draft riots. It was during this time that my grandparents and great grand parents made the decision to immigrate to the USA, first to, Massachusetts and then to San Francisco. Scanning the names of those charged in the riots reads like a directory of friends and "piasani" in old North Beach. Until I got the book I had no idea of this level of resistance among the villagers and had never considered this being a factor for immigration. Considering the alternatives, migration became an available option and whole families joined the exodus. The central government provided no support or services and in fact exploited the human resources. It's much too late to inquire of my grandparents but am curious if others were aware of these sorts of riots and rebellions as a source of the reason for the immigration. It is really too general to now say, "life was hard", and there was a lot of poverty, La Paura di Verbicaro, adds a lot more to the tale, especially when I read of my family's surnames among the rioters.
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Ken Borelli

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