Bibliovideo (by silviettafly)
And another great find from Torino - Bibliomigra!!
This is awesome! A mobile library that brings books to the people, serves as a backdrop for discussion, reading, poetry, plays, this is just an awesome idea. Not only that but the books are in a number of languages - Chinese, Arabic, Romanian, Hungarian…Sicilian…
You can read more about it here: http://citiesofmigration.ca/good_idea/turin-bibliomigra-brings-the-library-to-the-people-2/
Porta Palazzo Market - Torino
Check out this write up about the market, it talks a lot about migrants: http://citiesofmigration.ca/good_idea/the-porta-palazzo-flea-market
This site intrigues me, it seems to list real-life examples of successful cultural integration spaces, and people can submit their own examples. I also really love the idea of linking entrepreneurship, immigration and economy. I think this is something we do well in America by default at this point, simply because we are capitalists and capable of viewing recent migrants as a “market” (no pun intended)- think Univision or Sriracha. However, I didn’t feel like I saw much of that in Italy yet, even though I did see a TON of entrepreneurs who were immigrants.
I just found out about a film I can’t wait to see, “18 IUS SOLI” by Fred Kuwornu. The film documents the children of immigrants who have grown up in Italy but are not Italian citizens due to Italy’s Jure Sanguinis citizenship laws.
It’s screening at the American University of Rome on Thursday, April 11th with a Q&A with the director. It’s also available for sale on the website, for those of us who (unfortunately) can’t make it to the screening: www.18-ius-soli.com
I’m currently reading a book called Ripe by Arthur Allen, all about the history of the tomato. In it are some wonderful tidbits about the origin of the tomato which I knew (tomatos, along with corn and potatoes, originated in Mexico and Central/South America) and some wonderful tidbits I did not know (the first California tomato cannery opened in San Francisco in 1859 and one of the most important tomato canning business owners in the first half of the 20th century was an American woman named Tillie Lewis, who married an Italian tomato tycoon - no doubt to get closer to his San Marzanos).
But something that I should have known, but shamefully did not, is that America had an official guest worker program with Mexico during and after WWII. It was called the Bracero Program and was meant to fill a shortage of laborers due to the war effort. This is, of course, after deporting 500,000 Mexican workers in the 1930s, but let’s not get derailed by that.
According to the wikipedia entry, by 1945 the numbers of laborers was about 45,000 for those working in agriculture and 75,000 working for the railroad. We’re always told that the Chinese built the railroads here, but rarely credit given to our neighbors to the south on that one. These numbers reached their peak in the 1950s, when food was undergoing so many revolutions but the hydrogen bomb of the 1960s had not yet exploded. The program was designed to be an alternative to undocumented immigration (on that note, the AP just stopped using the term “illegal” today), and simultaneously existed with “Operation Wetback” - yes, that is real and sanctioned by uncle sam. Within the Bracero Program, workers were guaranteed a certain standard of living and a minimum wage, which was negotiated with the Mexican government. Though in the long run, the program also made undocumented immigration a popular practice, and the hiring of this undocumented, cheaper and unprotected labor force as certainly attractive to business owners looking for more bang for their buck. The program also ended abruptly in the 1960s, leaving even the documented workers with few protections, which in turn spawned the careers of the likes of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.
Funny enough, Germany had a similar program, called the Gastarbeiter, only a decade or two on the tail of our guest worker program. Their agreements started with Italy in 1955, then moved on to Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Portugal, Tunisia and Yugoslavia. Interestingly, Germany preferred only to sign these sorts of agreements with other European nations, but Turkey was insistent that they be included as well. But the best part? America also put some strongarm pressure on Germany to include Turkey, as America wished to stabilize the nation. The German Secretary of State for Employment at the time, Theodor Blank, was against this as he felt the cultural difference between Turks and Germans was just to wide.
It is this acute awareness of cultural difference that I’d like to discuss here, as it seems to be something that the American government does not take into account or care about, this is the Wild West after all. In Germany, the guest worker program spawned government action in attempts to find a “solution” to this cultural difference. First they attempted to force assimilation on the part of the Turkish population - to get them to speak German, eat German food, and listen to German music. There were not TV channels in Turkish, no signs in other languages, but plenty of nudging to become German.
After realizing this does not work, the German government did a 180 turn and went with a more separate, but parallel, solution. They decided to not try to force Turkish immigrants to assimilate, but to encourage them to live in isolated communities - islands of Turks within an ocean of Germans. They soon realized that this did not work either.
A bit like Goldilocks, after trying the too hot porridge followed by the too cold porridge, Germany came to a middle ground: Turkish migrant workers who decided to stay in Germany long term would be offered the best of both worlds. Multiculturalism was the route to go, a middle road between total assimilation and total isolation. Turkish programs on TV alongside German ones, Turkish restaurants alongside German ones, blending of music traditions, intermarrying - you get the idea. (For a different discussion of this same topic, see this Washington Post article)
What I hope to understand, and possibly write about in another post, is why Germany tried to mandate this sort of cultural adaptation, and why America did not. We definitely are more individualistic and “live and let die” about just about everything here in America. But is that it? I want to hear what you thing: Did we not try to implement some sort of integration program with immigrants in the 1950s because we (America) just didn’t care? Or because we somehow were aware that it wouldn’t work, and that social change must be organic? Or, were we thinking the whole time that these relocations are temporary, never meant to be permanent?