Calabria is a region in southern Italy that has a rich and diverse history, culture, and cuisine. It is also a region that has experienced a significant emigration of its population to other countries, especially the United States. In this blog post, I will explore some of the reasons, challenges, and impacts of this Calabrian diaspora.
According to Wikipedia, it is estimated that five million Italians immigrated to the U.S. between the unification of Italy around 1870 and the Great Depression around 1930. World War I in 1914 marked a surge in the level of immigration. Of these five million Italians, over three quarters were from the south, the majority of those originating in Calabria and Sicily.
The main push factors for this mass migration were economic hardship, natural disasters, political instability, and social oppression. Calabria was one of the poorest regions in Italy, with a largely rural and agricultural economy that suffered from high taxes, low incomes, land fragmentation, and feudal exploitation. The Calabrian population also faced frequent volcanic eruptions of Vesuvius and Etna, as well as earthquakes, floods, droughts, epidemics, and famines. The political situation in Italy was turbulent and violent, with the rise of fascism, socialism, anarchism, and organized crime. The social conditions in Calabria were oppressive and discriminatory, especially for women, who had limited access to education, health care, and civil rights.
The main pull factors for this mass migration were economic opportunity, social mobility, political freedom, and cultural diversity. The United States was seen as a land of promise and prosperity, where immigrants could find jobs, start businesses, own land, and improve their living standards. The United States also offered a chance for social advancement and integration, where immigrants could participate in civic life, join labor unions, form associations, and enjoy equal rights. The United States also provided a space for cultural expression and exchange, where immigrants could preserve their traditions, languages, religions, and cuisines, as well as learn from and interact with other ethnic groups.
The Calabrian diaspora had significant impacts on both the sending and receiving countries. On one hand, it resulted in a loss of human capital, cultural heritage, and demographic vitality for Calabria. On the other hand, it contributed to the economic development, social diversity, and cultural enrichment of the United States. The Calabrian immigrants brought with them their skills, values, customs, and foods that influenced various aspects of American society. Some of the notable Calabrian Americans include Tony Bennett (singer), Claude François (singer), Charles Atlas (bodybuilder), Leon Panetta (politician), Alessia Cara (singer), and many others.
Today, Calabria is still facing challenges such as depopulation, underdevelopment, corruption, and environmental degradation. However, it is also undergoing a process of regeneration and revitalization through initiatives such as tourism promotion, cultural preservation, social innovation, and environmental protection. Moreover, it is reconnecting with its diaspora through programs such as genealogy research, ancestral citizenship, cultural exchange, and economic cooperation. These efforts aim to strengthen the ties between Calabria and its descendants around the world.