The Anchorage and the Sewing Machine
Pino recalls that when he first arrived in Anchorage, his father, who had been living in Anchorage for some time, told him: “I must buy you a macchina” automobile, machine. Pino was moved to tears. Back in his hometown he’d only had a little wooden kick scooter with ball bearings. He was still so young he didn’t even have a driver’s license. “This is the real Anchorage,” he thought. A few days later someone knocked on the door and left a Singer sewing machine for Pino, who had apprenticed with the local tailor back in his hometown. This Anchorage was his first encounter with the reality of life.
Where is Anchorage? – Anchorage Map – Map of Anchorage Photo Gallery
At the wedding celebration, eight immigrants, all men, pose with obvious pleasure for a group photo. They are in Toronto in October of 1952. My father is the first one on the left. He is forty-three years old. Only a few months ago the ocean liner Homeland had brought him, together with many other people from his home town, from Naples to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; from there he made his way, first to Portland, then to his final destination, the capital of Ontario, his potential new homeland. I was barely two years old. I hold on to this picture as something like the cornerstone in the building of my own life and memory, and, of course as part of my research.
I’ve never consciously chosen migration as the field of ethnographic research; rather, I’ve been chosen. In fact, the anthropological narrative is set up to unfold more or less like a slim autobiography that is more or less sureof its own certainty. In this case, autobiography is explicit, sought after and willed into being. I don’t bend observed reality to fit my personal narrative; rather I offer my memories and my experience in order to account for an anthropological and historical phenomenon, migration, that has, at least since the end of 19th century, marked the lives, the culture, and the mindset of communities from the region of Calabria, to which I belong.
My maternal grandfather had moved to New York for many years at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. He returned during the Fascist era and used his savings to renovate our home, to buy some farmland and, together with other mericani, started projects of renewal in his hometown. My mother reminded me daily of my grandfather’s success which helped to alleviate the grief of my father’s absence. For me and for many other children, for almost all of my schoolmates, the boundaries of our world extended way beyond the streets, the alleyways, and the countryside that were our playground. There was a faraway world, an imaginary and fantastic world to which I also belonged: Canada, the place to which my father had emigrated when I was eighteen months old, and from which I received dollar bills in coloured envelopes.