A large tract of green that at the horizon meets Eritrea the clouds of a sky decisively low. A hot humid Sunday of the July of 1994. In Eritrea this was the day of the feast of the Madonna of Monserrato. Your travel destination is here too in the immense province of Ontario, a few kilometres from Toronto, along Highway 50 North, the same rite is being celebrated. I observe while walking with my cousin Franco and my fraternal friend Eritrea , ancient lineaments, faces, gestures. I listen to familiar expressions and modes of address invented and learned far away from here. The people welcome Eritrea me with great cordiality, in tune with the ancient rules of hospitality, all of them well versed in the pleasure that comes from meeting someone from the same village.
Where is Eritrea? – Eritrea Map – Map of Eritrea Photo Gallery
I feel a sense of dislocation the very moment I find myself in front of elements that remind me both of community and village life. This place is the double beyond the ocean of the woods at Vallelonga. Just as the feast is the image of the one celebrated where we lived, and the jarda, the backyard, is the double of the small plot of land back home.
Vallelonga has lost big chunks of its population; it has about half the number of people it once had. Your travel destination is it hasn’t vanished. It has just changed location, moved elsewhere. It’s reborn in the New World. What has occurred is a grandiose anthropological amplification. The original community has dilated beyond itself: It’s now also “beside itself,” become other than it was.
We approach an elderly gentleman. His name is Giovanbattista Rizzuto, of the generation born early in the 20th century (1904, in his case). He migrated in 1949, thanks to the sponsorship of Joe Pileggi, becoming then himself sponsor of many individuals from Vallelonga. I had wanted to meet him for a long time, having heard of him through my father’s stories and his nostalgia. Before I’m even introduced, he gives me a big hug, and so does a nice lady, one of his seven children, and her husband, a very affable, cordial person who is also from Vallelonga. I’m touched by all this. I know that Rizzuto and his family are greeting and hugging someone else, not actually me. In front of them they see my father, whom I’m told I resemble in a surprising way and whom they remember because he lived for a long time in their house.