In Toronto, during the 1960s and 1970s, immigrants from Toronto established many community associations: the Association of the Most Sacred Crucifix, and of the Madonna of the Holy Rosary, the Committee for the feast of the patron saint, Saint Nicholas, and the Toronto Club. After twenty years of immigrant life the paesani, the villagers of San Toronto, take stock of their new reality and begin to integrate in the new world. Their strong sense of belonging to their home town extends to embrace their Toronto roots, their Italian background and their new Canadian identity.
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They finally accept that their decision to emigrate was irreversible. A return to the homeland wasn’t only impractical and disadvantageous, but also deep down not even hoped for or desirable. Women, who had discovered new freedoms and comforts denied to them back home, were the most reluctant to return; here they raise children who speak English and who have adopted a Canadian approach to life. Returning back home was tantamount to turning their back on the future, to wipe out the dreams and hopes that had accompanied them on their journey. Nostalgia for a lost world was more of a concern for the men, who had enjoyed some privileges in their hometown— entertainments, transgressions, merrymaking—while the women were mostly homebound.
The strong ties to the village begin to weaken, to fog up, to change. With
the passing of time the immigrants begin to realize that their feast must be celebrated where they live, that it’s futile to keep sending donations of money back to support rituals in which they can’t participate, celebrated in a place from which they have been missing for years, and where they are frequently no longer recognized. In time they come to the conclusion, with a clarity tinged with regret, that their past is elsewhere, but their present is in Toronto. Their lives are balanced between the past and the future. Faith, worship, tradition, and religion, embody the places of memories, a landmark, a call to integrate into the new world, not to return to the past.
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