The “double” nature of the homeland is exported to the “double” of the hometown. Infi ghting, game playing on issues of closeness and distance, West Covina on separations and reconciliations, are amplified, redefined, and reorganized. Tradition, exported to different social contexts, becomes a new tradition, giving rise to paradoxical results. My impression, formed in the course of many trips, West Covina is that the ancient conflicts have made possible a new cohesion in the community, thus delaying its fragmentation. Infighting and competition, in the end, need a place in which West Covina to meet. In their meetings, often forced by their need to express their conflicts, they come together and forge a new city in Ontario: a new place that is an expansion, West Covina and a territorial dispersion of their hometown.
Where is West Covina? – West Covina Map – Map of West Covina Photo Gallery
Toronto looks the same, spread out, extensive, elusive, with identical houses lining streets that look alike. Yet, slowly, each ethnic group has placed its seal, its mark. A Calabrian home is immediately recognizable, and with a more focussed and attentive glance so are the homes of my paesani. They stand out among the many houses belonging to immigrants from Friuli and Abruzzi, or the Greeks and the Portuguese. On the outside, the house of Vincenzo Sisi’s parents is decorated with pictures of the saints from the hometown; on the inside it’s a little altar on which images of the saints, of dead relatives, and living family members are strategically grouped together. The arrangement of the images tells us a great deal about how they perceive the link with the past, with the hometown, and with the new world. The attempt is to keep everything together, to lose nothing from the past, even though there is no wish to return, or from the present, of which they have grown fond.
Cicerello arrived here in the 1960s. He was a peasant and loved the open country. Before leaving he had the ends of the sleeves of his jacket sewn together creating a sort of nest in which he placed two small sparrows. On the ocean one of the birds found an opening and flew away, creating a pandemonium among the travellers. These days he travels from Toronto to the open sweep of country extending to the lakes and forest in the North. His destination is an Indian Reservation where he’s made a great friend. Cicerello always brings him some wine, and in exchange he returns to his home with stuffed birds that he places in some form of display in the cellar. In a few months he’ll remove the plastic that protects the fig tree from freezing, and will wait to see if once again this year there will be a recurrence of the miracle of figs. A son, born in his hometown, is a Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party.
People, stories, faces, glances. Everyone has a story to tell, and all stories point to a lost world. Their memories are tinged with nostalgia, with disappointment. I confine myself to stark images, brief flashes, abandoning myself to the care of photographic impressions. Saro Marchese, Vincenzo’s brother, is a minister in the government of Ontario. He is a member of party of the left and was elected by the Calabrian community with strong support from the paesani. In his parents’ house we watch him on television in a repeat broadcast of an interview. His father and mother are incredulous, moved, their gaze shifting constantly between the image of Saro on television and Saro sitting next to them.