SARONNO, Italy - Woke up this morning to yet another rainy day in a long week of rainy days and realized that today’s post would be number 200 and I had nothing to write about. Normally I write blog posts over the course of a week, starting with an idea and then squeezing in changes and adding photos or video, or in the case of Auntie Pasta, a recipe or two over the course of three or four days. Sometimes I don’t have three or four days to write and you can tell those posts by the number of mistakes you find in them.
|Morning Has Broken (thank you Cat Stevens)|
But here it is Sunday morning and I’m staring at a blank white page. I’ve been totally distracted this week, some of it spent worrying about friends and family in the States, some of it spent working on a novel I’ve decided to write. Even though I know there is not a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting it published, I still slog on every morning with my tale of Martina, an American film maker who has come to Italy to make a documentary about the gypsies – or Rom as they prefer to be called.
It’s a story that fascinates me, or rather the inherent fierceness of the Rom to hold on to their culture and traditions and resist every effort to integrate into the general European population fascinates me. Some Rom families have been in Italy for generations, others for centuries. They have Italian names and Italian citizenship and if they dressed like the general population, you’d be hard pressed to single them out. So it isn’t that they look “different” that sets them apart, but something else.
|Santino Spinelli (on the right) being introduced by an Italian Journalist|
I don’t know how Santino Spinelli, an ethnic Rom living in Italy dresses, but he made news a few years ago by becoming the first Rom to hold a university post in Italy. The path he traveled to get to that point was long, starting as a child begging on the streets to a university graduate and now a professor teaching a course which will cover Gypsy language, literature, traditions, music and theater.
But he is only one of how many Rom in Europe? Would you believe more than 6 million?
The seed for this story was planted back in 2003 when the Italian government took a hard right turn and passed ground breaking, stringent legislation requiring all non-Italians living in Italy to be fingerprinted and photographed. And yes, if you go through the files of mug shots held in who knows what Office of Immigration’s data base, will find one of yours truly, darling daughter of an Italian born in Italy and legal resident of Italy, but nonetheless part of the roundup.
|The Oh, So Cultured Umberto Bossi, Ex-Leader of Italy's Northern League|
As Milan is the home to the Northern League, the Tea Baggers of Italy, the new laws encouraged anti-immigrant sentiment, and blatant discrimination became more evident. No one could ever take me for anything but Italian, which is what I am, that is until I open my mouth and my twangy American accent spews forth. And that’s when the worms turned. A friendly greeting in a shop suddenly became a frozen stare, my reply to a simple question asked of me like where is Piazza Dante, resulted in the questioner turning his back and walking away before I could even finished the sentence.
I really felt that my Italy, the land where I had lived and paid taxes and obeyed every law I could figure out, had suddenly turned against me. Thankfully the political climate has changed now, we have a new government, and the beleaguered Northern League is barely hanging on by its collective fingernails. Now it’s the Italians who want to have - actually need - that twangy American accent for it’s that twangy American accent, and the language skills that go with it, that’s going to move them ahead in today’s global economy. And the way the European economy is shaping up, they don’t have a choice – parla inglese or don’t bother to apply for the job.
Even the prestigious University of Milano is now requiring its professors to teach some courses each semester in English. But that’s another story for another day.
So, where was I? Oh, right. Nothing to write about this morning. Well, I think the best thing for me to do is make another cup of coffee and think about it a little while longer. I’m sure I'll come up with something.
(I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who take the time to comment on the blog posts. I appreciate hearing from you, and sharing your thoughts and comments with others who read this blog.)