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Back in the 1980's I wrote a cookbook called Flavors from A Calabrese Kitchen...as a way of preserving a culinary traditon that I grew up with. I wrote updates to the book through 2000. In the process of my research and the publication I received many amazing pieces of correspondence..One of the more fascinating was a respondents from a lady who's cousin was a researcher in Rome. His name is Felice Spignola. His book is entiled La Paura Di Veribicaro, or The Fear of Veribicaro.


For those of you who have roots in this part of Italy, you will find the research fascinating. It seemed that around 1911 a confluence of many factors contributed to a contadini uprising , one of many in the South of Italy, for very similar reasons. First the new Kingdom of a unified Italy wanted to join the Western European rush for "colonies". North and East Africa, was a prime opportunity for the new Kindgon of Italy. In order to join the colony race, they needed an army, and many peasants in the southern part of Itlay were being conscripted much to the dismay of their families. If a family lost its labor pool families would literally have a rough time of coping. Adding to the mix was periodic colera epidemics, for the most part ignored by the central and regional goverments. Around 1911 the confluence of conscription, colera, foreign adventurism and poverty culminated in draft riots.


The local populace did not want to fight these foreign wars especially when families where also confronting poverty and colera as well as protesting and resisting the Kingdom's authority to draft the contadini to fight in various parts of the new Italian colonies. Felice's book includes text from the draft trials as well as the names of the people arrested, both men and woman, about 70 to 80 people. The trial names really reads like a "who's who" of old North Beach,including many of my family names, and coincided with a key time that many piasiani left their village for the USA ,1910-12, and eventually migrated to the San Francisco Bay area. I do not recall one word of this expereicne every being discussed among my family yet all the original immigrants from Veribcaro had to have know or even been involved in the protest. While the riots and protest were supressed, I do believe it set off an exodus from the newly emerging Kingdom of Italy. By 1916, the Kingdom was engaged in World War I and even more contadini were used as cannon fodder . In many ways those immigrants who basically experienced the original draft riots of 1911 saw the handwriting on the wall and immigration became a part of a coping plan.

We tend to group why people immigrate into slogans such as a better life, and fleeing poverty but we really know very little about the day to day political issues confronting our ancestors....such as having to deal with conscription, draft riots, lack of services, colera epedemics and colonial wars. At his point its hard to sort it all out but seeing the family names of prominent old North Beach families from Calabria makes me realize there is more to the story, than those stock slogans.


PS down the line love to learn more if anyone is knowledgable about that epoch....


Ken Borelli

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