Today we welcome a guest post from Abril Liberatori, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at York University. Her dissertation explores immigrants from the Campania region in Italy who migrated to Canada in the post-World War II period. She aims to compare Campani immigrants’ experiences in Ontario and Buenos Aires. (Photo above: Family birthday party for the author’s grandfather. Buenos Aires, 1941. Author’s private collection.)
People in Buenos Aires refer to themselves as ‘descended from the ships,’ a poetic way of saying that the city is founded on the backs of immigrants. My own ancestors were newcomers there once, when they crossed the Atlantic from the small villages of Campania into the then-bustling and promising South American country. Many of my ancestors’ friends and families ended up in Canada and the United States, and so these waves of migration developed networks of families scattered across the globe. Those networks were resilient and strong. Families across the Americas kept in touch with their relatives in their hometowns and abroad. They wrote letters, sent photographs and mailed remittances. These networks were so strong that they lasted years, sometimes even decades. So, as a fifth-generation ‘Italian’ (can I even call myself that?), I grew up feeling that migration was an important aspect of my identity.
When I was six years old, my parents moved our family from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Toronto. The experience was one of the defining moments of my life. But migration was not a new concept for me, in fact it has long been a part of who I am.
As far back as my memory permits, I remember my grandfather mapping our family tree. Over dinner tables I would trace my fingers over browned photographs, sleuthing to find the same features I saw in the mirror. I would pore over charts and tables of endless ancestors, seeing the same names over and over again. I would hear stories of heroes, and pioneers, sinners and workers. I was young, but I knew my family’s stories well. Later, as an immigrant to Canada myself, I reveled in the distant adventures of those who looked so much like me and lived such similar experiences. To this day, those family stories continue to be etched in me. Migration, it seems, defines me.
In a way, I believe migration defines many of us. In a country that allows us to celebrate the multiple aspects of our identity, many of us connect with our ancestors’ migration histories (or even our own) as vital aspects of who we are. Many of us have family in different parts of the world. My project is an attempt to trace the migration stories of these Campani families that are spread throughout different countries, but who have their hometowns, and their experiences of migration, in common. From my own family’s roots, I have developed a passionate interest in the migration stories of migrants from Campania. I find it fascinating that these family ties continue to survive across decades and continents. I would like to create a space where those stories can come together.
From my dinner table to yours! If you or your ancestors are from the Campania region and you would like to share your migration story with me, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing your story!