Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Italian Immigrant Experience (7)

Italian immigrants tended to do whatever they had to do, accepting the jobs that other Americans didn't want to do, just so they could support themselves. Many of the Italian immigrants found work in street cleaning as well as public construction work. A large number went into the peddler business, selling fruit and vegetables, as well as working as waiters in restaurants and hotels. According to the report of the Italian consul, most of the fruit stands in 1892 were owned by Italians in New York. Also the thriving business of fruits and wines were imported by the Sicilians. However there were many Italians that were not as fortunate to find steady work that returned back to their native Italy discouraged and with empty pockets. . These Italian immigrants, tricked by the stories told to them in Europe about plentiful work and big wages, in America, were induced to leave their native land, only to find suffering and hunger as a result of the deception told by the steamship agents. A reporter from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle gives the following description in his article "Italian Immigration" dated August 9, 1888.

"Three hundred and fifty disappointed Italians who came to this country with the expectation of obtaining steady work at high wages, left for home.Tricked on both sides of the water, it does not take them long to find out that America is by no means the labor paradise they expected to find it."

Another report is also given in the article "Coming Here To Suffer" dated January 24, 1900.

"The old fable that the streets in America are paved with gold, which has lured many an immigrant here only to endure cold and hunger, is being repeated in a new form and is likely to throw upon our town an army of ignorant foreigners this summer, for whom there is no possibility of finding work. The new bait is not golden paved streets, but the prospect of work on the rapid transit tunnel. "

Despite their lives being affected by hardships and difficulties, the southern Italians were lighthearted and generous. The celebration of saints' feast days, with their processions, music, and fireworks, was a custom the immigrants continued to follow in the United States. In New York City the Italians even now celebrate The Feast of Mount Carmel and the Giglio Feasts, especially in East Harlem and Little Italy.

To be continued: The Italian Immigrant Experience (8)

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