| Annie Trovato
25 Nov. 2013
More Italians have migrated to the United States than any other group of Europeans. Why did Italians immigrate to America and how did their reasoning differ from other European immigrants? There are many reasons why Italians came to America such as poverty, unemployment, overpopulation, and natural disaster. Most of the Italians that came to the United States at the time were mostly male and many intended to go back to Italy after making the money they so desperately needed. During the late 1800’s the birthrate in Italy rose and death rate fell. As the 1900’s approached the illiteracy rate in Italy was well over half and ten times the rate in England.
During the time of 1876 to 1976, the United State had the biggest influx of Italian immigrants in the world. Countries such as Brazil and Argentina were mostly impacted by Italian immigrants. In the United States we had so many natural born citizens that Italians
emigration didn’t really affect the United States. It is said that today at least 32 million people in Brazil derive from Italian descent. Whereas In the United Stated only 5.9% of population has derived from Italian descent that’s roughly 17 million people.(2010 census)
In America inexpensive land could no longer be acquired, agricultural Italians became mostly metropolitan or urban. Most Italian immigrants became laborers; in fact, they were the largest immigrant population to work in the coal mines. They also worked as shoe shiners, sewer cleaners, textile workers, animal butchers, and any other jobs people didn’t enjoy doing. With no enforced restrictions, even children were working as early as age 12. In contrast some Italian immigrants became craftsmen, which included carpenters, brick layers, masons, tailors, and barbers. In 1913 more Italians came to America than in any other year. Most came from Northern Italy. Due to the large number of immigrants, Italians became a detrimental part of organized labor supply in America. They were mainly a part of the three following labor forces: mining, textiles, and clothing manufacturing.
Along those lines, during the late 18th century and early 19th century when Italians were immigrating to America they endured countrywide discrimination in housing and employment. They were victims of prejudice and violence, predominately in the southern part
of the country. They were often stereotyped as being criminals a part of secret societies such as the mafia. I think that Italians are seen very differently now compared to when they first arrived in America. “In today’s world, to be an Italian can be a very good thing: You dress well, live well and speak with a sexy accent (just ask Paolo). The world looks to Italy and Italians for their opinions on food, fashion, cars and whatever else is cool. Sadly however, there was a time, at least here in the United States, when newly-arrived Italians were treated worse than animals.” (Justin Demetri, “A History of Italy in Brief”). Italians were seen as laborers and apart of a lower class of people. They were willing to do any job to support their families. Many of these Italians didn’t care to go to school; they usually just tried to work their way up in a certain field to increase their income.
Italians weren’t the only group of people leaving their countries in order to gain a better life. Other groups of Europeans were coming to America such as the Spanish, English, French, German, and Irish. They usually came to the United States seeking religious freedom and to escape economic hardship among other things. Religious persecution was the major reason why people left their homelands. America is known as the “land of opportunity” and people wanted a chance to live their lives and believe in what they felt was right. "The American
Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." - James Truslow Adams (The Epic of America)
Did you ever wonder how you’re family came to America? My family came to New York through "immigration station" at Ellis Island. This is the port where cargo is transported. Since shipping companies made money transporting “human cargo” many Italians were traded along with cotton, wood and crops. Once on Ellis Island, each person was checked medically for any physical discrepancies, if any were found the person was branded with the letter X. They were also label L for lame, Ct for Trachoma, S for senility, G for goiter, H for heart problems, and Pg for pregnancy. Some immigrants were even sent back if they were not approved to enter.
Italians are known significantly for the role they play in the mafia. It’s been said that the mafia is an organized society of criminals. The mafia started in Sicily and was in a way reinvented in America by Italian immigrants. The mafia is a big part of Italian culture and some believe it’s a great way for Italians to feel unified. My grandfather Cirino Trovato was the Consigliere or counselor to the God Father. He was third in command just below the underboss. The boss, underboss, and consigliere make up the administration and together they collectively issued orders to their men. I also have a relative named Franco Coco Trovato who is the God father in Milan. He was sentenced to life in prison for murder, extortion, and drug trafficking in 1992. He is most famous for his suspicious chain of pizzerias and fleet of Ferraris and Porsches. Italians are known for their lavish lifestyle and also their strong family ties and reliance on kinship. Family comes first in Italian culture and that’s why Italian immigrants came to America, they were willing to do anything to support and protect each other. Even in the mafia everyone within the same clan was very close knit.
In conclusion I chose this topic because it’s about my relatives. They came to America just like everyone else and worked hard to create a better life for my family. It has been very interesting learning about my ancestry and doing research on Italian immigrants. I think that
Italian’s are very different from other Europeans predominately because they didn’t come here to escape religious persecution like many others. Italians suffered exploitation by people of the same nationality and religion. Many Italians came here in order to earn the money they needed to provide for their families. They lived in horrific conditions in one room house with no plumbing and worked demanding-dangerous jobs so that their kids could have a better future. “Most Italians who came to this country are very patriotic. There was this exciting possibility that if you worked real hard, and you loved something, you could become successful.”-Francis Ford Coppola
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