88. Emigranti
Written by Unknown
Performed by The Coro Marmolada
From the CD Cinquant’anni in Armonia (http://www.coromarmolada.it/dischi.htm 1999)



Trenta giorni di macchina a vapore
Nella Merica che semo arrivati
Ma nella Merica che semo arrivati
Non abbiamo trovato né paglia né fien
Merica, Merica, Merica
Còssa saràla ‘sta Merica
Merica, Merica, Merica
In Merica voglio andar
Abbiamo dormito sul nudo terreno
Come le bestie che van riposar
E la Merica l’è lunga l’e larga
Zircondata da fiumi e montagne
E con l’aiuto degli altri italiani
Abbiamo formato paesi e città

Merica, Merica, Merica
Còssa saràla ‘sta Merica
Merica, Merica, Merica
In Merica voglio andar
E con l’aiuto degli altri italiani
Abbiamo formato paesi e città

Thirty days on a steam boat
So that America we reached
But in the America that we reached
We found no straw or hay
We’ve slept on the bare ground
Like animals

And America is long and wide
Is surrounded by mountains and plains
And with the work of our Italians
We’ve formed towns and cities

Merica, Merica, Merica
What could this Merica be?
Merica, Merica, Merica

I want to go to Merica
And with the help of the other Italians
We have made towns and cities

About the Coro Marmolada, aka the Marmolada Choir


From the group’s website www.coromarmolada.it, we bring you the following:
‘The Marmolada Choir was founded in 1949 in Venice by a group of young men in love with mountaineering as well as with its songs, who wanted to sublimate this passion by calling themselves according to the name of the Queen of the Dolomites: Marmolada. Since 1964 the Choir has been led by the present director Lucio Finco, who now is being helped by Claudio Favret. In the Fifties Lucio Finco was still a member of the choir, who was gifted with an instinctive sensitivity and with an innate vocation to conveying the evocative power of choral singing and therefore was able to lead the group to face up to lots of experiences over the years, in spite of the turnover of about 150 singers: with this intensive activity the Choir has gained public favour as well as general consent by the critics.

Expressiveness, delicacy of the personal interpretations and the selection of a repertoire aimed explicitly to the musical involvement both of the singers and of their audience, are the main gifts ascribed to the Venetian Group. The Marmolada Choir has made varied activities: they have made concerts all over Italy, also in prestigious venues (usually forbidden to folk music groups); they have also made tours in Switzerland, Wales, France, Greece, Austria as well as in Argentina and Brazil (2003). They also recorded LPs and participated in national TV broadcasts – Domenica In and Ci Vediamo in TV. In 1994 a special Venetian commission awarded to the Marmolada Choir the prize ‘Altino’ for their professionalism and their contribution in spreading choral singing, particularly among youths. In 1999 the Marmolada Choir celebrated its first 50 years of activity.’ [1]

Emigranti in Brazil

The Marmolada Choir performed Emigranti to a standing ovation during their 2006 tour of Brazil, which was aimed at raising awareness of child poverty in the favelas. An estimated fifteen percent of Brazil’s population is of Italian descent. This is from Wikipedia: ‘Italy only united as a sovereign national state in 1861. Before that the country was politically divided into several kingdoms, ducates and other small states. It was a geographic region, the Italian peninsula. This fact influenced deeply the character of the Italian emigrant.’ Our Wiki contributor[s] quote Fraser Ottanelli and Donna Gabaccia’s Italian Workers Of The World [2005]; ‘Before 1914, the typical Italian emigrant was a man without a clear national identity but with strong attachments to his town or village of birth, to which half of all migrants returned.’ A quote from Francesco Saverio Alessio’s Italian Brasilian sums up the paradoxical nature of national belonging for the Italian migrant: ‘The feeling of a national Italian identity and of a united ethnic group was created later on for those emigrants, when they were already in Brazil.’ [2]

Many Italians fled political persecution after the failure of revolutionary movements in 1848 and 1861. During the last quarter of the 19th century, the newly united Italy suffered an economic crisis; in the northern regions, there was unemployment due to the introduction of new techniques in agriculture while southern Italy remained underdeveloped and untouched by modernisation in agrarian structure. [3] Poverty and lack of jobs and income stimulated the northern and southern Italians to emigrate to Brazil, Argentina and the United States. Most of the Italian immigrants were very poor peasants, mainly farmers. [4]

Italian immigration in Brazil increased after 1850 when the enforcement of the law proscribing the international slave trade created labour shortages. The Brazilian government, headed by Emperor Pedro II, instituted an open-door immigration policy towards Europeans.

The first groups of Italians arrived in 1875, but the boom of Italian migration to Brazil happened in the late 19th century, between 1880 and 1900, when almost one million Italians arrived. The Brazilian government, influenced by eugenics theories, issued laws prohibiting the entry of Asian immigrants in 1889 and the situation changed only with the Immigration Law of 1907. The growing number of European immigrants made some scholars believe that in coming decades, people of African descent would disappear from Brazil through miscegenation. [5]

A great number of Italians became naturalised Brazilians at the end of the 19th Century, when the ‘Great Naturalisation’ conceded automatic citizenship to all the immigrants residing in Brazil prior to November 15, 1889 ‘unless they declared a desire to keep their original nationality within six months.’ [6]

Italians were divided in two groups in Brazil. In southern Brazil, the Italian immigrants were living in relatively well-developed colonies, in south -eastern Brazil they were living in impoverished conditions in the coffee plantations. Many rebellions against Brazilian farmers occurred and the public denouncements caused great commotion in Italy, forcing the Italian government to issue the Prinetti decree in 1902 that established barriers to immigration to Brazil. As a consequence, the number of Italian immigrants in Brazil fell drastically in the beginning of the 20th century, but the wave of Italian immigration continued until 1920.

On July 28, 1921, representatives Andrade Bezerra and Cincinato Braga proposed a law whose Article 1 prohibited black immigration to Brazil. On October 22, 1923, representative Fidélis Reis produced another immigration law, whose fifth article also prohibited the entry of settlers from the African race in Brazil [7]. In 1945 the Brazilian government issued a decree favouring the entrance of European immigrants in the country: ‘The entry of immigrants comes from the need to preserve and develop, in the ethnic composition of the population, the more convenient features of their European ancestry.’ [8]

The following extract, Songs of Emigration, by Sergio Piovesan, is from the Coro Marmolada website. It places Emigranti in the context of Italian migration, past and present:

‘Even today, in the lives of millions of people and in the history of many countries, whoever left the country and the family, alone or in groups, lived feelings of sadness, nostalgia, melancholy and hope which authors, mostly unknown, expressed in lyrics, mainly in the various dialects of Italian regions. These lyrics formed the folk songs of immigration. The repertoire of Marmolada includes two such songs, one from Friuli, Montagnutis, and one belonging to the whole area of the north, Emigranti, also known as Thirty days by Steamboat.

After the unification of Italy emigrants turned to countries further afield, to Siberia for the construction of the Trans Siberian railway, or overseas, especially to South America. The song Emigranti was born with the migration of farmers from the north of Italy to north and south America in the late 1800s.

The ships departed from Genoa, and after ‘[...] thirty days travel by steam ship …migrants landed in Merica …’ America was their promised land, it was a dream. America was a country of wide-open spaces, conditions were hard, there wasn’t even some ‘straw to rest your head’. But despite the hardships and fatigue, Italians, helping one another ( ‘…and with the help of our Italian people…’) contributed significantly to the development of the new countries.

Italian migration ended between 1950 and 1960, but this phenomenon, although there are those who think it can be stopped, has taken over, but now in the opposite direction. Perhaps in the future, we will hear new songs that will evoke the nostalgia of savannas and deserts of Africa or the melancholy and sweetness of the springs in the eastern steppes.’ [9]



[1] www.coromarmolada.it
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Brazilian
[3] IBGE. Brasil 500 anos – Italianos – Regiões de Origem www.ibge.gov.br/brasil500/italianos.html
[4] Daniel Del Boca, Alessandra Venturini. ‘‘Italian Migration’ Working paper in CHILD Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic Economics. 2001’, www.ideas.repec.org/d/childit.html
[5] Sales Augusto dos Santos, ‘Historical roots of the ‘whitening’ of Brazil’. Translated by Lawrence Hallewell. Latin American Perspectives. Issue 122, Vol. 29 No I, January 2002, p 62. Quoted in Ethnic groups in Brazil, www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_groups_in_Brazil
[6] ‘Italian Citizenship, Nationality Law and Italic Identities’, by Kirk Buckman, www.crvp.org/book/Series04/IV-6/chap-6.htm
[7 & 8] Roger Raupp Rios. Text excerpted from a judicial sentence concerning crime of racism. Federal Justice of 10ª Vara da Circunscrição Judiciária de Porto Alegre, November 16, 2001 via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Brazilian
[9] ‘Songs of Emigration’, by Sergio Piovesan CD sleevenotes, Se Vedeste i Mundaris via www.coromarmolada.it



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