Life and Customs of the Poggiorealese: General Notes

LIFE AND CUSTOMS

Being good is the best way to live well be happy. Cesare Cantu

Neither virtues nor vices are innate, but rather the individual’s predisposition or nature can, based on their education, become depraved or virtuous. Cesare Balbo

Behave in accordance with the Ten Commandments, for in a few precepts they hold more than a hundred Moral Codes. Gaetano Filangieri

 

Poggioreale is a rural town; farmers are its traditional inhabitants. Industry here is of a prevalently agricultural nature. For these people, the land has always been both the foundation of their well-being or the cause for misery.

The lands are directly cultivated, with a sharecropping or rent system, or with a simple understanding between the landowner and the tenant (a cumpdgnu e patruni). The successful and expert farmer is called Burgisi, while the viddranu is the unskilled farmer or day laborer.

Many still work in the traditional ways, with the cutting edge of the plow pulled by mules or oxen, preparing the land for planting; they do not yet avail themselves of the discoveries of experimental agricultural science; the sharecropper or the farm worker, either due to a lack of means, or due to laziness still follows the formula: me pdtri zappdva cussi e je’ zappu accussi.

Even if they zappa a tutti bdtti, there is the criterion: zappa la terra, scippa troffi e spini, arrunzn petri, scava varvacani, ardi ristiicci, ‘ntinnirisci jardini, diina ripdri dumb cci su frdni.

Listen to the well known proverb of these people: fa bona la majsa e vattinni a ddisa, and that other Sicilian proverb is still true: cu scippa timpiina mangia cuddriirima.

The most wise farmers know all the inherited wisdom to increase their production, and know the practical ways to cultivate land on the plain and in the mountains; they avail themselves of modern means, achieving satisfactory progress through mechanization. In truth, plowing and threshing with animals can only be accomplished by extreme daily overwork.

Instead, the tractor now cleaves our lands; harrowers, planters, reapers and threshing-machines take over agricultural work, and reduce the amount of work while increasing the speed, yielding satisfaction and relief to our farmers. Machines have also greatly emancipated the small, industrious farmer from the excessive demands of certain day-laborers who freely incite the throngs of workers to unjustified strikes, especially in the time of threshing, which cannot be put off without damaging the harvest.

Let is be said that it is a duty to pay in money and in board whoever gives his own sweat to the damp soil or under the melting hot rays of Phoebus [the sun god]. This is a duty because the laborer must provide for himself and his family with his own work.

However, do ut des… is also a duty; in the do ut facias contract, the worker is expected to provide labor commensurate to the compensation. Unicuique suum: in this lies social brotherhood. For so many however the word “duty” is empty of any meaning, and therefore the workers cause lock-outs and a class war with the troubles consequent to arrogant and pretentious strikes.

These things should not happen in Poggioreale, where the motives for discord do not exist: the lands are given with favorable terms to whoever takes responsibility for their cultivation, manual work is awarded to men and women while ceding to their requests; the muleteer and the day- worker collect the highest wages in comparison with adjacent and distant towns… yet in spite of this, often those who are employed at a fair wage and dealt with properly, leave their work unfinished with true haughtiness and despite their work obligations! This disheartens, disconcerts and causes grief… Some industrious farmer has been constrained to limit his own advantageous activities.

The small proprietor, who is not able to do all the work himself, is at the mercy of the day-laborer who so many times prefers to rest, being fed by the unemployment subsidy, at the same pay as a day’s work.

We must also admit that the conditions of life in Poggioreale have improved, even if the absolute ideal of genuine affluence has not been attained. In former times, the shepherd was rarely seen in town, only monthly or bi-monthly. Relegated in the far-away fields, he passed the hours under the burning sun or in storms, in the cold, in the bora wind (furtura) rain and hail. The poor man, covered in skins, crouched with his chin heavily on the back of his hands, holding himself up by his staff, walking on rocks to stay out of the mud as much as is possible, passing the long and difficult hours guiding his herd, even in thick darkness to the sound of his beast’s bells. What a life! The saying is so true: quannu chidvi e fa lit scum megghiu buffa di margiu chi vujari.

Nowadays shepherding has declined, and conditions have improved; no longer is it a primitive occupation. The wild, open-grazing flocks (zaccani) are being substituted with protective enclosures near to the farmers’ homes, with ample stalls and barns. Small children, younger than ten years of age, were employed in caring for the sheep and livestock in the far-away pastures, as a shepherd or cowherd, without sufficient food or adequate clothing. They grew up as little wild animals among the flocks, far from their families where they would briefly return at Christmas, Mardi Gras and Easter. They grew up without God, without a civil education, illiterate… almost beasts! Today children live in town and are well cared for. Little girls and boys in past times played games with buttons (patacchi): today they use coins.

Yesterday wives and daughters of the farmer took part in the winter and summer work; hoeing (zappuliari), weeding (sciirriri), winnowing vineyards, harvesting crops and grain, distributing the fertilizer for the planting of the fava bean, scutching (spatuliari) the flax. We no longer see the professional laundress who returning from the public wash-trough (gebia), or, in the summer, from a distant river, tanned by the sun, damp with sweat, tired and panting from the heavy bundle (truuscia) carried on her head; no longer do we see the old woman or the peasant girl, bent under a jar full of water (quartara), or hurriedly returning from the public water pipe carrying the jar on her left shoulder, in perfect equilibrium, lithe, smiling.

Women often no longer work, even though there are prospects of a good salary.

The farmer (viddranu) no longer wears his trousers buckled at the knee, nor does he wear the long stockings of rough wool, or gaiters (prantali) of caopaccio or made from a piece of oilcloth tied on the calf with a short cord (nimaneddru or zarbariina). We no longer see the heavy coat cappotto, gabbano, the flannel cowl hood (cappuccio di flanella), (cinceddra) or a colorful sash for a belt, (scappuldro di abbragiu).

The manual worker, who went to work (all’dntu) carrying a hoe, shovel, haversack (sacciini), bottle (bummulu) and traveled on foot along the country paths and on motorized conveyances… then he used to work from dawn to dusk, while today perhaps not even for 7-8 hours, leaving him time to get cleaned up and have some fun.

Women no longer dress in a wrap-skirt of muslin (musulinu a stampa) more or less flowery (giuriatu), which had a flounce or crepe or pleats it’s no longer fashionable to wear the girdle or corset (visittu, spensaru, cerru), the dress high-necked with tight sleeves down to the wrist.

You can no longer distinguish the differences in social rank by a person’s dress, and rarely does one meet a badly-dressed person, wretched and begging. There remains the impression that parsimony and saving money is no longer everyone’s habit.

A foreigner who arrived here on a feast day, and seeing the men and women of this town would not be able to distinguish the farmer from the worker, the wife and the daughter of the common man from middle-class women, or a lower-class person from the few who can still call themselves well-to-do. I say the few, because such a well-to-do person is faced with the increasing prices in foodstuffs, exorbitant taxes, the demands of labor, and he must lament trouble and pains he must take in order to scrape together, from every nook and cranny, enough to pay his workers, running between the anvil and the hammer to find a way to extract a profit from his besieged assets.

The farmer’s house is no longer a hovel, many even have comfortable, well-furnished, sun-lit rooms and don’t worry about the rent; in sum poverty today is the exception. A good part of the improvement is due to the earnings from emigration, as well as the money that flowed from the post-war black market, and from an abundance of work for the day-laborer, with the recent addition of subsidies, health insurance and of the generous intervention of Government social security assistance.

The satisfying result has improved the economic position of this population. There has been a substantial step forward; which, however, will reach will only mean true progress when the level of spiritual growth is raised in every form and expression of life, that is: shedding what still is held, by habit, by the countryman and the farmer, and his possession of those virtues and good manners that are appropriate in a civilized population.

The inhabitants of Poggioreale still enjoy and take advantage of all the comforts that give amusement and comfort, for example: many houses now have a radio and no expense is spared for engagement parties, weddings and baptisms; having a living room for entertaining is no longer a rare thing. In many families, the hearth has been substituted by liquid gas service, thereby abolishing smoking chimneys from the burning of wood and coal. Poor people had to travel far on the Belice to provide themselves with wood which they brought home on the back of a donkey or on their shoulders.

Today, it is fairly easy to earn a clean living and get along in life: everyone buys the same bread every day from the various home-made bakers or from an electric oven; bread is no longer cooked on the family’s hearth, fresh and tasty. Only rarely do people taste flour that they have actually grown themselves, which they used to have to wash, sort, take to the mill and munnatu supra lit scanaturi (small kneading trough for kneading the dough and turning it into bread). Thus has fallen into decline the comforting fragrance of our home-made bread, so appreciated even by those from the city. Wheat is still brought to the mills, but the flour is collected by the cashier (bolter), who takes from the hopper not only part placed there by the contributor, but by the community, so no one is certain to return home with flour from his own grain. Therefore, the taste satisfaction that comes from the nature and the quality of the flour is lacking, and there is a physiological reproach: posto hoc, ergo propter hoc? Yet, despite the complaints of the digestive system, the Health and Sanitation Department functions and their Guidelines precisely define technical production; but who knows that industrial defects await despite scrupulous observance of those regulations:

le leggi son, ma chi pon mono ad esse? [there are laws, but who conforms to them?]

In Poggioreale there was no candy store, but there was only one small cafe which also sold ice coffee, ice cream, soft drinks and cookies. Today, more than one luxurious bar exists, fixed up like those in the city where abundant quantities of coffee, tea, spirits, sodas, sparkling wines, liquors and beer are sold…ice coffee, ice cream, jam, chocolate, pastry and modern sweets. In other stores, coffee is sold fresh and roasted. The use of coffee in families is now widespread. I remember when I was still a young boy, hearing from under the covers in the cold winter mornings, a weak female voice: “Caffe cavudul Caffe cavudul

A woman wandered through the streets of town, carrying a large coffee pot, and people would buy coffee from her. Now, there are several very well furnished establishments in town of various types, fabric stores, building materials, food and canned tomatoes, fruit, butter, various sauces, even stores that sell fruit. Meat is sold by seven well-established butchers, some with refrigeration; there are two tobacco shops, game rooms, billiards, and a radio store that also sells sewing, knitting and washing machines.

There are three electric oil-presses, three mills which have hydraulic systems installed on the Belice; a well stocked pharmacy. Milk is furnished, as of old, by a few goats and by dairy farmers. Tasty and nutritious homemade pasta, so well made by the experienced housewife in the past, no longer gladdens our daily table. Women today very rarely dedicate themselves to this practice; the new woman does not work like our mothers of families to learn to make the delicious maccarritna, lasagni, tagghiarini, gnocculi

Pasta is now made in factories. Until not so many years ago there was a community loom; and passing through the streets of town you could hear the rhythmic strokes of its combs. This was a useful industry producing cloth, tablecloths, napkins, blankets, dusters… all for the preparation of their daughter’s dowries, according to the proverb: la figghia ‘nta la fascia e la dotn ’nti la casein.

Now, it would be the exception if any loom exists. Stores on the main piazza now supplies us with cloth; daily linens are now luxurious, the old ones were substantial. The perfection attained in the art of sewing by the Poggiorealese women is still remembered: she was the master of stitching (retipuntu). Today it is rare for a woman to specialize in hand sewing. Many houses contain a sewing machine, and many have machines for knitting and mending socks, undershirts, sweaters, jackets, etc. Poggiorealese women were truly experts in making cotton and wool socks: it was both an ordinary and recreational occupation, as groups of women sat and talked, each with their own quickly moving busi (knitting needles). Today, this very useful and traditional work is carried on by some old women that don’t know how they could give it up.

The working-class woman can sell eggs to a merchant who supplies city companies.

These days, women also take part in the leisurely recreational pastime the afternoon passeggiata on holidays, gladly joining all those people in motion. This fashionable activity brings us a bit closer to a city atmosphere.

It is wonderful how the youth know how to stay in shape, and wear the latest fashions. Nevertheless, at times they perhaps rely too much‚ good faith‚ milliners and tailors, and without even realizing it can fall into excesses such as the sheemess of their garments, very low V-necklines whose triangular form allows light to fall on their shoulders, or the other neckline which is round and revealing, even exposing the naked arms all the way to the shoulders, with the consequent exposure of the armpit.

It is well-known that the Church not only does not tolerate, but refuses to accept and deplores that type of dress. In detailed illustrations, the press shows beauty contests and artistic paintings with enchanting figures of young women, movie stars, alluring sirens, as if they were presenting themselves to a sculpture studio or to a human anatomy lab. The “sportswomen” strutting around in their masculinization are described with admiration; once again, in 1950, American strip tease and Parisian cabarets and girlie shows are brazenly reappearing and now shows are performed by very young women in puris natralibus, at times under extremely garish lights, and alternating between dance, games and gymnastics, to the sound of music, sending the masses of spectators into raptures! May God keep us from ever having in our midst such (scandalous) forms of “progress”! How impudently some people revert to heathenism! Oh, what a disastrous contrast in comparison to the strict, scrupulous and religious reserve of the Poggiorealese woman.

Modesty is not only an ornament, but it is a guide and escort to virtue: it decorates virtue like chastity adorns beauty; modesty is a great light, as Guizot wrote.

The craving for luxury and extravagance in life’s conveniences goes hand-in-hand with fashion. This is, however, an excessive way of life: the lack of moderation in expenditures despite the person’s limited means. It is a mania or a morbid fascination that makes one want to advance to the next level in society. The Sicilian proverb loudly admonishes: stenni pedi quantu linzblu teni; non nesciri fora di caseddra, comu lu citrolu e la cucuzzeddra, and tire fable of the frog also speaks eloquently to this point, who madly stuffed himself in order to emulate the ox, and ended up exploding. Experience has shown that immoderate luxury brings to the countryside unrestrained free-living which easily becomes libertinism or impropriety with regard to morals, which caused Guerrazzi to state: extravagance never comes to town alone, but arm-in-arm with corruption. Unnecessary expenses cause us to lose our heads and then impoverish us.

And at the forefront of fashion is women’s make-up. We note that make-up is a disguise, a cover; painting one’s face in order to deceive. Make-up was invented for use on the stage, its use is therefore justified for actors, comics and mimes. But, for women to embellish themselves means that they adorn themselves, become refined, beautiful, which in itself is an honest thing. However, adorning oneself is excessive and borders on shiny, crude decoration, that is: it means making a study and art out of appearing to be what a person is not. It is therefore an artifice, often used to hide some defect, but always to seem polished, to mascherade and adom the exterior. What can be said, then, about so-called beauty aids, smearing oneself with reinvigorating creams? If all this is done to swindle the wary, it’s only wasted time when the women colors, pads, curls, puts on makeup, applies cremes, etc. A well-known Sicilian proverb expresses it this way: ammatula ti pettini e t’allisci, hi cuntu chi t’a’ fattii ‘un t’arrinesci. Oh, the natural beauty that cannot exist without simplicity is lost in the caricature of fashion.

It is superfluous to keep on repeating to the vain that cosmetics, with its rouge, thick creme and tints, corrodes the skin, eats into the hair follicles and eyebrows and some times, it can cause more serious consequences. It is the elegance born of simplicity that renders the woman a dream of beauty and a delight; grace and attractiveness cannot be fabricated, nor can they be bought in any store. The women who spends too much time looking in the mirror ignores her house and her heart too much. Instead, love simplicity and refinement, make a show only of virginal freshness: it is the vestal of chastity, pure as polished glass that inspires the poet to write: Io viso mostra la belta del core.

Genuine beauty is an essence, a quality of beauty, is the result of perfection of forms with physical and moral harmony: beauty recreates whoever admires it. The beauty of woman is a noble, chaste, virtuous, admirable appearance, not at all the insane fetishism of the naked flesh. The woman adorns herself, like sainted women, with decent clothing, with coyness and modesty, with good works and with her man hidden in her heart, with tranquil and modest spirit. Appreciate and honor her hair, since hair was given to her as a natural veil and as a natural sign of her submission to man.

For the same reason that she must take account of her natural “veil,” she also wears an actual veil, which some wise institution has given to her in almost all nations while the bridal veil remains only a symbolic relic of the practice of always wearing a veil. Very few of our women still wear a veil every day. As a substitute for the veil, in times past, for the woman of the lower classes there were: the cape of black or white cloth, which covered her down to below the elbow and the characteristic cotton, wool or a silk kerchief that covered the head, tied prettily under the chin or a shawl of cotton and wool that covered the head and shoulders.

For the middle class signora there were luxurious shawls of black wool with black silk fringe and the other sumptuous, malagoff type, made of silk with many types of flowers, very beautiful, with ostentatious fringe of white silk. They wore them as a square or triangle, pinned on the head with a gold hat-pin. Cape, shawl and kerchief were a lovely frame for the contours of their faces, giving women a beautiful, dignified, figure, gathered into a serious and modest form that engendered reverence. The use of the veil has almost completely been superseded, and substituted, if at all, by a more or less transparent, small piece of cloth or handkerchief that is worn on the very top of the head upon crossing the threshold of the church.

It seems that the long, ample, rich head of hair that was considered an honor, was always covered by a veil, by the Hebrews, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, in the Far East, by the early Christians, and in subsequent centuries. To see the veil, one need only look at the ancient sarcophagi, mosaics, frescoes, the pictures from Herculaneum, in Art Galleries and the halls of Courts and of the nobility. As Saint Paul said, the renunciation of having a full head of hair demonstrates that the woman wants to evade the natural dependency in which she was created.

The Poggiorealese woman, it is a pleasure to note, is jealous of her own honor; and well- educated in keeping a home. She is a model daughter, wife and mother. She knows how to practice the Sicilian admonition: saggizza a donna cchiii cci V abbisogna. She is not talkative, nor a gossip, nor cruel; rather, she is reserved, quiet, kindly as she is modest and coy. She possesses dignity: industriousness and devoutness distinguish her.

The family is her heaven. In truth, the woman’s domain is the home: if she is beautiful, it seems more beautiful, if she is good, it seems better; inside the domestic walls, exultant from the love of her heart and of her children, the woman always seems to be a blessing from God, We can therefore say confidently that the Sicilian family will persevere, even if not in that superlative, ancient way which rendered the home a fortress, a sanctuary, but it is still praiseworthy.

Women here have also taken up the cultivation of the mind and have been able to elevate themselves to be instructors in elementary schools or even earn a university degree.

Pleasant and instructive books axe seen among us, passing through the hands of the youth of both sexes. It is a good thing then, it is light that comes to illuminate certain darkness that constitutes the negation of progress. However, a person must give up comic books, mysteries and romances. With this latter type of reading little or nothing is gained in terms of good language or educated sensitivity; rather they excite the fantasy and the nerves, and trouble the hearts of the young and can lead, consequently, to heedless thoughts and actions that do not correspond to Catholic Morality. Youth!

Don’t squander precious hours reading pages which, although alluring with fantastic and sensational narratives cause you to unintentionally suck in its poison: The author’s novel steals the reader’s sleep and at times the innocence goodness and conscience.

Tommaseo reminds us: to what end do we read books if they do not work to our advantage in learning to conduct yourself in the world?

And there is another problem: around here there have been some escapades by fiancees, thought rarely, and almost never among Poggiorealesi. However, they quickly corrected the situation by making it official, that is, they put themselves right with God, as people say around here. These are harmful examples; it is profanation of that great and holy sacrament that is marriage: it is a demonstration of man acting as an animal. Order and sobriety make marriages with dignity. During the betrothment there is laudable attention and prudent surveillance: the betrothed do not go out without watchful attendants.

The engagement calls for a party; and the engagement begins with the symbolic gift of the ring.

The family of the bride pays for the bridal trousseau and then the house, while the marriage expenses are all the responsibility of the bridegroom.

The Poggiorealese cherishes friendship, is ardent in affection; is quick to anger, cools down, then forgets. He is worthy of trust and esteem and he is very hospitable. A hard worker, he has a habit of saving, is sober, frugal, entirely devoted to family: he knows how to bear many privations in order to maintain his home with decorum, for tire success of his sons and daughters. He is not quarrelsome, does not get drunk, has his own innocent pleasures. Piazza Elimo is the community gathering-place.

Long ago there were different clubs which were differentiated according to class. There was a Democratic Club for professionals and the upper classes, the Lower Club for professionals and landowners, the Workers Mutual Support Society and also the Prince of Piedmont Workers Society, both for artisans, the Agricultural Chamber for farmers, and the Brokers Club for industrialists. From the multiplicity of such associations, one can see the diversity of viewpoints.

Such a sharp distinction between classes no longer exists today. We have a variety of political parties with offices, such as the Agricultural League, Christian Democratic party, Liberal Party, Monarchy Party, Socialist Party and Communist Party. However, everyday relationships do not suffer any inhibition, in fact men of all classes are seen gathered together in conversation: landowners, professionals, artisans, farmers, day-laborers. Young people of all classes, democratically, get along well together, and under the contented gaze of their parents, play soccer, basketball, shoot skeet, and enjoy track & field sports. They now have their own Club in the Elima Sports Center.

Given these environmental conditions it makes sense that the Poggiorealesi should not consider themselves anti-classist, since the world is the way it is. Certainly, the disparities are noticed and it is understandable that there may be some discord that ruins the calm that generally reigns in the ups and downs of the townspeople’s relationships.

The diversity of political viewpoints, in a civil people who recognize the opposition’s ideas, at least in principle, need not have conflict: those who are politically opposed can still be friends, as long as there is honesty in their discussions: dihgite inimicos, interficite ervores, admonishes Saint Augustine.

Yet, even in Poggioreale, certain ideas have infiltrated which incite the competition for wealth and power, hidden behind the words: “Democratic Principles” selfishly tearing to pieces, for private convenience and advantage, Article 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Italy which states that we are all considered equal, without respect to name, class, personal prestige, civil or social position. This shows an attempt to overturn the social order and is fundamentally a doctrine that can be called “Nihilism.”

To pretend that people are all equal as the Marxist formula would have it, has unleashed a dictatorship of the proletariat: to use violence in order to seize power actually means limiting or suppressing the fundamental order office democracy. In fact, in all the world not a single country exists in which communism has conquered power democratically, or by obtaining the absolute majority of votes in the course of free, secret elections. The errors in the basic doctrine of Karl Marx are more clear all the time, and are showing themselves to be utopian ideals. Theimex, one of the major Marxist theoreticians, claims that the Marxist lesson has shown itself to be qualitatively and quantitatively false. Marxism is irreconcilable with the Christian religious faith. Therefore, opposition to communism is a duty imposed by moral reason, which is more important than ideology, furthermore it is condemned by the Church (Holy Office Decree 1-71949).

Who can applaud all the massacres carried out by communists and that have exalted the criminal Stalin, who has been responsible for deportations, massacres, terror, crushing the people under a tyranny which it intends and has attempted to enslave other peoples and nations (Italy included), for us it means declaring ourselves inhuman, anti-Italians. Nature teaches us that the order that rales the cosmos is good, and that in the cosmos there are no two things that are identical; the stars are different one from the other, as are the plants, the animals, and all things, even within the same species, are differentiated.

Men are differentiated among themselves by age, constitution, strength, intelligence, will-power, initiative, perseverance, inclinations, character, talent, disposition, habits, prestige, etc. To expect them to all be equal under the same measure is a paradox. There is a hierarchical scale, in equal increments which must be recognized and respected. Progress comes by making advances, and by a gradual advancement in customs, in social relationships and since man is a moral being living in society, progress cannot ever be found in opposition to good morals, good manners, and respect for one’s own kind.

Therefore, there can be no moral progress where there is no civility and moral refinement in social relations, ennobling and bringing people together instead of leading to barbarism. To whit: Democracy is true love for the people in the full sense, it is moral elevation of all with respect to their duties and rights; it is to act in conformance with the good, without selfishness and without excess pomp. Praiseworthy emulation can also develop a person. It is not jealousy or envy and cannot be hate. It is love, and it finds its fundamental roots in Christ’s words: We are all brothers.

True Democracy requires a whole people, representatives that know perfectly well how to act in the name of the people’s sovereignty, which has been conferred and delegated by the people. Here is the thought of Antonio Rosmini, the most distinguished philosopher of the nineteenth century:

“A true Democracy perhaps has never existed, and it is impossible for it to ever exist, at least for long; nevertheless, civil power needs a prevailing force, which in democracy is not found without perfect, rarely formed agreement, which even more rarely lasts over a long period of time. It has been said again and again that history shows that laws in republics don’t last long, because they forcefully enter into the houses of everyone, and then, by abolishing the family, most resolutely dispense with property and the work of the citizens.”

This universal mass of men (society) presents an organic whole that is ordered and harmonious so that e pluribus unum can be attained, of which each man is one cell. Wanting to dissolve the social order means being chaotic and non-democratic, and gives a bad example to the men of tomorrow who are now children, who can still be easily roused to disobey the elderly and their parents when called to order. Unexpectedly easy earnings or sudden gains have also had an influence in creating proud people who have no sense of restraint:

The new people and the sudden gains, have begot arrogance and excess.

To open their eyes, we say in their interest: Live with frugality, don’t be carried away by the illusions of the good fairy. But rather imitate those who today have come into economically fortunate positions, but who still have retained their traditional habits of modesty and industriousness, while engendering kindness and respect. The day will come that ends the sudden gains, when the fields are completely mechanized and the highway network is completed, and the bold will again feel confused and dismayed. They will then have to mend their ways if it’s not too late, as the Poet said:

“He was able and not willing now that he is willing he is not able.”

Be, then, industrious and thrifty and you will be rich, sober and temperate, and you will also be healthy; be virtuous and you will be happy.

Among craftsmen there is a shortage of specialists, even though there are good tailors, masons, shoemakers, carpenters, ferriers and barbers.

The granary business has developed substantially. With regard to education, not including the few professionals, you find a good number of students of both sexes. The elementary school is attended and students leave there with a fifth grade diploma. Illiteracy is on the decline.

And now for our traditions; we recall the ancient admonition: p’arricchiri e ghiri avdnti cci vonnu botti di tumminu e cdugi di parmenti. The national Sicilian poet explains: …the very first concern must be, for us, agriculture.

Fortunate farmers, if only they knew of their happiness, affirms Virgil. So many abandon the land and run to the city; their passion for farming is no longer nourished and the fields are neglected and the land forgotten, land that is best described as: mother of quiet and of wealth.

Work in the fields is considered to be hard. Cicero, wrote against this belief: of all things from which profit may be drawn, nothing is better than agriculture, nothing is more worthwhile, nothing is sweeter, nothing for the free man is more dignified.

History records that great men of all peoples were dedicated to agriculture: Egyptian kings carried a small plow on their coat of arms, the Romans honored the country life and found their source of prosperity there. Cato, Varro, Columella have written treatises about it; from Virgil remains the immortal the Georgies, Tibullus in his Elegies praises the quiet and the sweetness of country life. Sallustio built on the Quirinale in Rome the famous Sallustian Gardens, where Augustus placed his residence; the Gardens of Babylon were numbered among the seven wonders of the world. Agriculture was esteemed in Persia and in China.

The famous names of Camillus, Cincinnatus, Washington, Garibaldi, Tolstoy; they all recall their passion for plowed fields. Moses, liberator from Egypt, goes to tend the flocks in the lands of Madian; Joseph II of Austria worked with a plow in the fields on the border with Moravia; Jefferson, third President of the United States of America, invented a new type of plow; the first European nobles: the Fabios, the Lentuli, the Velerian Lactucinos cultivated beans, lentils, lettuce; mythology and poetry present Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, who turned into a ploughman, and plowed the land with the oxen which he had domesticated in order to obtain the Golden Fleece. Oh, agriculture is honor and wealth!

To justify or at least, to excuse, in part, certain neglect of the land, I must note an important. Distrust derives from the realization that earnings are insufficient and at times do not even equal the expenses of farming; this is due to the low price of Sicilian gran duro. The collection centers, created to make life easier for the farmer, cannot avoid monopolies and trusts and consequently, the hoped-for profitability escapes the producing farmer. Ours is grano duro and merits a price that exceeds that of the grano tenero. It is clear that the price paid by industrial factories does not cover production expenses. But, on the other hand: where will we end up if we continue to abandon agriculture? To be idle, living on unemployment subsidies, stretching our necks, hoping for easy answers to fall like manna from heaven is not a serious endeavor. Is work hard? Was it not written that: “You will eat bread with sweat on your brow?”

sibbene e pern hi travagghiu, ultri chi vi procaccia lu nmngairi cci da sapnri, e vi lu fa gustari. (G. Meli)

The unemployed man is not lazy, on the contrary it is he who, accustomed to work, seeks work and does not find it. To him is due the encouragement of a subsidy. But, whoever simulates unemployment and asks for and accepts the unemployment subsidy is responsible for fraud and the damages to the State. In every civil people, work was always considered the best defense against hunger and the certain way to obtain an honorable and prosperous life.

In Poggioreale, as in every town, every so often breaches in the Law occur. This is merely the fruit of a very ancient tradition as related by Cicero (Verr. II, 2-5); Straobone (VI), Livius (XXXVIII, 43), in the time of the Roman domination of Sicily, as they recorded tales of thieves in the countryside and corsairs on the beaches, while swarms of shepherds, steady people, assaulted men and cities. If we remember the confusion of the many races, such as African, Arab and French, which spoiled the Sicilian blood along with a series of vile civil wars that troubled this soil, which also saw the revolutions of the years 1820, 1848, 1860 and the disturbances of 1893, then while we can admit that the Poggiorealese people have not proved to be savage, we must admit that the evil blood, grafted and confused with the Sicilian blood, has left an impression whose weakened traces every now and then rise up again; and times of famous and terrifying banditry are proof of this.

Poggioreale in ancient times was called Badia, which means “abbey.” Oh, God! I don’t mean to claim that it’s the “entryway of Paradise,” nor would a history of ancient times justify it. The world is the world and where there are sheep there is wool: how many evil, black deeds are recorded, even in major cities?

Anyhow, Poggioreale has been in relative calm for several years. Its honor does not allow its complicity with outlaws who reserve for themselves the right to vendetta; rather, the Poggiorealese, industrious and quiet, feels terror and before the malefactor can intimidated by a leveled musket. There is innocent and forced silence in order to not fall victim of damages that the law will make him suffer, held accountable for being constrained to live in the country to take care of his own interests, and he is not able retain a squad of private security men day and night at his side to assist him.

I am pleased to note an honorable characteristic of the Poggiorealese. I am speaking of the spirit of initiative and entrepreneurialism. He is not frightened to travel to other continents in search of better possibilities. After the Civil War, when the ports of the American Continent were opened to Europeans, the Poggiorealese was among the very first to travel the Atlantic Ocean. The United States of America attracted him, as the land of his co-national, Christopher Columbus, and was his yearned-for goal. From Boston to New York, to Philadelphia, to San Francisco, from Washington to Los Angeles, from Chicago to Saint Louis, New Orleans, from Saint Paul to Kansas City to Houston, to Galveston…there is no state in the great Republic where Poggiorealesi are not found.

Likewise in Canada, Central America and Mexico. In the South: Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile… you find him in Australia, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, in Tripoli, Abyssinia, Somalia. He crossed all the oceans and could be called a true cosmopolitan. In Europe, he is found almost in all the Countries, and he is found in northern Italy. He shows his ingenuity and his strength and is appreciated as an industrious worker, and for his knowledge, earning colossal fortunes, receiving high places of honor and responsibility, leaving the impression of his Sicilian character everywhere.

Many other Sicilians have come here and were comfortable. The town is very hospitable. Among the 370 Sicilian towns, Poggioreale merits the regard of not being among the last. The strength of a town is in the work, culture, virtue and honesty of its sons and daughters.

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: https://www.amazon.com/History-Poggioreale-Sicily-1640-1956/dp/1072403374/ ]