So many stories abound in any family, some apocryphal and some tainted through time and inefficient transmission through the generations.
I am creating this blog so there will, first of all, be a place for relatives to access on-going work on the family history and to leave a record of their recollections of the generations that we have lost or are close to losing.
I mentioned my age earlier. I feel that many of the younger members of a family have little interest in the past or their roots. They often do not recognize the fact that ancestors shape our attitudes, our thought processes, where we live, health and physical stature. In short our family past shapes a large portion of who we are now, and the courses we may choose in the future.
I do not think that we need to dwell on the past, but remember it, honor it and learn from it.
I think it was the ancient Egyptians who believed that if your name is uttered by future generations, then you will continue to live.
So, lets discuss some old-timers, shall we?
But lets make a bargain. We will be honest about the people we write about, flaws and all, but let us also make an effort to be kind. Nobody needs to read about personal vendettas(despite the Islands' proximity to Sicily) just the facts.
When I think of family history, the first face that comes to mind is that of Grammie Cafarella. She lived with my family in Houlton, Maine for much of my childhood, right through college and beyond. I would go to sit with her to vent my rage with the world or to listen to her stories, though I usually avoided her cooking. What a foolish choice that was.
I remember going to visit Aunt Carolina in Livorno, and virtually the first words out of their mouths were, "does she still cook (this or that) like she used to?"
I guess she was something of a star in the kitchen. Everyone remembers her Baked Beans. Her talents were not limited to Italian fare though they were made with olive oil.
She told me all her stories of the islands and her arrival here in the US.
I remembered many of them, but my youth betrayed me and I did not remember enough of them. Also, I did not recognize the cues to ask the right questions so that I would understand them. I once gave her a tape recorder to record some of her stories but she flatly refused to use it. Also, she was curiously silent about the many years after arriving here. She, like my mother, had a difficult life. Certainly there was joy and laughter, but the grind of poverty and so many mouths to fill robbed her of the happiness we all hope for.
Maria Rosa Cincotta was born in Malfa, on the north side of the island of Salina. It lies in the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the very center of an archipelago of seven volcanic islands called the Aeolians(Eolians). The islands are fertile in general, though often dry with a very unreliable supply of water. Water ships now deliver on a regular basis; but you never knew when you would run out. When our grandparents and great grandparents were living there, they often relied solely on what could be stored from roof run-off in cisterns. The home of he youth had two cisterns. One was under the railing of the patio near the big outdoor bake oven, and the other farther out in the courtyard to the west of the entrance.
Salina is the second largest of the seven islands, with it's two volcanoes called Monte Porri to the west and Monte Fossa delle Felci to the east. From a distance the Island looks like a bra floating on the sea. The other islands, Vulcano, Lipari, Panarea, Stromboli, Alicudi and Filicudi were all under the political control of the capital at Lipari, while Salina has, for a couple of centuries, been independent of the others.
Salina is the greenest of all the islands, and is noted for it's riot of color, especially yellow, in the spring. Mediterranean Maquis covers the island(that which is not under cultivation). This is a mix of herbs like Artemesia, sub-shrubs, capers and stray figs, succulents, other shrubby plants and pelargoniums that have escaped into the wild. There are also the ubiquitous pines, olive trees Eucalyptus(High up) and grape vines that Italy boasts so many of.
All in all, you would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful place, this green, craggy place set in the vivid aqua sea, it's mountains wreathed in clouds or backed with startling blue skies. And there are sugar cube houses clustered here and there in the little villages round the island.
An aphid carried a parasite that killed many of the vines throughout Europe beginning about 1870. Islanders believed that they would escape the problem as they were twenty odd miles at sea. One year after Grammie was born, 1889, the vines were attacked and the economy was destroyed. Half of the population of the islands emigrated by the beginning of the century as a result. Of course at the same time, steam was slowly replacing sail as a means of transport, making it harder for them to compete. As fortunes drained away, it was impossible for most to convert to steam.
On the mainland, the train system was expanding. Lines were extended in increments from Rome, to Naples, Naples to Reggio until it was a major threat to sea based trading.
Meanwhile, commercial relations with France deteriorated in the 1880s which resulted in a tariff war that lasted from 1887 to about 1890. This put a terrible strain on the wine producers in the south of Italy, and finally killed the wine based economy of the islands.