By: Savin Mattozzi ~Staff Writer~
When most people think of Italy, they think of wine, rolling hills, the Colosseum, romantic beaches and maybe the mafia. While all of these are wonderful to enjoy when vacationing, except the mafia, there is much more boiling beneath the surface.
Aside from tensions between the political left and right that have persisted since a period of near-civil war from the 1960s to the early 1980s, Italy has struggled with ethnic tensions that stem from Italian “unification” in 1861.
In the past 10 to 15 years, it has surfaced that the so-called “unification” that “liberated” the sovereign nation of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was in fact a vicious colonization and conquest whose results still last today.
The northern kingdom of Piedmont, which was financially and militarily supported by the British and, to a lesser extent, the French, went down to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and colonized it. The people of the North have generally lighter skin and hair, and the people of the South are generally darker, having been influenced by other Mediterranean empires. It is estimated that between 300,000 and more than 1 million people, mostly civilians, were killed during the colonization. It is also estimated that around 1.5 trillion Euro-equivalent was stolen from the gold reserves in the capital of Napoli. This does not include the wealth stolen from people’s homes and separate municipalities.
There are accounts of soldiers rounding up people in village squares and shooting all of them. One northern general wrote in his journal that was documented by Pino Aprile in his book Terroni: How the People of the South Became Southerners that he thought the people of the South ought to be “cleansed of their filth and drool with iron and fire.”
Former Neapolitan army personnel and normal civilians came together to wage a guerilla war against the invading army. In response to this, the Northern officials went to villages in what in contemporary terms would be considered anti-terrorist operations in search for these Briganti. If the Northern soldiers found a Briganti, they would bring him up to a medieval castle by modernday Turin and hold them there in what some call the first known concentration camps in Europe. Because of the harsh winter conditions, many people died. The exact number is uncertain because their bodies were dissolved in lime for “health reasons.”
Those who were not brought to concentration camps or killed on the spot were decapitated and brought to a eugenicist by the name of Cesare Lombroso in Turin where their heads were measured and “studied” to prove his idea that the people of the South were genetically inferior and biologically more criminal compared to the people of the north. The heads of Briganti are still in a museum in Turin on display, despite calls from the people of the south to have them taken back to their families.
This racism against the people of the South is still alive and well in both systemic and interpersonal ways. Businesswomen from the south have been harassed at meetings in the North where the word “Terroni,” a derogatory term for Southerners, was displayed on their desks.
There are videos of supporters from the racist, anti-Southern Northern League party who are chanting that they can smell people from the South coming up and that they hope Vesuvius, the volcano outside of Napoli, will erupt and cleanse the land.
It is harder to get insurance from national companies if you live in the South. Education and infrastructure are critically underfunded. Unemployment, especially of youth in the South, is more than 50 percent. In cities like Napoli, it is 53 percent, according to City Metric. This in turn makes things like joining the mafia more appealing. Now, the small silver lining in all of this is that the people of the South are beginning to realize that our future is in our hands. When the leader of the Northern League party came down to the South to gain votes and provoke locals, he was met with aggressive protests and peaceful resistance.
On April 22, a group of southern activists will be going up to the heart of Northern League territory as a show of force and resistance. A flyer circulating for the event states “You can’t find jobs, and when you do, it’s unofficial and temporary. I live in a territory devastated by illegal dumping of toxic waste from the north. In my neighborhood, there are no spaces to socialize, only police and video surveillance. There are no hospitals or public transportation. And then I am the violent one who takes to the streets to protest for our rights.”
The people of the South are done with being treated like second- class citizens in a country we made. We are done with being blamed for systemic problems that the North has placed on us. We are done with being made out to be stupid, dirty and lazy. We are smart and beautiful, and we will fight back to get the rights and dignity the colonizers took away from us. And this is just the beginning.