The connection with Italy

The emigrants' main link with the motherland, wherever the country of emigration was, for decades remained the letter, even when the telephone was already in use. Millions of writings crossed the Alps and oceans to bring families good or sad news, births or bereavements, business successes or failures.

These ties are also evidenced by the "remittances" that emigrants sent home, and by the so-called "migratory chains," those exchanges of contacts and information through letters that led family members, relatives or friends to reach out to those who had previously emigrated, finding assistance in the early days after arrival.

In all emigrant homes, family photos that arrived by letter were put on display, and one only had to look out into the Little Italies scattered around the world to realize how strong the ties to the motherland were, at least among the first generations of emigrants. In these neighborhoods people spoke Italian, ate Italian, and bought Italian.

Then there were the religious rituals, especially the patron saint, celebrating which emigrants ideally united with family members left behind in Italy who, on that same day, celebrated the holiday thousands of miles away.

Joseph Piagentini is pictured with a photo of his distant girlfriend in his hands