Monday, 21 December 2009

Canaries and panettone in the hills

Imagine it's 1860, your parents are peasant farmers in the Veneto region of Italy, paying their taxes to the Austrian Emperor in Vienna.

Now, it's 1880, you are a peasant farmer in the same village, but paying taxes to Rome and the new Kingdom of Italy, except.... Romans and Tuscans have flooded your province, banning your dialect, taking the best jobs, and introducing new agricultural techniques that are putting your farm out of business. Then, salvation! You are offered huge expanses of land in the New World, subsidised travel, even subsided equipment, so you jump at the chance, and take your family for a three week cruise to the bustling port of Vitoria, Brazil. A few more weeks hiking from the coast to the hills and you are there - dense virgin forest in the middle of absolutely nowhere! Not what you expected, but you get together with your compatriots, pull up your sleeves, and set to work.

Millions of Italians emigrated to Brazil, especially to the southern states. By 1897, for example, there were twice as many Italians in Sao Paulo city as there were Brazilians! Today, over 13 million people here claim Italian descent in Sao Paulo state alone, and 65% of the state of Santa Catarina. Although the language of Brazil is still Portuguese, Italians have made a huge impact on the country, both economically and culturally. Three presidents have been of Italian descent, pizza and panettone are part of the national cuisine and "tchau" is the universal form of "goodbye".

In my area most of the Italians came from the Italian Veneto, seeking a new life. Many settled in the hills, establishing farms and forming towns like Santa Teresa, whilst in the next valleys Germans and Pomeranians were doing the same thing. This established a patchwork of forested hills and farmed valleys that is still found today.

Bird of the day
Possibly the nicest bird in Brazil, the Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola). Common and extremely tame it is perhaps the characteristic
garden bird in the hills around Santa Teresa, though relatively rare in towns and by the coast.
It even has a nice little song.

The landscape photo is courtesy of Heliana Pacheco

1 comment:

Sunshine said...

You are a very good writer!