The Italian Diaspora Of The Late 19th And Early20th Century

1620 words - 6 pages

Between 1861 and 1920, over 7 million Italians choose to emigrate from their home country (Italian Immigration: Why So Many Italians Live Outside Italy). Many Italian immigrants chose to make their new lives in South America, particularly in Argentina and Brazil. The mass migration of Italians began what is known as the “big migration” in Brazil (Sabina Stelzig). In this report I will explore what prompted so many Italians to brave an ocean crossing to immigrate to South America, how their influences impacted their new countries, and what push and pull factors Italians faced in leaving their home country and settling in a new one.
There were many factors that contributed to the Italian diaspora between 1861 and 1920. Perhaps the most influential factors were created by the results of the unification of Italy. On March 17, 1861, the unification of Italy was officially announced. Except for Venetia and Rome, Italy became one country under the royal family of Piedmont-Sardinia (ISSUES RELEVANT TO U.S. FOREIGN DIPLOMACY: UNIFICATION OF ITALIAN STATES). Under the new unified Italy, the courts distributed land that was controlled by feudal landowners to the locals. Unfortunately, the farmers were not able to make a living off the land they received and had to sell their plots back to the wealthy. Others lost their land due to the practice of evenly dividing land among heirs. Therefore, despite the disintegration of feudalism, most property remained in the control of the wealthy. This inequality was most evident in the northern region of Italy and contributed greatly to the poverty level (McDonald). Italy was also becoming more industrialized which resulted in a loss of employment. The loss of jobs also contributed to the poverty level. In addition to the loss of property and industrialization of Northern Italy, there was a population increase of 25% from 1871 to 1905 (Italy). Therefore the “push factors” resulting from a lack of jobs, loss of property, and increasing poverty forced many to leave their country due to the political outcome of the unification of Italy (McDonald).
By the late 1800’s the stories of a promised land in the Americas had reached Italy. The hope for a better life and “economic improvement” influenced many to leave their country rather than wait for conditions to improve (Italy). The emigration of Italians occurred in three phases, or waves. The first took place from 1876 to 1890, during which most immigrants preferred Argentina. The second lasted until 1897, both Brazil and Argentina saw and equal flow of emigrants. The third and final wave occurred from 1898 to 1914 during which the majority of emigrants went to the United States (Ratti). According the Registaro general de los immigrantes and Lista de immigrantes, 1.02 million Italian immigrated to Argentina between 1882 and 1920 (Italy). During the first phase of the “big migration”, Brazil saw the immigration of 1,188,883 Italians from...

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