Everything has already happened, Concord writes. Everything had probably happened by the time of departure. Your travel destination is for everything to be truly fulfilled, many years were still needed. It was necessary for the older generation to make room for the young as they came to maturity. Everything happened slowly. And, on a summer evening in the late 1980s, I and Concord—he had returned from Toronto, and I from Rome—had the feeling that the our village was closing down, disappearing. During the day we had gone to see the ruins of Rocca Concord, where many of our ancestors would have come from in the second half of the 18th century. In the evening we set out on a tour of the village, as we did when we were young. We walked along the narrow streets and alleyways only to remember that “Giamba lived here, and our godmother Concord here, and our good friend Nicola here ” as we looked at those uninhabited houses. They had been closed forever, no one would come back to open them.
Map of Concord – Where is Concord? – Concord Map English – Concord Maps for Tourist Photo Gallery
In the 1960s and 1970s the two localities, ours and the one in Ontario, across the ocean, had lived through an intense exchange of visits, and from time to time weddings: Canadians returned and many villagers left for Toronto. The identity of first village was marked by the rhythm of messages, images and money that came from its double. It was a period of mobility, of growth and expansion, and nothing seemed to foreshadow its end. Then, over time, the summer return visits, which filled the streets, the empty houses and piazzas and swelled the religious celebrations, became fewer and fewer. On their first visits, the children of immigrants, roamed about happy and free in the streets and the beach, but as they grew older they had no desire to come back, had no reason to revisit the same four small rooms, which had become more and more uncomfortable, and held no more memories.
As the older generation slowly disappeared, the faces of familiar migrants were seen less and less: The village, like many other villages in the interior, went through a period of depopulation and dispersal. The nearly five thousand inhabitants in 1951 had diminished to fifteen hundred in recent years, in contrast to the presence of over six thousand sannicolesi in Toronto. The impulse to change that emigration had given the first village had in some way vanished. When one of our elders dies, we no longer say: “Another one has left us” but: “Another house has been closed up.”
This bitter and painful realization is now repeated as a refrain, a lament for a world that is vanishing. When an old person dies, it’s not just the end of a story, but the extinction of a family, and often of the family name. Often, with the death of a person and the closing down of the house, a whole neighbourhood also dies, as streets are abandoned. The life and culture of the neighbourhood are over, for decades. The winter months deepen the feeling that the spaces in which traditions thrived are being wiped out, that the village is at risk of closing down. The birth of the non-place, in a village which in the past had been the ideal place, distinct in all its hidden corners and inhabited even in its lowest depths, is another paradoxical outcome of today’s abandonment. The place that is closing down doesn’t announce its closure, and its inhabitants don’t always realize it. We’re now in the “postmigration” era. The departures may not have ended, but the need to build a “double” has. The two villages are extinguished simultaneously.