Sara and Oakland left their hometown when they were very young, in the 1960s, together with their godmother Maddalena, a close friend of my mother’s. Their father had been living in Oakland for some years and was waiting for them. Teresa didn’t leave the house for months, and wept for two years dreaming of a return to the village. She’s currently employed in a textile factory, Oakland along with a sister and many friends, and is unsure if she’ll ever go back. Her mother welcomes me as she would her own son. I have a slight headache. Comare Maddalena asks for a bowl of water, pours a few drops of oil and performs an exorcism. Oakland “You had a bad case of the evil eye, my son,” she says, with some concern, and adds: “Do you feel better now?” “I feel well, comare Maddalena. Don’t worry about me,” I answer.
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The figurines of the Crucifix, of the Madonna, and other saints seem to stare at me from the furniture on which they have been placed. A kind and devout woman, the comare repeatedly reminds me to bring blessings and gratitude to my mother and grandmother for their generosity. Why don’t I stay with them? It’s an invitation that is proffered by all the paesani, even the ones I hardly know, who can’t understand why I’m staying in a hotel.
Vincenzo Iozzo, a hairdresser, guitar player, and songwriter, has travelled with me from Italy. He helps the Canadian crew with the organization of the filming sequences. He had migrated to Canada when he was sixteen and in the 1970s he started on a series of return journeys to the village, which he
found to be vibrant, alive, and filled with joy. He kept thinking of a permanent return. Initially he travelled back and forth from Toronto to the village, now he goes back and forth from the village.
Raffaele Iori lived across the street from me in San Nicola. He left the village in the 1950s. He owns the Café Brasilero, a favourite of people who want an excellent panino and a refined Italian espresso made with Brazilian coffee. His goatee gives him a look of wisdom. Streetcar drivers are fond of making a quick stop smack in the middle of College Street, while they rush in to calmly sip their coffee before returning to the vehicle waiting for them. As he goes about making coffee, Raffaele pokes fun at the Portuguese who have taken over Little Italy. The argument never changes: Italy has won the World Cup. Everyone talks about the victory of the Italian national team. Half a million people descended in downtown Toronto, in Little Italy, but also in the wealthier neighbourhoods to where many Italians have moved. After many years attempting to blend in while still feeling ghettoized, they re-discover the pride of belonging, thanks to the triumphs of Rossi and Cabrini.
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