Italian emigration to the United States has changed face: Andrea Mantineo, director of "America Oggi", explains who the new immigrant is and what he is looking for, above all in The Big Apple.
An interview with Andrea Mantineo: Young and illegal.
Ellis Island, closed definitely in the 70s is now a memory. Today the celebrated landing stage and clearing station of millions of foreigners in search of fortune or escaping from war or persecution is a tourist attraction. Yet the flow of emigration continues even today also from Italy. The end of the millennium emigrant is motivated and driven differently: he thinks of returning and is probably driven also by intellectual curiosity, because the United States, especially New York, is the heart beat of the western world.
Who is the Italian that emigrates to the United States today? Andrea Mantineo, director of the worlds only foreign daily to be printed entirely in Italian (the other being the Corriere Canadese, but has only five editions per week) explains to Qui Sicilia how the face of Italian emigration to the USA is changing.
"America Oggi started in November 1988 with twenty founder members in competition with the pre-existing daily Progresso which, at the time, had dismissed all of us. Today the firm, with its central office in New Jersey, has forty employees of whom eighteen are journalists.
We stamp 65,000 copies, spread over the north-east of the States, from Massachusetts to Maryland with 1,200 subscribers. We also reach the Chicago area and part of Florida with a limited number of copies. Were thinking of expanding our circulation to cover California but, given the distance, we would have to transmit the paper to stamp it on site and the cost would be excessive."
From his privileged position, Mantineo describes the change in Italian emigration to the USA during the last years and in what way it reflects the changing needs of the reader who is more and more attentive and aware and interested to know what Italy is like today, fifth world power a long way from the old models and prejudices which die hard.
What type of person reads America Oggi?
"From a survey done some years ago it emerged that the average age of the readership of the Italian daily was 44 and of first generation. There are also second generation readers but with them there is a language problem. We tried a bilingual edition but the experience proved negative because of the enormous costs of an insert in English which involved more pages and translations and double the personnel apart from the fact that the Italian language readers were not very keen on the change. They would have preferred more pages in Italian and in any case we didnt capture any English language readers because nobody buys a newspaper to read four pages of translations. The doesnt mean that a publication in English directed towards second and third generation Italians cannot be produced; it could function but it would be another newspaper completely different."
This, however, means that your readership is destined to shrink more and more.
"Yes, its true, even if, from 1990 onwards we have been witness to a new phenomenon, consisting of a new wave of emigrants towards the States, of a higher cultural but, strange to say, illegal. The Emigration Office in the metropolitan area of New York has registered the presence of 36,000 illegal Italians who perhaps came for reasons of study or tourism and then stayed on with out of date visas. The statistics go back two years so today there will be even more. The numbers are a drop in the ocean but they are potential readers and we are examining their needs, also because they are young readers. We are trying to give more space to problems of work and to the problems of those who are looking for work without documents. Here too, its not easy to find it. More culture and more events, a newspaper that is also at the service of our young readers."
What do you ask of Italy?
"As a newspaper nothing, but we are well aware that the Italians in America ask for more information and greater consideration. Its a fact that Italian emigrants are considered second rate by those who stayed. Unfortunately its true. The Italo-Americans feel it but dont accept it; they want to be recognised for what they have done, for their success, above all economic. Cultural successes on the other hand belong to their children and grandchildren who have attended university and, becoming part of another society, have lost all contact with Italy. It is difficult for the latter to feel discriminated against because they do not feel Italian. Its a different case for those who have left their country, often against their will, forced by misery or lack of prospects and want, basically, that their merit is recognised. I have read articles and Italian papers that describe the success achieved by Italians especially in the USA, but there is still a lot to say about the millions of our emigrants scattered all over the globe."