Friday, July 24, 2009

Giusvalla nel flusso .... Giusvalla in flux

Our ancestral town of Giusvalla has always been small, the population peaking somewhere during the first quarter of the 19th century at around 1200 souls. Today there are somewhere around 450 residents, including a sizable and growing contingent of Romanian immigrants. Mass in Giusvalla is now celebrated just once a week, and not by a local Italian priest, but rather by the affable Fr. Remigio Hyun, the new Korean pastor who tends the dwindling flock at Giusvalla’s parish church of San Matteo and splits his time between several local parishes.

Giusvalla, like the world around it, is changing ….

My Pesce ancestors lived in a little village within Giusvalla called “Taranco,” land that had come down to my great-grandmother’s family by way of her maternal grandmother, Margherita Tortarolo. The Tortarolo family, in fact, had already lived on the land at Taranco for generations before my great-grandmother‘s time.

Other families that came over to Squirrel Run were associated with different villages or neighborhoods in Giusvalla …. Bonifacino of Cavanna; Baccino of Cianpè; Rosaio of Vicoŕi; Ferraro of Zerbi; Camoirano of Becìancia; Perrone of Casùrera, Collà and Dogli ….

Many of the homes in these old neighborhoods now sit empty, our contemporary Giusvalla cousins having left the family homestead in favor of an apartment and better job opportunities in the big cities of Savona or Genoa. Simultaneously, the idea of the “country home” has caught on in Italy … attracting wealthy city folk to little villages like Giusvalla … driving the cost of real estate through the roof and further pushing out the native farmer‘s son.

The future of Giusvalla seems uncertain, with a shrinking native population being replaced by a growing immigrant population, the astronomical cost of real estate in the area and natural and geographic factors that lend themselves to the dreaded “bedroom community” designation … one wonders what the next generation in Giusvalla will look like.

My cousin Dialma, who still lives on the old family land at Taranco, wistfully lamented to me recently “Giusvalla is dying, drying up like an autumn leaf …” We, the children and grandchildren of the old generation of giusvallini will one day perhaps be all that remains of them, the fate of their traditions, their dialect and the memory of old Giusvalla rests in our hands … it is a formidable patrimony.

Sperumma ben ….

In the picture: località Taranco, April 2009

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