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THE SOUTH EUROPEAN IMMIGRANT
The French, Spanish, and Portuguese, the Italians, and the Greeks are the races which are here included in the term, South European immigrant. The South Slavs will be discussed in the following chapter.
Although the French began to migrate to America in the days of La Salle and Louis XIV, French migration to this country has always been small in numbers. The Huguenots who came in colonial days were a select class of manufacturers and merchants. They were enterprising and educated. They have. furnished able American leaders such as Mr. John Jay and General Francis Marion.
Nineteenth and twentieth century migration from France has included, chiefly, skilled and professional people. Very few peasants have come direct from France. Our relations with and indebtedness to France have been of a military, diplomatic, and cultural nature, rather than of an immigration character. The French influence in America has radiated from the philosophic trinity of Truth, Equality, and Justice.
From Canada, many peasants have come, largely to the New England states. The French-Canadians entered the mills or engaged in the fishing industry
in New England. Because economic opportunities have proved disappointing, the return migration to Canada of the French Canadians has been large.
The Spanish, long a migrating people, have never come to the United States in large numbers. They have gone to Mexico, the Central, and the South American republics, and to the islands of the adjoining seas. The Spanish have penetrated our Southern States from Florida to California. Early Spanish settlements were established in territory which is now a part of continental United States. The influence of these pioneering efforts has been great and still remains-especially in matters of religion, architecture, amusements. In recent decades, migration from Spain has been very small.
The immigration of Portuguese has raised problems out of proportion to the small numbers which have come. Portuguese have rarely migrated hither direct from Portugal, but from the Cape Verde, Azores, and even from the Hawaiian Islands. One of their chief settlements is at New Bedford, Massachusetts. Their standards of living are, as a rule, low. Illiteracy of the Portuguese is high; in 1913, it was 62 per cent. Segregation is common; Americanization and naturalization are taking place slowly.
Americans do not know the average Italian. Americans have studied the Italy of fine arts, of palaces, or cathedrals, but not the people of Italy. Our ignorance of Italians is astounding in view of the fact that for years Italy sent us a quarter of a million of her citizens annually, and that in New
York and Brooklyn there are more Italians than in Rome. To many Americans, the Italian is nothing more than a vender of fruits, a hand organ grinder, or a devotee of macaroni. We forget that he comes from a country that has three times led the world; first, politically; second, religiously; and third, intellectually. We forget that it was a man of this race who discovered our continent, and that it was another man of his race whose name our continent bears. The Italian comes from a stock that has produced world leaders, e. g., Columbus, Marco Polo, Garibaldi, Mazzini, Titian, Dante, Michael Angelo.
The North Italian is more advanced than the South Italian and Sicilian. In proportion to his numbers, illiteracy is one-third as large, his school attendance is twice as great, he employs twice as many teachers and librarians, he publishes five times as many books, and buys one-half as many lottery tickets as his Southern neighbors.1 He earns higher wages, acquires citizenship sooner, is less turbulent, less criminally inclined, less transient than the South Italian and Sicilian immigrant.
Three-fourths of the large Italian immigration to the United States has come from South Italy and Sicily where the people have suffered long from economic oppression, low wages, and exorbitant taxes. The birth-rate in Southern Italy is very high and the density of population is exceeded in only a few places on the globe.
To the ordinary Sicilian, law and order have been 1E. A. Ross, The Old World in the New, p. 98.
symbolized commonly by the tax collector and the policeman. In Sicily, consequently, the peasant has often taken the law into his own hands. It has been said that to avenge one's wrongs one's self has been a part of Sicilian honor. Upon arrival in our country, the Sicilian is naturally distrustful of law and government. The American representatives of our government need to give the newcomers from Sicily and South Italy sympathetic impressions. Fear, dread, and suspicion of governmental officers need to be allayed as a first step in furthering the Americanization process.
Through his great love of art, and especially of music, the Italian immigrant has much to contribute to Americanism. He is very human. He is easily pleased and easily disappointed. He is always ready to inconvenience himself in order to do a good turn for some one else. He has a large sense of personal dignity. His good humor under stress of adversity is noticeable. But how far have we availed ourselves of these potentialities which are so much needed for the development of a well-rounded group of American traits.
A few years ago, in Ohio, an Italian mining camp came to have the reputation conveyed by the term, "Little Hell."2 A veteran of the Civil War, learning of the nature of the labor camp, secured a talking machine, some records, bearing selections from Caruso and Tetrazzini, and some popular Italians airs, and going to the camp, set the phonograph in motion. He saw no "Little Hell," but "radiant faces
'Peter Roberts, The New Immigration, p. 274.
and appreciative souls." He was welcomed by warm hearts that were thankful for the sunshine that he had brought. "The music opened the camp," reports Dr. Peter Roberts, "and the old veteran of the Civil War won one of his most glorious battles when he brought that group of Italians into greater sympathy with America and Americans by the power of song."
What is true of Americanizing Italians through the appeal of art and of music, particularly, applies to other races which have more to offer America in the way of the beautiful and artistic than America possesses to give them. The new Americanism must not allow the mirth and song that the Italian and other immigrants possess to be crushed out in America by crowded tenements, unsanitary labor camps, and in the humdrum of daily toil.3
The Greek immigrant comes from Socrates' land. It was recently pointed out that the editors of two Greek dailies published in New York City bore the names of Solon J. Ulastos and Socrates Xanthaky. Thus, Solon and Socrates are at work even today molding the lives of young Greeks.*
The modern Greek is a direct descendant of ancient and glorious Greece. He is prone to indulge in the luxury of taking pride in his nation's wonderful achievements in centuries past. The opportunities for advancement in the United States, however, soon overcome the tendency of the Greek immigrant to rely overmuch on his racial heritage.
'Ibid., p. 277.
"Thomas Burgess, Greeks in America, pp. 67, 68.