National Geographic : 2000 Oct
brother, Oscar, would be busy fixing cappucci nos and greeting customers. The TV behind the bar showed rioting in East Timor. "We don't need to see this depressing garbage in the morn ing," Oscar commented as he headed down stairs. "They should put on positive garbage." Their mother, Antonietta, a retired teacher, dark-haired and sad-eyed, was usually sitting at a small table reading the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. One morning she overheard me speaking a few words of Italian to Adriana. She asked me why. I replied that I spend much of each year in Italy. "What a beautiful destiny you had," she said without smiling. "An American going to Italy. I had the opposite luck. My husband was crazy in love with America. I've been here more than 30 years. My body is here," she corrected herself. "But my ideas are in Italy." I hesitated, sensing tricky terrain. But she didn't hesitate at all. "The name, America where does it come from?" she asked rhetori cally. "An Italian. Italians have done everything. But no, I can't find joy here. Children here have grown up with this religion." Religion? "The religion to be free, to do what they want" she said. "This country is the source of everything bad?' The immigrant experience is rich with iro nies. A poverty-stricken family may go to a new country with the clear purpose of making a better living, only to find that in the process other values have become degraded or even destroyed. They are double exiles, banished from their own past and their children's future. I felt embarrassed to hear Antonietta speak so bluntly about the flaws in the vaunted American dream. Yet she wasn't alone. "My father brought us here from Salerno in 1955'" Matteo Gallo, a real estate entrepre neur, had told me over dinner one evening at II Bacio, just across the street. "There were mudslides, and everything got destroyed-the house, the stores, and we didn't have insurance. But my father hated this country. He didn't like the American mentality, not having respect for Sicilian at home if I wanted to eat."