Turturici-Cancilla Family
and extended familia




Written using excerpts from the Bancroft Library http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/italianamericans/index.html

Isola della Lacrime
Island of Tears was what the Italians coming to America termed Ellis Island.

At the turn of the 20th century, between 1876 to 1924, over four and a half million Italians arrived in the United States, out of a population of only approximately 14 million in Italy. Unable to earn a livelihood in their home country, they became migratory laborers. Figures show that, for the period leading up to 1900, an estimated 78 percent of Italian immigrants were men in their teens and twenties, who planned to work, save money and eventually return home to Italy. Ultimately, 20 to 30 percent of these Italian immigrants returned to Italy permanently.

Italian immigrants established hundreds of mutual aid societies, based mainly on kinship and place of birth. As large numbers of Italians began to settle in America they began to establish enclaves where they felt they would be safe from the prejudice and fears of the largely Irish and German communities that surrounded them. These communities are often referred to as Little Italy's and would be a mix of small business, bakeries, taverns and men and women selling breads and fruits from push-carts.

Many of these communities would publish their own Italian-language newspapers, which contained news from Italy, promoted Italian culture and provided an outlet for frustrated new immigrants who could not yet fully understand English. L'Eco d'Italia in New York, L'Italia in Chicago and L'Eco della Colonia in Los Angeles were some of the main papers that were published.

A vast majority of Italian immigrants were Catholics, but as they arrived in America they were dismayed to discover that the Catholic Church in America was dominated by an Irish hierarchy. This led to further tensions between the Italians and the Irish, Portuguese and Polish, many of whom found the Italian devotion to the Virgin Mary and the Holy Saints as distasteful.

It was only in 1893, when the Pope became aware of the situation, that progress was made through the establishment of the San Raffaele Society, otherwise known as the Italian Immigration Society. The Society helped strengthen families and unite the Italian community by giving its members places to worship freely, educate their children and take care of the poor. A positive addition in both social and religious life, the Society was headed by the Reverend Father Gaspare Moretto for over 30 years, and it played a large part in easing the religious tensions between the Italians and other Catholics in America. Various other aid societies began coming to the forefront.

The Sons of Italy was founded in New York around 1905, and by 1921 its membership had reached 125,000. Societa Italiana di Mutua Beneficenza in San Francisco, the Italian Welfare League in New York, and the Societa di Mututo Soccorso in Chicago soon followed.

Through these organizations, Italian-Americans presented programs which attempted to acknowledge the cultural traditions of their "patria," or fatherland, yet glorified their achievements here in America. In addition, these larger organizations promoted a strong defense against intolerance and character assassination directed towards them by the often anti-immigration American media.

La Familiga
(the family) was at the core of Italian immigrant life, and often seen as the root of survival. As the immigrants settled in America, however, certain traditions pertaining to the family began to change. The condition of life in America was not conducive to the patriarchal culture of Italy and the language barriers served to give the children unprecedented control over the decisions of the families. Although the following generation maintained certain ways of life from Italy, they incorporated American values into their Italian culture by marrying out of their communities and moving away from the Little Italy communities.

After Mussolini's capture of power in Rome, he made a concerted effort to win the loyalties of Italy's expatriate population, especially in the United States. He found a receptive audience in California. With memories of extreme poverty still in their heads, Italians in California found an expression of their pride in Italian heritage and culture in Italian organizations and Italian schools funded by Mussolini's new Italian government. Mussolini hoped to capitalize on these newfound feelings of cultural pride by trying to recruit Italian-American men to the Italian military when they visited their relatives in the home country, and by maintaining strong diplomatic ties to the United States.

Most likely to join the organizations set up by Mussolini were those Italians who had immigrated to California in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Their memories of extreme poverty and illiteracy led them to admire Mussolini’s emphasis on a vibrant nationalism.
WWII Internment of Italian Immigrants and Forced Relocation

In February of 1942, early in U.S. involvement in WWII, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, calling for the internment of "enemy aliens." Interpretations of those words varied widely throughout the country. The officer in charge of the Pacific Coast, Lt. Gen. John Dewitt, had a liberal definition which meant that Germans and Italians who did not naturalize, especially those who were still illiterate and therefore "lacking evidence of integration into American society," were at risk for internment.

While the Italian-American population of California had a long history of community business involvement and integrating with the larger California population, those who had not sought naturalization, which meant taking an oath of loyalty to the United States, became the target of suspicion and Executive Order 9066. They were forced to register, and about 300 were actually interned in California. Due to pressure from political and business leaders, all of the interned Italians were released by Columbus Day of 1942.

The Italian-Americans accused of participating in Fascist activities were called in front of the California State Legislature’s Committee on Un-American Activities in 1943, including prominent Italian-Americans such as San Francisco Mayor Rossi. None were convicted. However, a number of non-citizens were forced to leave their homes if they lived in one of the 86 zones the government determined were critical to national security.

Since many of the non-naturalized Italian immigrants in California lived near the coast, this meant they were in a designated zone and that they had to relocate, scrambling to find housing farther inland. Of course, during that period the Italian fishing industry in San Francisco and other California coastal communities came to a standstill.

One million Italian immigrants went to fight for the Allies in the war. When the war ended young Italian G.I.'s returned to the United States to find that things had changed, and for the better. The introduction of the G.I. Bill provided veterans the opportunity to attend college or receive vocational training and buy a home. Consequently, many of those who served in the war, including a significant number of young Italians, moved out of blue collar work and into white collar jobs. Many began opening their own business and enterprises.

Today, the descendants of those early Italian immigrants number nearly 16 million, according to the U.S. census of 2000; although through intermarriage, the number of people in the United States with at least one Italian grandparent is estimated to be about 26 million. The U.S. Census Bureau also reports that Italian Americans are the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, with two-thirds in white-collar positions in business, medicine, law, education and other professions.

Italian Immigration to the U.S.

1831-1908 Total:
SOURCE: The Catholic Encyclopedia

States with the Highest Italian Population
(1990 US census)

New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island

Between 1821 and 1892, 526,749 Italians immigrated to the U.S.
1893 to 1899: 417,367

(SOURCE: U.S.Immigration Bureau)

Italians in the Spanish and Mexican Eras

Italians were some of the first explorers of California.

From 1687 to 1711. Father Eusebio Chino ( pronouncrf: Kee–no) traveled to northern Mexico and Lower California. He proved that that Lower California was a peninsula, not an island.

Early Italian visitors to the shores of California were sailors and fishermen. Most of them had already emigrated to Peru or other South American ports. After Mexico gained its independence, ships were needed to provide the settlements with provisions, and these ships often included captains and sailors of Italian origin.

Some would argue that the first Italian politician in California was Pietro Bandini, who came from Peru to San Diego in 1800. He and his family became involved in local politics in the early part of the 19th century, and they sided with the American attempt to annex California. In fact, the Bandini's house served as the headquarters for Commodore Stockton, and Bandini's granddaughters made the first U.S. Flag in California to present to the visiting officers.

As early as the 1840s, settlers from Genoa began to arrive in the valleys of northern and central California after hearing their Ligurian (the region that includes Genoa) sailing relatives talk about how ideal the valleys were for vinting. Despite the fact that Liguria is not a major wine producing region in Italy, the wine industry in California was mostly built by Genoese.

The Gold Rush

The first significant wave of Italian immigrants came to California during the Gold Rush. Those who came quickly moved to buy land or work in service industries, rather than stay in the mines.

In 1850, there were 229 Italians in San Francisco. By 1860, California had the largest number of Italian immigrants in the U.S. As late as 1890, there were more Italian immigrants in the Pacific coast states than in New England states.

With these numbers, Italians began building communities in California. They introduced Italian Opera to California in 1851, and founded an Italian language newspaper in San Francisco as early as 1859. Mutual aid societies, based on the model of the French immigrant community in San Francisco, were formed. Italian priests founded the University of San Francisco in 1856. The first Columbus Day celebration in San Francisco occurred in 1869, as a celebration of "the first Italian-American." That Columbus was from Genoa was a particular source of pride for Italians in San Francisco.

The aftermath of the Gold Rush brought more northern Italians to California. The ostentatious wealth of those who succeeded during the Gold Rush years brought with it a demand for stone and marble cutters from Italy to work on the mansions of the newly rich.

The fishing grounds and warm climate began to attract Sicilian fishermen for the first time. At the same time, northern Italian immigrants who were able to save a little began to buy real estate in the valleys for agriculture. Wine wasn’t the only agricultural product developed by Italians in California. Table grapes and citrus fruits were also grown in the rich California soil. Small truck gardens, stored on the outskirts of San Francisco became a popular way for new immigrants to make a living. Other immigrants, such as Domenico Ghirardelli, began to specialize in grocery items, such as chocolate.

Who Were They and Why Did They Come?
The majority of early Italian immigrants to California came from northern Italy. This differed from New York and other eastern cities, which received a southern Italian immigrant majority.

Many of the early settlers were fishermen, who had sailed up the coast from Italian enclaves in South America, most significantly from Peru. New immigrants from Italy often came after hearing their relatives and friends talk about their experiences in California. Initially, almost all of the immigrants were men, who intended to return to Italy after making some money. At the same time, there were families that were settling and buying real estate in California, showing that some intended to move permanently.

Things that we associate with Italian-American culture, like community and extended family, seem to be products of the immigration experience rather than imports. Italian families that moved to California only did so in the nuclear sense of the term. Italians at the time were more likely to put themselves in regional terms, such as "Ligurian," "Lombardian," or "Sicilian," rather than the umbrella term "Italian." U.S. Immigration statistics reflected this regionalism, by differentiating northern and southern Italians.

Unlike other major immigrant groups, there was not an extreme push factor for northern Italians until the 1880s. There was not a famine, war, or religious persecution. Instead, the early immigrants came initially on the recommendations of their friends and family and as a natural migration from other Italian immigrant enclaves. The more urgent factors causing Italians to leave their homeland were just around the corner.

Written using excerpts from: From Italy to San Francisco - The Immigrant Experience by Dino Cinel, Stanford University Press 1982, ISBN 0-8047-1117-8

In 1875 the following was published in the Milan newspaper L’Opinione:

The social and economic conditions of millions of Italian peasants are incredibly poor and totally unknown to our government.
Our peasants live lives unfit for humans. Even in the more prosperous regions of the north, peasants work from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. Regardless of how hard they try, they will never be able to improve their condition as long as they stay where they are. The odds against them are too great.

In the south, our peasants there are in worse conditions than the serfs of the Middle Ages. They have two equally hard choices before them - - submission and work until an untimely death, or rebellion and a violent death - unless they are willing to escape to somewhere else.

The life expectancy of a fieldworker in the province of Cosenza was only 29 years. The average southern Italian family spent almost all of its income on food, existing on a diet of mostly bread. During the winter of 1893-94 the people of several communes survived by eating roots.

Between 1888 and 1893 cholera epidemics were breaking out, wages were decreasing, and foodstuffs were unavailable in many of the communes. In 1895 the mayor of Santa Flavia (Trabia’s neighbor) reported: The fishermen are forced to leave because they cannot sell their catch. There is simply no cash in the region, and commerce has come to a standstill.

The 1881 census of showed that, of the 1,400 dwellings in Cosenza, 400 housed more than six people per room. In the Province of Palermo, peasants and mechanics lived in one-room dwellings, ten or fifteen sharing the same room and using the same bed, described as “visible from the street day and night.” Those who could afford such conditions were the more fortunate as many were homeless and living in the streets.

In addition to letters from America and stories told by returnees, the work of emigration agents made possible mass movement even from remote villages. Numerous factors in the U.S. and South America created demands for cheap immigrant labor, some of which were: the need to replace slave labor on southern plantations, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1883, and industrialization requiring factory workers. Emigration agents were hired by Italian, U.S., and South American shipping companies and immigration agencies to promote the idea of emigration in the poorest villages and arrange for the departure of those compelled to leave in order to survive.

In 1884 there were 34 agencies in the city of Genoa, employing several hundred agents throughout the province. Promoters of emigration to California were active in Fontanabuona, Sestri Levante, and Lorsica. The southern communes of Genoa province, such as Varese Ligure and Lignano were only twenty miles north of the northernmost communes of Lucca where information about emigration to California was spread by word of mouth.

In the southern provinces where literacy was rarer and outsiders not readily accepted, emigration was promoted by other means. Local leaders were paid by the agents to provide lists of families in great poverty and to help the agents promote emigration.

Until the 1880's most Italian emigrants set sail for South America, but during the 1880's an increasing number went to the United States.

In 1879, for instance, 120,000 Italians left the country; 37,000 of them for overseas destinations. Of those departing for overseas, 13% went to the U.S., 32% to Argentina, and 16% to Brazil.

By contrast, in 1890, of the 215,000 Italians who emigrated, 113,000 went overseas. Of those going overseas, 44% went to the U.S., 31% to Argentina, and 14% to Brazil.

In 1906, 787,999 Italians left Italy, of whom 512,000 were bound for overseas countries. Of those going overseas, 67% went to the U.S., 20% to Argentina, and 6% to Brazil.

After World War I, Italian emigration to Argentina exceeded that to the U.S. In 1823, of the 184,000 Italian emigrants, 57% went to Argentina and only 28% to the U.S.

HISTORICAL TIMELINE relative to Italian immigration
SOURCE: I gathered this information from six or more reliable sources.

1800 -
Napoleon became Emperor and King of Italy
1800 - Pietro Bandini
, who came from Peru to San Diego, became the first Italian politician in California, siding with the U.S. attempt to annex California.
1814 - Napoleon was defeated
1848 - The California Gold Rush began
1848 - My great grandfather Mariano Tortorici was born in Sicily.
1851 - In San Francisco there were 229 Italians, and the Italian Opera
was born
1855 - Italian, Basque, Spanish, French and Mexican immigrants working in California gold mines were forced out by Americans; they took refuge in San Francisco, settling in an area south of Broadway between Pacific and Clay Streets, known as The Latin Quarter .
1858 - Italian immigrants arriving in San Francisco settled north of Broadway in area called Little Italy, around Du Pont Sreet , which was later RENAMED Grant Avenue .
1860 - San Francisco's Little Italy, had a population of 400.
1860 - Garibaldi conquered The Kingdom of Two Italies ; Sicily was annexed to Italy.
1861 - My great grandmother, Santa Cancilla was born in Trabia, Palermo Province of Sicily.
1869 - The first Columbus Day parade was held by Italians in San Francisco.
1870 - Italy was politically unified with Rome as its capital.
1870 - The Italian government removed restrictions on emigration in every region.
1878 - The majority of Italians immigrating to the U.S. from the Palermo port arrived at the New Orleans port; many worked as indentured servants on Louisiana plantations, where they took the place of slaves. After the Federal Government forced the release of indentured Sicilians in Louisiana, some of them migrated by train to California.
1882 - The Oriental Exclusion Act increased the demand for Italian agricultural labor in the U.S..
1883 - Anthony Caminetti became the first Italian-American to be elected to the California State Assembly.
1885 - The Italian Chamber of Commerce and the Italian-Swiss Colony Vineyard (Pietro Rossi) were founded in California.
1885-1900 - A great depression in Italy, affecting agriculture and fishing in Sicily, forced many to emigrate or starve.
1888-1893 - Frequent cholera epidemics in Sicily worsened the depressed economy, especially in the Santa Flavia fishing villages.
1889 - San Francisco began receiving increased numbers of Italian immigrants.
1889 - My great grandfather Mariano Tortorici immigrated from TRABIA to San Francisco.
1891 - Since 1881, 22,000 Italian immigrants entered the tri-state area of California, Oregon & Washington, and 11,000 had returned to Italy (permanently or for some period of time).
1891 - Anthony Caminetti is the first American-born Italian elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
1891 - Immigration inspection stations were established along the Canadian border; 40% of passengers arriving in Canada were U.S. bound.
1891-1900 - A total of 2,370 left Trabia (40% of Trabia's population) for other areas in Europe or overseas countries.
1892 - My great grandmother Santa Cancilla Tortorici left TRABIA with 5-year old Tomy (Tomasso) to join Mariano in San Francisco.
1900 - Mariano Tortorici & Santa (and their 5 children already born) were listed in the U.S. Census as residents of San Francisco's Little Italy
at 13 Union Place..
1900s -
Sicilian families begin arriving in California in large numbers.
1901-1910 - A total of 3810 people left Trabia (68% of Trabia's pop), but its net population loss for the period was 953. Trabia would have been wiped off the map if it were not for its birth rate, settlers from other areas in Italy, and its many returning emigrants.
1892 - Cholera broke out in Italian and other European ports.
1893 - Required information on passenger manifests was expanded to include: last residence, marital status, if ever in the U.S. before, if going to join a relative, the relative's name, address, and relationship (from 5-columns to 21-columns of info).
1893-1897 - There was an economic depression in the U.S. which slowed down immigration.
1901 - Italy established a law prescribing that Italians passports expired after 3 years.
1904 - Amadeo (A.P.) Giannini opened the Bank of Italy, now known as Bank of America, with neighborhood branches throughout San Francisco, to help Italian immigrants start businesses and buy homes by providing loans and encouraging Italians to open a savings account and make regular deposits.
1906 - The San Francisco Earthquake struck; San Francisco's population of Italian immigrants was 15,000. During the aftermath, 314 sick or destitute Italians were sent back to Italy with "charity tickets" purchased by the Comitato di Soccorso e Patronato.
1906 - World War I began, and a considerable number of Italian immigrant men in the U.S. returned to Italy to join the Italian army.
1908 - Palermo laborers were earning an average of 1.5 lire per day, whereas those who were working in the U.S. were earning the equivalent of 11.0 - 15.0 lire for a day's work.
1908 - The mayor of Verbicaro (in the Province of Cosenza) wrote that half of those who left for California had returned, and that the movement back and forth showed no signs of abating.
1910 - San Francisco had 16,918 Italian immigrants, mostly from northern Italy. The annual crop production of Italian truck farms in California was worth approximately $19 million dollars.
1911 - Anarchists, socialists, and members of IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), many of whom were Italian immigrants, fought police in what became known as the San Francisco Free Speech Fight.
1913 - Anthony Caminetti was appointed by President Wilson to serve as Commissioner of Immigration.
1913 - Italian emigration (not all to the U.S.) reached an all-time record of 872,000.
1914 - Millions attended the Panama Exposition, held in San Francisco, celebrating completion of the Panama Canal, and no doubt, booming business for Italian peddlers and shop keepers..
1918 - The flu epidemic killed __## people in the U.S. and _##_ worldwide.
1919 - Italian leader Benito Mussolini's open campaign to maintain ties and court the loyalty of those who had emigrated from Italy brought about the establishment of pro-Fascist organizations.
1920 - Palermo City's population was 400,000, double its population in 1870.
1920 - San Francisco's Italian immigrant population was 24,000, representing 16% of all immigrants in the city and second only to New York City with Italians representing 20% of its immigrants.
1920's - A new wave of immigrants from Italy included World War I veterans and political opponents of Mussolini.
1920 - Prohibition
was enacted, forcing California Italian vintners to market their products as "sacramental" wine or medicinal elixirs.
1921 - The Emergency Quota Act (May 19, 1921 to June 30, 1924) caused many Italian emigrants to set sail from ports such as Liverpool, LeHavre (France), and Bremen (Germany).
1924 -
The Immigration Act was passed, setting quotas for admission and limiting Italian immigration more than other countries.
1930 - The Italian population of Los Angeles reached 16,851, nearly doubled from 9,650 in 1920, a surge due in part to the Italian film industry which encouraged many Italian film technicians and filmset designers to move to Los Angeles.
### - The U.S. entered World War II. Italian immigrant men registered with the U.S. Army and many were drafted to serve in the war.
1942 - San Francisco Italian immigrants were interrogated and some of those who had not applied for and taken the loyalty oath for U.S. naturalization (citizenship) were detained in internment camps.

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my Email:
Lipizzan  at  exede  d o t   net

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