October celebrates Italian American Heritage Month. While our communities in the U.S. commemorate the invaluable opportunities that immigration to America afforded millions of Italians at a time of profound economic crisis in the mother land, it is important to acknowledge the role that Italy, itself, has been playing in a more recent past to become the “land of dreams” for a new generation of immigrants.
In 2015, immigrants represented 9.58% of the population, or 5.6 million people (both legal and illegal residents). If we include those who have obtained Italian citizenship, the number goes up to 5.13 million. The largest group comes from Romania with 1,151,395; Albania with 567,687; Morocco with 437,485; and China with 271,330. Latin American immigrants in Italy are a minority, mostly coming from Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. The background of Mexican migration in Italy has been documented since the displacement of religious people in the early 20th century and currently remains mostly within immigration statistics. Other types of immigration are by blood, for example, relatives of Italian origin. In 2015, 4,127 immigrants from Mexico registered as residents all throughout the peninsula from Sicily to Northern Italy. Mexico ranks 71 out of 195 countries that have immigrants in Italy.
“Mexican Expatriates” is an anthropological-visual project. Using photography by Karla Guajardo Ro, the exhibition records the history of a group of these Mexicans who decided to relocate permanently in Italy. These are images of a migration seen from a social point of view. The project focuses on the largest groups of Mexican immigrants: the religious one, those who emigrate for marriage contracts, students that remain by choice when they finished their university studies and people who came from Mexico to work in Italy. The project aims at describing who they are, why they choose Italy, the difficulties they have confronted, whether they have successfully integrated themselves into Italian culture and society, and how they live today.
Every story is accompanied by a portrait of the person in his or her place of work. Karla Guajardo Ro is a Mexican photographer and photojournalist based in Rome, focusing primarily on immigration issues. She has keen eyes to observe exotic moments of the every day life of the subjects of her projects. As a photographer, she tells stories in the form of documentaries. Karla started her research on issues that are closely related to her own personal experience as an immigrant in Europe and to her prior experiences living in both the U.S. and Spain. For the last five years, she has been working as a freelance photographer and correspondent for Notimex the News Agency for the Mexican State and La Unión del Morelos daily. She also collaborates with the Mexican magazines Domingo, Vuelta a la Página and Quién. Karla started her research work with small South American groups in Italy and decided to concentrate on minority groups.
The exhibit is a collaboration of the Hon. Consulate of Italy in Cleveland & Ohio with The Bishop Pilla Italian American Studies Program at JCU and Notre Dame College. It will be open to the public October 2-31 at City Hall, second floor.