IMMIGRANTS IN NAPLES

Published December 14, 2013 by Tony

– VUO’  CUMPRA’ ? –

The Italian term “Extra-communitarian” (Non-EU) refers to immigrants who come from countries outside Europe, but usually here either we use it in a more general way, to mean any person who comes from an underdeveloped/poor country, or to identify, in particular, Africans and Indians (and even Chinese). For us, the “extra-comunitari” are all those individuals who run away from their countries, often with “no art and no part” (like we say), hoping to make do and earn money just to survive. Most of them end up doing the beggars as is the case for almost all of the gypsies (Rom) coming from eastern Europe. Instead, for the majority of Africans and Indians, if things go well, they become street vendors. With the help of friends and relatives, they buy cheap merchandise, then exposing them on the sidewalks, in the local markets, in country’s parties, or strolling on the beach during the summer. If things go wrong, adults or children,  they stop at traffic lights trying to clean windshields or sell Kleenex to the motorists for some coin. In Naples and south Italy in general, with a so high rate of unemployment and lack of jobs, what future may have these individuals?
Their repetitive (selling) recall, “vuò cumprà?” (want to buy?), in a sort of Neapolitan dialect that probably they needed to learn and shoot for first, over the years has become so famous that we often use it to identify any African peddlers.
The items most commonly sold by Africans are: African crafts (wooden carved items), fashion jewelry, sunglasses, swim suits, leather handbags and belts (often contraband items).
Indians are more specialized in selling fashion jewelry (gemstones) coming (from India and clothing, as Chinese in small cheap electronics devices.
In the village where every year I go  to spend my summer vacation, I find many “vuò cumprà”.  For years, some of them regularly sojourn in this small village, staying there for a couple of months. Every day, many of them trace the beach – back and forth – with their cargo of goods. In the afternoon and at night they display their wares on the promenade, directly on the ground or on small stands. They are generally friendly pwho greet all passers-by, and those who have learned the language, often chat with holidaymakers. And it is not unusual that one of them makes friends with some vacationer. When things go well, someone let even his wife and children to come in Italy, and then we see them all together next to their stand.

Usually these immigrants live in groups in small flats to share the expenses, and needless to say that theirs is a poor existence in the balance, evidently not so bad as the one lived in their countries. They live isolated, in poor hygienic conditions, and often you see them sleeping on the sidewalks between pieces of cardboard or in small huts arranged for the occasion. Sometimes, the smell of piss forces you to hold your nose….
The bordering neighborhoods are often the best place for them. Remote districts where there still find small spaces and where in a flash their slums make inroads.
The only people we Neapolitans fear most, are nomads and gypsies. They move in groups, always attended by their family, usually dirty and smelly, not looking for a job, but simply to beg, sometimes trying to pity the passer. Often, they wander around the neighborhood with wife and children in tow, with a guitar or a music-cassettes  playing some old Neapolitan song. They scream and call below any dwelling or buzz so that some coin is thrown from balconies. Others rummage through the garbage looking for items that they can sell to those that treat old and used objects.
Unfortunately, these immigrates have the reputation of being thieves and especially their children, that if they can, steal and run away. Sometimes it has happened that even our children have been kidnapped, then being reported as missing and very difficult to trace if you don’t know that it has been a gypsy to do that.

I’m not racist and I feel very sorry for these people, but although they know Naples to be a city with a good heart, I do not think it is appropriate to make them freely get into areas already at risk, with no money, no job and no a fixed abode. 

Despite all this, you’ll never heard a racial slur against these people, and usually they are left alone, even by storekeepers and police. If a cop or a financial police would approach one of them, many Neapolitans tried to help and devote a good word for the victim.
These are Neapolitans, for better or for worse!

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