Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
“We came to this country for a better life. In Italy, we were poor and had few opportunities. I was born and raised near Messina in Sicily. We all believed that there was literally money on the streets in America. People would tell stories about how America was so rich that even new immigrants would be wealthy.
“When I came here with my family, we actually walked around the streets looking for money! We really believed that these streets would have money on them. The funniest thing is that one guy I knew actually found five dollars on the street once. That only built on the legend of what we all believed.
“But, life in this city was hard for immigrants and everyone had to get by somehow. I had an uncle who worked with some bootleggers to bring whiskey from D.C. to Ohio. He used to drive the empty car right behind the car filled with whiskey. Why, you ask? One time, the car full of whiskey was pulled over by the police. The police suspected something suspicious and brought the guys down to the station. While the guys were being questioned by the police, my uncle took all of the whiskey out of the seized car in the police parking lot and put it in his car. When the police came out to search the car, they couldn’t find anything! It was genius.
“But, while this is a funny story, there was also the negative influence of the Mafia here. In Italy, people speak badly of Mussolini, but, before and after him, the Mafia paralyzed Italy. During his time, he took control of everything, including the Mafia. On our farm, the Mafia would steal from us constantly. We were always scared. But, during Mussolini’s time, we could go to sleep knowing that our animals would still be there the next morning. Here, we could have taken some lessons from Mussolini on how to handle the Mafia during my early years in D.C.”
People’s District will be taking a short break until July 18th. Until then, we share with you some of our favorite stories from the past year.