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Giovanni Concato (165189)

Divided cities

15th September 2014

Montecchio Maggiore and Alte Ceccato

The cities I want to cover in this essays are in reality one, but they are referred to as two different entities. Not only its citizen fell like there is a sort of division between them, but in the past they used to have different ZIP Code. Furthermore, I wouldn't call Montecchio Maggiore a city, but rather a town due to its dimensions. It is located 12 km west of Vicenza and 43 km from Verona. With the latter it shares the legend of Romeo and Giulietta: the two castles on top of the nearby hill (thus the name Montecchio from lat. "monticulus") were supposedly home of the two lovers and inspirations to Luigi Da Porto, who first wrote the novel.

inspirations to Luigi Da Porto, who first wrote the novel. Census of population Foreign-population: 4.236 (17,8%

Census of population

Foreign-population: 4.236 (17,8% of the total). Major ethnic groups, besides local:

Bangladesh, 1.502 Serbia, 464 Ghana, 342 Albania, 333 India, 310 Romania, 230 Marocco, 167 China, 126 Nigeria, 83 Moldavia, 82

Besides the short historical and geographical context just given, the data of the last census tells us that approximately 1 out of 5 people are not of italian descent. So one question that might come to mind is: where do these immigrants live in town? When children apply to middle school in Montecchio Maggiore they get assigned to one school or another depending on which side of Viale Trieste they live in. If one lives on the west side, he gets assigned to Scuola Media Anna Frank, located near Piazza Duomo in Montecchio, while if one lives on the east side he gets assigned to Scuola Media Marco Polo located in the peripheral area of town (east of Viale Trieste). Many parents, the children of which get assigned to Marco Polo, often decide to send them to a private friar-run middle school called Giuseppini. The reason behind that choice is the prejudices that comes with the Marco Polo school where it is said the the high number of non-italian speaker in the classrooms slows down the other students' learning. This tendency already hints that most of the immigrants live in Alte Ceccato. In fact, there are reports of kindergarden classes formed entirely by non-italian kids. Therefore, the street called Viale Trieste separates the part of town in which most of these low income people live, marking in a official way the bad area of town (similar to the red-lining phenomenon in Chicago). One may ask what are the historical reasons behind this coagulation of foreign people in the area? In 1938, Pietro Ceccato founded Ceccato S.p.a right on Viale Trieste (which was the street that linked Milano and Venezia) a small industry that later on (during the 50's-60's) specialized in sportive motorcycles and became famous internationally for a short period of time. Before this, Montecchio was a town of peasants working the fields of various rich landowner who would build big villas next to their propriety: Villa Gualda, Villa Cordellina and many others. The new industrial spurt favored also the development of housing and small commercial activities around the factory. A new part of town was forged, with a lot of apartments building. Those apartments were later abandoned from their earlier inhabitants, like my father's family who used to own a little shop in the district. Nowadays, Ceccato S.p.a moved its factory closer to highway entrance (out of town), but the whole area with the church, the apartments (many of which build by the same Pietro Ceccato to get people to work and live there) and commercial activities are still standing. The major shift was

Giovanni Concato (165189)

Divided cities

15th September 2014

in population. Mostly the old working-class of the area moved to nicer houses build on the northest side of the district or in other part of town. Although a small part of the 17,8% of foreign population managed to live in the historical part of town by buying crumbling houses and later fixing them up (doing that themselves), the majority of the 17,8% of foreign population got a house in the old apartments as they are the cheapest in town. As time went by and the percentage of non-italian population rose, the stigmatization of the Alte Ceccato increased to the point where nowadays it is almost addressed as "ghetto" (in the misused way of describing the spatial clustering of a social group). The "montecchiani" or in dialect "monteciani" (the original inhabitants) who once thought highly of Alte Ceccato as a source of wealth for Montecchio, now think of the area as infested with dirty Indians and their unbearable smells ("they smell like onions"), or a high number of non-legal immigrants clustered in one single apartment. This feeling of unrest is also confirmed by the fact that the political party that won last election was Lega Nord. This party conveys the hatred for immigrants which keeps spreading in Veneto (the regional district of which Montecchio Maggiore is part) as foreign-born inhabitants grow in number. When one crosses Viale Trieste, he is in the "bad part of town", where you are most likely to see "weird people" around, sitting in bench, often stealing bicycles. Or at least those are the most common prejudices. About Viale Trieste as a border between Montecchio and Alte, I would like to make a digression on another town I lived in for about a year. Through the association AFS I spent ten months in Brawley (California, USA) hosted by a local family, attending the senior year of the local high-school. Soon enough, I learned their stereotypical saying of "don't get caught on the wrong side of the railroad tracks". In fact, railroad tracks defined "east" and "west" side of Brawley and due to the agriculturally based economy, there forges a divide amongst income: "wealthy, white farm owners" and "poor, Mexican farm workers." (also called in a derogative way "beaners"). The description that follows is given by a friend of mine who lived there:

"West side [of Brawley] is composed of Cattle Call area, especially from Sycamore drive to Terrace circle. It contains rich farm owners and also the small middle class, mostly concentrated in areas around the hospital, park side, and ridge park neighborhoods. Neighborhood schools: Witter, Phil Swing. Then, the east side is typically marked from Caesar Chavez street to around B street. Neighborhood schools: Oakley, Hidalgo. Middle class only arose, due to the recent introduction of the prison system (Calipatria and Centinnela) in and around the early 90's. Before that, the imperial valley was almost entirely based on a feudal system of society."

Bryan W. belongs that middle class that arose in the early 90's as his father is a white caucasian working as a prison guard in Calipatria. They live in the West side near the hospital. What struck me about this description is the accuracy he was able to give: name of the streets and type of people that lives inside the various neighborhoods.

I also recall this very dear friend of mine, Robert T., whose family lived inside the ghetto area due

to their low income. His sister went to one the IVI's leagues university and Robert too is very smart and he is studying aerospace engineering on a scholarship at CalPoly. When people in high-school pointed out that he came from the east side "ghetto" (again mis-used) area, he would react in a very unique way. The one we called "hyperbolic claiming of label". I recall the first time we met: he was introduced to me as "the ghetto boy" and he said "Yeah, man! I'm from the ghetto. I'm the bad guy!". When you got to know him it was quite the contrary, but that was his first reaction, his mechanism of resistance: he wouldn't deny coming from the east side, but he would play on the prejudices people already had on him.

I have never lived in "big" major cities, therefore it was hard to give a good description of a reality close to the topic "Divided city", but I hope this gave a glimpse into another side of urban life, maybe one that is not often studied (I suppose) because it is of minor interest if compared to the urban divisions of cities like Chicago or London. Nonetheless, I believe sometimes these small realities, where traditions are more solid and the idea of an integrated equal society does not spread as easily as in more complex multicultural environment, are in fact very interesting to discover and study.