Lampedusa. Rebellion in the South of the South



Fragment of the homonym tale by Joan C. Roca Sans


Salvatore Cappello took hold of the megaphone and told the foreigners about his solidarity and that of the population of Lampedusa.

“I guarantee that they will take you to Italy in a day or two, by plane!” Ciro Caruana then asked him for the megaphone. Rosanna also requested it, but Ciro said to her.

“No, Rosanna, we are not in Verona. These people won’t let a woman give them orders. Let me do it.”

“Enough pasta, today we’re eating couscous! Right, now we’re going to go back to the Centre” Ciro ordered, addressing the crowd. In a few minutes a large group got together to start back to the Identification and Expulsion Centre.

The immigrants crossed back through the town, in the other direction, shouting out again “Freedom, Freedom!” Cappello, Ciro, Rosanna and other inhabitants of Lampedusa accompanied them. The Carabinieri let them through while the riot police broke up.

The parade made its way to the Imbriacole district, where the CPA is, a kilometre away. It was impressive to see the narrow road full of people, filling it from side to side. Some 20 minutes later, the group arrived at the door of the Centre. Some of them went in, others hesitated. They did not have much faith: they did not want to go any further in if the Carabinieri did not let Cappello, Ciro and some more of them in. They tried to get through the door, but the civil servants at the Ministry of Home Affairs prevented them from doing so. The tension grew between the police and the demonstrators.

“You’re worse than Gaddafi’s people!” Rosanna said, who knows what the police are like. “With the kicks you give them in their shins, it’s not surprising that they don’t trust you!”

“The next time, you can go and get them!” Cappello shouted at them. The “illegal immigrants” insulted the police: “bastards, wankers, freedom!” They attacked and struck an ambulance that was trying to make its way quickly through the throng. People started beating each other and insults could be heard being exchanged between the Carabinieri and the demonstrators.

Later, little by little, the row abated and calm was restored; an apparent calm: both the people of Lampedusa as well as the immigrants had decreed a truce, waiting to see whether the Minister of Home Affairs would get the shuttle service ready or if they would need to get back into action. Meanwhile, the town was lifeless. The shops remained closed, partly because of the general indefinite strike against Maroni and partly because “with all these clandestine people wandering around, you never know”.

Chaotic situations like this are rife with rumours of drunken immigrants, suicide attempts and thefts.

A kind of psychosis started to spread, which did not however affect the solidarity of the locals towards the clandestine people. The immigrants returned to the CPA. By night time, nearly all of them were back. But it was a temporary return. Tomorrow is another day and if the government does not give in, if it does not decide to transfer the immigrants to other centres on the continent, if it does not go back on its word about the new CPA, the fuse will be irremediably lit again.

Ciro and Rosanna were sweaty and exhausted.

They hadn’t eaten anything all day and it was almost 3 o’clock. In the streets, groups of Mahgribis could still be seen. They walked to the house of a companion of his, who was on duty. They came across a Guardia de Finanza bus which was patrolling, looking for fugitives. Every time they found one, the driver whistled and invited him to get on board.

When they got home, Ciro took two tonic waters out of the fridge, opened a cupboard and after a while found a bottle of gin. He mixed a couple of gin and tonics which they downed in one. “Shall we have another one?” “Yes, let’s!”

The next day, in the last corner in Italy

The next day, at dawn when Rosanna woke up, Ciro had disappeared. She thought that it had all been a dream because her body felt like it had been beaten with a sock full of sand. On the table were some biscuits, a coffee with milk that had gone completely cold and a note: ”This is my mobile phone number. Call me”.

At that moment the phone rang. She thought it was him but it wasn’t, it was Gianna.

–Are you crazy? I’ve already told you he’s married. His wife won’t let him go. She’s a Swiss German, a bulldog. Remember what happened to me with Mario. ¿Where is he now? Maggiore told me that there has been a fire at the CPA.

–I’m going that way, in any case I want to see what is happening at the Centre. And don’t worry about me; I’m leaving this afternoon. I’ll call you if I need anything, ok? Ciao, thanks Gianna.

The valley of lost dreams

Once it was all over, Ciro took Rosanna by the hand in full view of those who had not yet left and climbed into the blue Fiat Panda.

–I’ll show you the barge cemetery before picking up your luggage and taking you to the airport – he announced seriously.

The car had difficulty climbing a path full of rocks that, winding around the hill, reached a vast esplanade surrounded by a metal fence. Ciro was driving nervously, as if he wanted to get there as quickly as possible.

He stopped the car and when they got out they were overwhelmed by a penetrating perfume.

–Look, can’t you smell rosemary? The maquis have flowered again… –In the valley of lost dreams –whispered Rosanna in a faint voice.

© JC Roca Sans 2009

Download the full tale (spanish): LAMPEDUSA. Rebellion in the South of the South
















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