Photo that inspired the panel of longshoremen for the exhibition Percorsi Italiani: Italian immigrants in the Port of Santos (São Paulo, Brazil)
"It was a great challenge, in view of the gigantic universe of images, to select those that complemented each other and together could tell a story that could generate this emotional bond", says journalist and historian Cinthia Reis, curator of the exhibition. Empathy is a key word for the experience in Percorsi Italiani, because the visitor, whether from Italian descendent or not, is called upon to put him or herself in the other person’s shoe, and to reflect on how the whole experience relates to the construction of identities of those two South American countries, going beyond their mere personalities – after all, the Italian influence is there, in cities, in design, in the arts, in customs. "We propose a recognition that stems from basic issues such as family, food, everyday life", explains Cinthia. "For those who love cars, as well as those who like pasta, will feel welcomed: we have a video that shows the production process and objects used in immigrant bakeries. We stimulate the senses with sound, images and even smell, with the coffee bags", she explains.
One of the activities in the exhibit, for scheduled groups, invites the visitor to collectively build a family tree of “Italianidade” in Minas Gerais, the state where Fiat chose to set its roots in Brazil and the birthplace of Palestra Italia (today Cruzeiro), a football team founded by Italian immigrants (there is even a soccer ball of the club, from the 1920s, in the exhibition). The state's relationship with Italian immigration is old: the 1897 immigrant registration book of an inn in Juiz de Fora, in the state's interior, is a historical piece that allows us to see, amid embroidered calligraphy, how numerous these Italian families were, what part of Italy they came from and where they settled. The inns were like a support system for the arrival of foreigners before settling into more permanent activities, especially in coffee plantations.
Two decades later, in 1919 in Argentina, Fiat Turin was installed as a branch, while Italy dealt with the end of World War I and the advent of the rise of fascism. Six years later, a new branch was inaugurated. There, the company specialized in sales and technical assistance for trucks and cars from Italy and, only then began producing cars. Later, after World War II, Argentina received another significant wave of Italian immigrants: about 300,000, while for Brazil, it was 15,000. This whole story is told through a timeline with images from the collections of the Museum of Immigration (Public Archives of São Paulo), the Abílio Barreto Historical Museum, the Minas Gerais Public Archive, the Storico FIAT Center and FCA group Argentina.