FROM THE SHINING CARABBEAN ISLANDS TO THE ICY EUROPEAN PEAKS:
A community of Dominican workers specialised in the safety of the Alpine Arch.
Santo Domingo, 27 Jan 2008
While I was working as a Social Policies’ consultant for the Municipality of Belluno (Italy), I came into contact with a group of specialized workers employed in the maintenance and setting of special structures meant for the safety of people who live, work or visit the Alps. I should not have been surprised if you think that Belluno is a small city situated at the very North-East of Italy, surrounded by some of the most beautiful peaks of the Dolomites and whose Province proudly includes the exclusive ski resort Cortina D’Ampezzo.
Instead, my attention and interest were indeed stricken by the fact that these workers were all evidently far from the classic Alpine men stereotype: these fellows were mulattos, Spanish-speaking and, as a matter of fact, all coming from the Dominican Republic. Even in the current, highly globalized Italian scenario, as an anthropologist, I couldn’t be indifferent to this oddity and I felt immediately the urge for further investigation. I started with some informal interviews and soon I became part of this community whose sociable attitudes greatly favoured my job. It came out that the community started settling in the Belluno area in 1992 when four young men (2 of them from Ocoa and 2 from Yaguate San Cristobal) landed at Marco Polo Airport in Venice with a work contract and all the documents necessary for starting a new profession in such a far away country. The contracts were issued by an Italian middle-aged man who spent several years in RD working for Impregilo. Once back in Italy, this man started his own business in Belluno establishing a company specialised in those works meant for the public safety of the mountains. For reasons that little by little are becoming clear to me, this man also decided to “import” some workers he knew during his Dominican years. The original group of four men probably didn’t imagine what they were doing! Life in the Province of Belluno is something that can not be easily forecast by someone who never left RD. The Alpine Arch is indeed a wonderful place but the weather is extremely cold (with peaks of minus 20 C degrees), it frequently and abundantly snows, people seldom make friends with strangers, there is no noise or music after 8 PM… unless you want to take the risk of being heavily fined by a merciless Carabiniere! But the four fellows must have been moved by a notable spirit of adventure and after a period of training in their new jobs, they started working regularly and efficiently, settling down their lives at an Alpine’s pace. After few years, the community grew according to the classic migratory process of relatives’ recruitment and by now there are more than twenty extremely specialised Dominican men living in the Belluno area but working over the entire Alpine Arch since they are often sent to Swiss, France, Austria etc to accomplish their tasks. They are known with the name of “Rocciatori Edili” and last year an important Union (CGIL in Udine) published a calendar with striking pictures of their job. Certainly, these men are doing a great service to the community and they are appreciated by a large number of people and institutions. The local authorities of the Province and the Municipality of Belluno are now supporting a research meant for a better understanding and integration between members of this community and the locals. The research can rely on a scientific committee of two Italian Universities (Padua and Torino) and the Museo di Antropologia di Torino’s collaboration. Doctor Carlos Andùjar and and Doctor Marcio Veloz Maggiolo, respectively the Director of the Anthropology Department in UASD and the Director of the Museo del Hombre Dominicano, have enthusiastically welcome the research and offered their cooperation. As a matter of fact, the research is quite complex and will involve several area of investigation since the group of these peculiar “dominicanos-spaghetizzati” are indeed good workers but, coming from a culture quite different from the hosting one, they also have different ideas over some important issues such as “family structure” or “fatherhood”… but this is a another story! I don’t want to cast the faintest shadow over the brilliant career of the Rocciatori Edili dell’ Arco Alpino!