Chiusa Aperta

We were part of the action last night. Chiusa Aperta is the traditional annual village festival in Chiusa Pesio. We arrived 45 minutes late because we had been eating pizza at our favorite little pizzeria in town. Tony and I like the vegetarian pizza, which changes with the seasons. It still had zucchini and eggplant, but the red peppers had been replaced since last month with green beans. Green beans on a pizza? Yes! It was excellent. Axa’s favorite pizza is margherita, which is just tomato sauce, mozzarella, and oregano. She tried some of ours, but in the end she just picked off all the vegetables, so her piece ended up margherita too.

Forty-five minutes late was perfect timing for Italy. There were still plenty of seats up front (we sat by Carla and Giorgio on the third row), and the program started about ten minutes after we arrived. The festival lasts several days, and last night was the inauguration. The MC went over the whole program in great detail, including calling up someone else to explain the nine-course tasting buffet that was to be set up all over town (this second person went into a lengthy justification of why they were using a dish that was more famous in a different area of Italy some seventy kilometers away, but was also traditional here).

Next they called up the volunteers, who were all wearing yellow shirts and each got a chance to say their names. Once the traditional photo had been taken of the volunteers, the important dignitaries were called up for speeches. The speeches were mostly short, informal, humorous, and full of compliments for each other and the town.

I was especially impressed with the speech given by the priest (who is the most important person in town, after the Mayor). He started out saying that the next President of the United States, Barak Obama, has a dream, and invoking Martin Luther King’s famous speech. Then he made a passionate appeal to the citizens of Chiusa Pesio to smile and say hello to everyone, regardless of their origin, to accept each other, and to be one. Obviously, this struck a chord with me, although our welcome here has been overwhelmingly positive. But I have noticed that the two worlds of Chiusa Pesio (the natives who have lived here for generations and the newcomers, mostly from Africa and Albania or Romania) have an obvious disconnect. And I’ve heard quite a few disparaging comments from Italians that in my pluralistic California mind sounded like they came out of some deep dark racist past.

The Mayor also made appropriate mayorly remarks. We went up to talk to him afterwards. Tony made all the compliments he knew in Italian, and asked if we could come speak to him this week. The Mayor was very cordial, and said that of course we could. So we were pleased and elated at having talked to him successfully. We heard later from Carla that he was just as pleased and elated that “the two Californians” had come up to talk to him. Definitely a symbiotic relationship.

Giorgio and Carla are gone this week, visiting the Temple in Switzerland. So we’ll go in to talk to him next week. In the meantime, we’ll send translations of Raj’s, Axa’s and my birth certificates to Julio (and our corrected marriage certificate), get the translations officially stamped in Cuneo, and contact those last two consulates. Gianfranco has promised not to send anything to the Ministry until we speak with the Mayor.