Buscemi is a little town of about 1150 inhabitants not far from Siracusa and Buccheri, my grandmother’s town. My grandfather, Sebastiano, grew up there and worked in his mother’s macaroni shop until he left the town and came to America to start his own in Providence, RI. The first time I went back to Buscemi in the late 60’s, I saw how much more antiquated it was than Buccheri. Robert Kennedy’s death notice was pasted on the homes and town buildings as well as the all-black announcements of other family’s deaths. Women wore black for 7 years of mourning and the people in general were very curious and apprehensive about the arrival of strangers. You can imagine how they looked at me in my pink mini-skirt and high heels!
It was another world. The ancient Greek colony of Casmene was located in the modern comunal territory of Buscemi and there are still many Greek ruins left here. The name Buscemi is of Arabic origin although it was devastated by an earthquake in 1693 and was rebuilt with many Baroque style churches and influences.
The most incredible find in Buscemi is the Museum of “The Places of the Farmers”. Instead of housing all of the artifacts in one big building, the actual places where people worked and lived were maintained so you can visit a wine press, a carpenter’s shop, the shoemaker and 2 homes, one of a “wealthier” middle class farmer with more conveniences, such as a baby’s crib suspended above their own bed.
My cousin Connie and I were so lucky to have a personal guide, the curator, Angelo Pinnisi, through all the areas of the museum where everything was explained in detail like the wine press and olive press. Angelo’s wife is my last cousin living in Buscemi and I have convinced them to come to the States in summer!
I remember my grandfather Sebastiano very well as he lived until 1957 when he was 77 years old, but what I found astounding was the resemblance he had to his father. Our last stop was the town cemetery. Other than the 2 long separate beards on his face, he was a replica of him. There I stood looking at my great grandfather’s tomb and having flashbacks of Grandpa at the same time.
My great grandfather’s tomb:
I also remember his sister who lived in Buscemi her whole life. Her name was Zia Mariantonia.
When I first planted my feet in Buscemi I was accompanied by another cousin who came to explain to her who I was. At first she was frightened, and, dressed all in black as her daughter had died in childbirth, she ran into her little old house and locked the door. When she finally realized I was her brother’s granddaughter, she reemerged, picked me up and at 88 years old, placed me on her lap (I was 21) and rocked me like a baby. She repeated “La figlia della figlia di mio fratello” which means “The daughter of the daughter of my brother.” Then I knew for the first time, these were my Sicilian roots, my blood.
Next weekend I am thrilled that my great-nephew, Christopher will be flying to Sicily on his own quest to visit his great-great-grandparent’s roots. I am excited for him to revisit the same places I did and to learn more about his ancestry. Travel safe, blood of my blood.
I would love to hear stories of your ancestry.
Please send them to me at preciousartby preciouspeople.org
See you in Florence on Thursday!