Sunday, October 24, 2010

Trash Clash

Trash, evidently, is a political issue with a long history in Southern Italy. Whether or not the current crisis has reached the media on an international level, I am not sure- but what I do know is that it’s occupying headlines throughout this nation. At present, it is impossible to open a newspaper or turn on the television without seeing images of burning garbage trucks, teeming dump-sites and livid locals yelling angrily into the microphones of the few news agents that managed to pass through the barricades.  

Garbage in Naples is anything but a new concern. Unfortunately, the city itself is well known for its trash crises- in particular, the major eruption in 2007, which consequently became one of the top priorities for the incoming political party- Berlusconi’s PDL. The truth is, before I got to know Naples, I associated it with its garbage issues. Later, once I spent some quality time in the city, I realized that it is so much more…Napoli is this gritty, soulful, stunning, and incredibly alive city. It’s got this pulse you can feel running through your veins as you walk through the streets. 

Since the Italian government cleaned up the trash, Napoli and its outlying towns once again became tourist destinations. Regrettably, and somewhat in-tune with Napoli’s ill-fated issues, a new garbage battle has ensued. Due to an existing, overflowing landfill and the planning and creation of a considerably larger, more intrusive landfill at the base of Vesuvius- the outlying towns of Naples currently appear to be more like Bagdad then they do the Mediterranean. I have watched on the news, for over a week now, protesters road blocking garbage trucks on the route to the existing landfills- flying rocks, explosions, police blockades and numerous burning vehicles.

In the past, I have tried to stay away from political issues- and from the ugly parts of the country that I find so beautiful. To me, Italy is the most special place in the world – and I try to portray that. Unfortunately however, the “discarica di Terzigno” hits closer to home than other political concerns. Terzigno, just outside of Napoli, is the birthplace of my boyfriend- and I have spent many a weekend perusing the streets of the tiny town.

Furthermore- last night, I partook in an experience I never could have anticipated. I found myself in the middle of a rally on the streets of Terzigno, along with nearly 400 irate Italians, blocking the road to the dumpsite. There was yelling from the angry mobs, there were fires- but what struck me the most were the tears of anger and betrayal in the eyes of the local citizens. Signs were suspended all over the city walls with heated phrases, trash was piled everywhere- if not on fire, than creating roadblocks to the major throughways of the area.

 Now, I am not a fan of protests and I am not a fan of violence or unnecessary damage to property- private or public. But this time, I get it. These people are tax paying loyal citizens of a country that they love- that they are proud of....and at present, they can't walk out of their houses without smelling the mountains of trash left more or less at their doorsteps. (Not to mention the potential environmental implications.) 

Of course, looking at the situation from an objective perspective- the alternative choices are slim- and there are more parties involved than just the heads of government. Yet I believe, at the end of the day, that Berlusconi is a decent man and a good leader- and will do his best, along with his party, to clean up the literal mess and regain the confidence and fidelity of this large portion of the Southern population.

On another note; as I was walking away from the demonstration (realizing that these people were accomplishing nothing but freezing their toes off), I was reminded of which country I am in when I got a whiff of the strong aroma of garlic and olive oil- and heard a slightly muffled voice reverberating over the megaphone exclaiming: “Sono arrivati i fagioli!!!” In truth, I was expecting an angry proclamation, or a call to battle. In actuality, the woman was saying, “The pasta and beans have arrived!”  

Clearly, an Italian demonstration isn’t truly Italiano without the dinner.

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