April 19, 2016
As you walk from the harbor into the center of Licata, one of the first things you see is this statue dedicated to Rosa Balistreri, who was known during her life as the “Voce di Sicilia.” She was part of a group of left-wing artists that included the writer Leonardo Sciascia, the poet Ignazio Buttitta and the painter Renato Guttuso. Most specifically, she was known as the Voice of Licata, and is much celebrated in the town, with recently held a celebration of the 99th anniversary of her birth.
Her words, which appear in the photo, say:
When I die, bring me a flower
When I die, pretend that I didn’t
When I die, sing my songs
When I die, think of me now and then
Because in this crucified land, I died without a voice
“This crucified land” refers to Sicily, conquered, fought over, exploited, despoiled and victimized, from the early days of its prize status as “the bread basket of the Mediterranean.” It’s reputation as poor, corrupt, violent and backward is something of which every Sicilian is aware, and with which they may have some personal experience. You can even hear, in her songs, the traces of Spanish, French and Arabic culture left by the conquering nations.
Sad and violent as much of Sicily’s history is, in our experience it is hard to think of a warmer, more giving and stalwart people anywhere. Not that there aren’t bad apples – eager to take advantage of the powerlessness of most of the people here. But they are not the people you meet on the streets or in the cafes. We’ve felt invited to make ourselves at home here, by many acts of kindness.
We’re finally, with mixed feelings, getting to the point where it’s time for us to move on for the summer. Weather permitting we’ll be pointing Serafina toward Greece next week, but we’ll be back to Licata soon.