The Reverse Immigrant–Sylvester Salcedo’s Sojourn To Sicily

Breathtaking Palermo

Sylvester Salcedo, retired Naval officer, attorney and former Bridgeport resident embraces a genesis mission on behalf of both sides of his family. He’s taken part-time residence in Palermo, the capitol of Sicily rich in history and a beckoning Mediterranean climate in the northwest corner of the island. My father was raised on the eastern coast of Sicily in the shadow of active Mount Etna that blew its lid in 1928 destroying my father’s town. His first memory was spitting into the approaching lava.

Sylvester Salcedo
Sylvester Salcedo

Sly has decided to separate himself far from the potential ash.

Sicily is a majestic place of flora and fauna. The food will touch your pleasure center. Enough from me. From Sly:

Evidence of duffel bags.

A letter from Palermo (Sicily)

In Connecticut, one out of every five residents is of Italian ancestry. According to a quick Google search, the last census reported that about 19.3% of all Nutmeggers can claim to be a descendant of an Italian immigrant.

Our family is part of that group. Not me personally, because my dad is Filipino and my mother is also Filipina of Chinese blood. I’m sort of Italian, or more specifically sort of Sicilian, only by marriage. My wife’s dad’s mom is British, and her dad’s father is of Irish immigrants. But her mother’s parents are 100% Sicilian, from the heart of Sicily, the City of Caltanisetta: Filippa Giardina and Giuseppe Gruttadauria.

Today, I write from Palermo marking the 56th day since I arrived alone, on September 22, with two 50-pound, Navy-issue duffel bags, a hand-carry and a backpack almost like “The Reverse Immigrant,” see: book by Massachusetts attorney Alfred M. Zappalà, at the Borselino-Falcone International Airport. Due to Italian immigration rules, as an American tourist, I can stay up to 90 days without applying for a special visa, then I must leave Italy for 90 days and afterwards return for another 90-day visit, and so on. To obtain an extended stay visa for a year or more requires a whole set of rules with the predictable Italian bureaucratic hoops to jump through and unspecified delays to test the patience of Job, or yours and mine.

Salcedo’s family tree.

But now, for 90 days here in Palermo, when asked, and if they can listen to my phrasebook-level Italian, I tell them I traveled to Palermo, for the first time, for three reasons: (numero uno) to find a way to enroll our children who are 9 and 11 to attend the local public schools to learn the language of their maternal great grandparents, Filippa & Giuseppe, while we live on social security checks as a retiree, (2) to convince local, regional and national leaders in Sicily that there is currently a very large pool of fellow American retirees (65+) like me from across the US who can and want to retire in Sicily or Italy with an annual average of $40,000 to $100,000+ in passive income/retirement pay, or who want to be seasonal 6-month “snowbirds,” but current Italian immigration rules and regulations are a major obstacle to those plans and dreams; and finally, (3) to share the creation of an artistic movement that I call the “Three Way Dialogue,” about Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines after 1898, marking the end of Spain’s world domination, and the beginning of the American Century and subsequent US economic and political hegemony around the world. Lost in translation, after copious bowls of spaghetti and much vino, in initial discussions in Italian, Spanish and English with a young Italian painter, a young Spanish painter and a young Italian filmmaker, the proposed art concept ended up being called “La Consapevolezza.” Like “chiaroscuro” and “contrapposto,” mellifluous Italian words incorporated into everyday art talk, it sounded really “molto bene” to me even after the initial alcoholic lift of the wine and satisfying helpings of the spaghetti with mussels (spaghetti alle cozze) and a salad of local, seasonal fruits waned.

In closing, as I pass the mid-point of this 90-day Palermo of what is and what might be, I can only say to fellow Nutmeggers that Palermo and all of Sicily awaits you. I have yet to find answers to my quests listed above, and in the end, perhaps there may be none. They could be quixotic and ephemeral. However, this experience has not been boring or frustrating if you can sway with the slower tempo of life and fatalistic outlook of this enchanting island of history, art, architecture and syncretistic cuisine, that has been conquered, occupied, dominated and subjugated by a long list of foreign conquerors and dominant city-states and nations for centuries. I implore you, don’t just think and tour the conventional “Italian triangle” of Rome, Florence and Venice in 7 days. Per favore, come (perhaps home) to Sicily and stay awhile. Maybe even a long while like a reverse immigrant. Tanti saluti da Palermo!


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