How Italians view Nigerians

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    What do Italians think of Nigerians?

    I cannot speak for the entire Italy but I can, for sure, speak for the region where I am from, the Upper Valley of the river Serio, in the province of Bergamo. In this area there are two villages, Fino del Monte and Rovetta (and to a lesser degree, Clusone, my hometown) that have a very strong relationship with Nigeria (and also Ghana and Benin).

    When Italy was in abysmal poverty the mountain regions were probably the poorest of all. Emigration was a very common thing and, for some reasons that are not entirely clear to me, instead of emigrating to America, Argentina, France or Switzerland like most Italians did, people from my home province moved first in Ghana (around 1910) and later to the neighbouring countries, with most of them settling in Nigeria.

    As the stereotype goes for Italians from Bergamo, they were builders and construction workers and soon established thriving businesses in that sector.

    My two uncles moved there in their twenties and they still own businesses there. Their own uncle was already working there during World War II and being Italian was imprisoned by The British. The sons of one of them grew up in Italy but later moved back to Lagos and established their own companies there.

    In total there probably are a few hundred people of Bergamo descent living in Nigeria.

    I personally know tens of people who work or have worked in Nigeria at some point in their life. I remember watching the 1994 World Cup match Italy-Nigeria with two italo-Nigerian girls (in Italy for the summer) who clearly supported Nigeria.

    This immigration has caused an interesting mixture: in houses on the Alps carved elephant tusks and ebony statues are a common sight and chicken tikka masala with bananas and peanuts is a normal dish in many houses. People who used to live in Nigeria drank whisky and soda instead of Italian wine.

    The Bergamasque community in Nigeria started their own traditions such as gathering together in Good Friday to sing the Via Crucis as they would do in Italy.

    Nigeria was, in my childhood, the foreign country I most often heard about and it was always narrated positively. The fruits was amazing, the food awesome, the nature beyond belief. My dad is a keen hunter and was enthusiast with the shooting he did there.

    It was also considered a place with fantastic business opportunities, with many disadvantaged people (like my two uncles) being able to build a very successful career.


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