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      Italian Immigrants in Calgary:  Dimensions of Cultural Identity

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Part One

Part Two

Part Three



Article Feature by David E. Aliaga

In his introduction to Arrangiarsi (1989:28}, Roberto Perin[¹] states that "more attention must be given to the studies of [Italian] immigrant experience outside of Montreal and Toronto," and mentions the general lack of migration studies of southern Italians. A preliminary step toward meeting those objectives, this paper is based on a total of 144 interviews, conducted from January through March of 1992 and from September, 1993 through February of 1994 with individuals (144 men) drawn from a sample of Italian immigrants in Calgary, including both southern and northern Italians. All respondents had come to the city of Calgary after the Second World War.

Immigrants have been a fact of life in Calgary since its foundation in 1894. Italians in particular have migrated to Calgary since the turn of the century.[²] Many of these early immigrants came alone, worked hard for a few years, then returned to their homeland. Most of the immigrants who came after the Second World War also came alone, but worked in order to bring their families into Canada. Older Italian immigrants recalled the harsh conditions which characterized the city the "cow town" as it was known, in the early 1900's: poor sanitary conditions, miserable living quarters, and an absence of running water and central heating.

This paper is divided into three parts, each presenting a subset of the data collected on Italian male immigrants to Calgary:

  • Part one discusses the basic socioeconomic data, such as immigrants' gender, place of origin, age of birth and age at arrival in Calgary, education level, occupation, and reasons for migrating.
  • Part two examines data pertaining to family life (marriage, number of children, language spoken at home) of first-, second-, and third-generation Italians.
  • Part three discusses information concerning the working and social lives of Italian immigrants, showing a strong pattern of economic success and satisfaction in their country of adoption.

The paper concludes with a summation of the collected data as well as reflections about the future generations of Calgary's Italian immigrants. 

The article is reprinted with permission of the author David Aliagu and the publisher Canadian Ethnic Studies / Études ethniques au Canada Journal, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Calgary.


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