San Ciriaco went to Boston
Persecuted by the vile demon hunger that stalked him often
in the course of his life, my grandfather, Florindo
Cirignano embarked upon the SS Verona at Naples on 18 Nov
1913 - destination Boston. He carried not only his little
cardboard suitcase, but something so precious he would have
defended it at the cost of his own life.
He was the only Torrese on the ship, an anomoly at that time
because in those days, when you departed for America -
perhaps to provide mutual courage, perhaps to avoid
suffering the trauma of separation alone - Torresi went in
groups. Check any ship manifest to notice how they often
took cabins near one another.
I have said, this poor and honest man, my grandfather, in
addition to his hopes and illusions, carried a small
treasure. At least it was considered so by the many Torresi
who emmigrated to Boston and the environs; it was a plaster
replica of San Ciriaco. Probably commissioned and paid for
by the emmigrants, it finally reached its destination at the
church of St Leonard in the North End of Boston – the city’s
woman from New York, very passionate about the history of
Torre, offers another possibility. She thinks the statue
could have been donated by the Torresi to their brothers
overseas as a gesture of thanks, since in 1913 the
emmigrants had raised funds to send back to Torre for the
purpose of building an aqueduct to bring water into the
San Ciriaco for many years has represented a bridge between
America and Torre, the transplantation of a unique symbol of
our country and traditions.
Over the years in Boston, however, people lost track of San
Ciriaco. Recently, however several descendents (Rotondi,
Cefalo, de Sanctis, Rita Cirignano) synchronized their
research and found it in the sacristy on the lower level of
St. Leonard's church.
Thus, I was able to verify what at first was only a village
legend recollected by Franco Scala, as the pure truth. As
the story goes, my grandfather arrived in Boston at the end
of November and was a guest of paesani living in a tenement,
where slept an entire group of poor, unfortunate and equally
desperate immigrants. Shortly thereafter, he found work for
a construction company, replacing a troublesome worker who
had been fired.
For days and days he worked three meters underground, like a
mole, digging with shovel and pickaxe to install drains in a
new neighborhood. He slept and ate in the tenement where
the menu featured beans, beans and more beans.
On Christmas Eve, it was snowing and terribly cold. Passing
in front of the church of St. Leonard after work, my
grandfather -perhaps to warm up, perhaps for the nostalgia
of the nativity, (which in Torre is celebrated with much
passion and reverence), or perhaps lured by the sweetness of
music emanating from the sacred building, decided to enter.
He had barely crossed the threshold when what seemed to be
an angry demon rose from the center of the church. Without a
word spoken, this fanatic thrust his fist into my
grandfather’s eye, and sent him flying out into the cold
snow. My grandfather, thin as a wren, could not compete
with something that monstrous and went back to the tenement
with a black eye.
When his friends saw him so badly beaten, they immediately
sat him in a chair, dressed his wounds and insisted he tell
what had happened. When my grandfather explained his mishap,
they immediately identified the aggressor as the man who had
been fired and who was replaced at work by my grandfather.
The next day a team of Torresi found the troublemaker in an
alley. They beat him and left him on the ground for dead.
returned to Italy after three months, renouncing the
American dream. The statue however is still there - 95 years
later. They tell me it is very well kept.
our paesani in the States realize that if Torre continues as
it is, we will have to travel to Boston to pay homage to our