Homemade Ravioli

A place for Quattrones, Betteridges, and Praticos to share our family stories, history, and heritage.

The Society of Fata Morgana

10367600_10204608833198032_6621271744905189190_nInitially posted on Facebook back in October, I am sharing a photograph that hangs in my house, my mom’s house, and in Fred and Mary’s house. This group of men and women were the Society of Fata Morgana. Like many Italians settling in the United States, our ancestors embraced any semblance of the village life that they had left behind.

Societies like the Fata Morgana were a part of their process of building a new community of people who would be willing to help one another find a place to live, a job, and friendships.

Sidebar: Fata Morgana is a nod to the optical illusion created in the Strait of Messina when the Ionian Sea meshes with the Tyrrhenian Sea. The differences in temperature can make it look like a castle or strange things are floating in the distance. After the massive earthquake and tsunami of 1908, some southern Italians blamed the Fata Morgana and it took on the narrative mythology of a fey spirit.

I remember Aunt Connie telling me that Beppa sometimes wagged her finger and clucked her tongue at butterflies because she thought they were mischievous fairies. And I remember someone in the family telling me that some women in the family would never go into the ocean at the beach because they did not trust it…or the Fata Morgana.

The Fata Morgana Society was a club of Southern Italians. They even made their identification cards with photographs. Fred and Mary have a copy of one.

Fata Morgana closeupA close-up of the large photo shows us Gregorio Pratico with young Greg on his knee. I initially thought it was Carmen Pratico (I mean, those chubby cheeks, come on) but Greg has seen the photograph and told my mom that it is him on his father’s knee.

When our ancestors came over from “the other side” Italy was only a newly united country (1861). The North and the South clung to their regional differences and identities.

When I grew up, my friends used to cling to our neighborhoods as identification. The kids I knew identified ourselves by the street corners we hung out on: 13th and Jackson, 2nd and Jackson, 12th and Wolf, et al. I wonder if that is a hangover from the immigrants clinging to not only their regions but also the town from which one emigrated. I clearly remember family members making the clear distinction that we were not just from Calabria, but Reggio Calabria…and not just Reggio Calabria, but Pellaro.

10355022_10204622714265050_4269003166711313791_n 2Scanning the faces, we think Ferdinando Quattrone is in the photograph alongside of another Quattrone. Could that be a young Carmen or Dan Quattrone also in the photo? Can anyone in the family confirm the identity?

Finally, what I love about the larger photograph is that chronicles the young and the old–the extended family–and the challenges to come as second-generation children would grow up trying to make sense of and accommodate two worlds: a household filled with Old World values and beliefs, and the other found outside the doors of the home, among the Americans.

Can anyone from the family comment on that thought? Did anyone ever see or feel the two worlds coming together? clash? blend?

About Brian Kelley

Middle school teacher, co-chair of our ELA department, and co-director with PAWLP. Follow me on Twitter @_briank_.

3 comments on “The Society of Fata Morgana

  1. goodman52015
    January 29, 2015

    Love it Brian. Yes that’s my Grandfather and Uncle Greg. I do get how those cheeks foiled you though. My Dad had the cheeks and so do I and so do my kids. Lol


  2. joanl777
    January 30, 2015

    You’re right Brian. That’s grand pop but can’t really tell who the other one is. Could be either Uncle Carmen or Uncle Nunce.


  3. fmquattro
    March 9, 2015

    Great story, Brian. I think it is Uncle Dan next to Ferdinando. Is that Uncle Carmen seated below Gregorio ?…I remember them all calling the organization the ” So-shi-DA !”,with a rising inflection & accent on the last syllable. I heard that some of the missing siblings e.g., Nuncie, may have been working the day the photo was taken. The legend of the Fata Morgana lives on, and the Calabrians were happy we knew the story when Mary & I visited Reggio & Pellaro in 2006.


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