Giovanna Paola Zecchino Wharton
(March 2003 -- Medford, OR)
From where did your family emigrate and when? Who emigrated
(self, parents, grandparents) and what were their names?
Father's name: Gabriel Zecchino Turco
Did they settle among other Piemontesi and were
they members of a Piemontesi society (fraternal, mutual aid, etc.)?
Did your family maintain Piemontesi traditions -- language,
culture, history, cuisine, etc.?
To some degree, but also absorbed Chilean customs and cuisine.
Did your family return home to visit or to live after the initial
emigration? Did they maintain contact with family back home?
Family never returned to their country and always remained in
Chile prior to death.
Do you identify yourself more as American, Italian or Piemontese?
Have you visited your family's town(s) in Piemonte? What was
your experience like?
Yes, when I was 56 years old. Fantastic experience.
Have you studied your Piemontesi genealogy? Please explain
Do you belong to the Piemontesi nel Mondo, Famija Piemonteis
or any other organization?
Piemontesi nel Mondo, Italian Catholic Federation.
Ms. Wharton also included an article on her arrival in the
U.S., which includes much interesting information. It is included
My arrival in the United States as a permanent resident was by
a circuitous route and did not occur for almost 50 years after
I left Italy. I was born (24 August 1917) in Monastero Vasco and
lived also in Casale Monferrato, both small villages a few kilometers
to the south of Mondovi (Casale is actually a small city, located
to the north in the province of Alessandria), in the province
of Cuneo. My father was a local Piemontese; however, my mother,
Vittoria Clement Marcuz was from Aviano, Udine, and only spoke
Italian. So I, speaking only Piemontese, could not converse with
my mother until I was sent away to school in Rapallo (east of
Genoa, on the coast) at the age of 6 to learn Italian. After that,
I could not retrieve my Piemontese language.
My father was a hotelier. In Mondovi, he and his uncle owned and
operated La Barra di Ferro. My cousins still own and operate hotels
in Crema and Salso Maggiore. When I reached the age of 10, events
transpired which started me on an indirect route through the world
outside of Italy.
One of my cousins who married an Italian engineer, emigrated to
Chile, where her new husband was working on a railroad installation
project. The gradual migration of her family to Chile commenced
when she wrote home asking for her sisters to come, since she
spoke no Spanish and had made few friends. Their brother accompanied
the sisters to Valparaiso, Chile. He liked the country, decided
to stay and bought the Hotel Santiago in Valparaiso.
It was not long before the brother and sisters convinced their
parents back in Mondovi to join them. Lacking any other family
member who could spare the time to escort their mother to Chile,
my father was enlisted. My mother and I were made a part of the
excursion and we sailed from Genova on the S.S. Virgilio.
My father and mother enjoyed Chile and just before we were scheduled
to return to Italy, my cousin asked my father to become his partner
in the hotel. When my father and cousin retired and sold the hotel
in Valparaiso, they jointly bought a farm in the country between
Santiago and Valparaiso. When my mother died in 1945, my husband,
I and two children went to live on the farm until 1953, when my
husband was transferred to Lima, Peru.
I returned to Santiago, Chile in 1960 and lost my husband in 1969.
Speaking Spanish, Italian and English, I worked for an import/export
firm. With the country unstable in the early 1970s, my children
left. My daughter is now a teacher in Eugene, Oregon and my son
has a steel fabrication business in Brazil.
The home in Santiago was inherited by me and I subsequently rented
it out to a widowed American engineer working on a mine expansion
project in Chile. We were married in 1974 and on our honeymoon
we traveled to California and visited his grown children and family.
Returning to Chile we were transferred to London for one year.
During this time I waited patiently for my visa to the United
States. It actually took 1 1/2 to receive my visa and another
12 years before I could truly say that I had achieved residence
in America. Those 12 years were spent in Chile, California, Africa,
Northern England and finally back to Belmont where my husband
retired in 1986.