We’re All Migrants

We’re all migrants from somewhere.  There are probably a few of us left in our (so far apparent) homo sapiens hometown of East Africa, but the rest of us are migrants, or children & grandchildren of migrants.  These days we love to slam that door behind us, or vilify those knocking on the door.  Or whom we’ve displaced.  Or whom we feel displaced us – long ago or yesterday.

Home is where we make it. It’s one of our fantastic human adaptations – maybe not as phenomenal as bipedalism, but highly functional nevertheless. When things got too tight with the neighbors way back when, it probably wasn’t too hard to move our campfires a few hundred feet further along the coast or up the hill… & we could still saunter back & visit grandkids in the old hood.  It’s just…well, it’s just our problematic, parallel compulsion to believe that we own where we are.  Some of us believe that there’ve been cultures that advanced beyond this belief…cultures which understood that this human primate is part of nature.  I dunno…not many of them survive to tell.

I’m a Santa Cruz immigrant from LA, drawn north by the new University (…yeah, that was a while ago).  My parents migrated west from Minnesota.  Their ancestors migrated across the Atlantic Ocean from northern Europe, & their ancestors were transplants from Africa, maybe via Asia – we may never know for sure.  The story of ancient human migrations is ever changing, thanks to new discoveries of old fossils & new ways of analyzing old data.

We’ve lived in ‘our’ Live Oak Avenue home for 26 years.  Daughter Z has moved at least nine times in the past nine years.  Worldwide, tens of millions of humans are on the move every year – voluntarily or involuntarily.

This past week we’ve been voluntarily displaced from our home.  It’s disturbing.  I cook soup to feel attached to the (very charming) upstairs apartment we’re temporarily inhabiting; I spread my things around; I put my ear to the open window trying to figure out what’s making those unfamiliar sounds.  I am across the street & two doors down from our home.  I am clearly a migration wimp.

Millions of humans don’t enjoy that luxury.  Severe economic distress, civil wars & water wars, dysfunctional governments, natural resource depletion, climate change, population growth – these & other factors will only increase human migration into the future.

It’s probably time to figure out a better way to welcome our new neighbors.  Next year they may be us.




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4 Responses to We’re All Migrants

  1. Donna Maurillo says:

    I’ve traced my mother’s family back to the 1500s. All of them lived and died in the same tiny village in central Italy. Nobody went anywhere until the 1890s, when they started migrating to the US. Why did they stay in the same place for all those years? I learned that they were not permitted to move about. Parts of Italy… mostly the southern regions… were occupied by foreigners, including Spanish and French, who would not permit anyone to travel from one village to another without a passport. Southerners were kept uneducated and isolated within their own towns and villages. It’s why there are so many dialects in Italy. You can almost pinpoint a person’s town and even their neighborhood just by the language patterns.

    By 1804, Italy was free again, but it wasn’t united as a country until the 1860s. When the southerners realized they could move around, they started to leave Italy in waves. Between 1880 and 1920, Italy lost one-third of its population, primarily from the poor South. America offered a chance to begin anew, perhaps to own something… a farm or even a small home. My grandparents… all four of them… arrived between 1905 and 1919. The first American in my family was born in 1915… my mother’s sister.

    And while my mother’s family grabbed their American naturalization as quickly as they could, my father’s family held to their Italian citizenship even until the 1950s. That fact qualifies me to claim my own Italian citizenship “by right of blood” because my grandparents were still Italian citizens when I was born.

    My parents’ generation stayed put. But their kids set out for other horizons. I left my home city when I married into the military, and I ended up in California ten years after that. Five of my siblings followed, and three of them stayed. But migration was in our blood. I have family scattered in Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey, Florida, Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, and even outside the country. But none have migrated back to Italy except to visit.

    • liveoaklinda says:

      thanks donna – maybe i should’ve titled this ‘now we’re all migrants’. can you imagine your life in that small italian village? in spite of the supposed poverty, it’s hard sometimes to not romanticize the past, or the other side of the fence.

  2. Robin Baker says:

    I’ve been thinking about this, too, Linda. We are visiting in Quebec, where my mom’s family is from. I would like to learn more about what on earth motivated them (forced them?) to move from France hundreds of years ago to a freezing, hostile (though beautiful) environment, cut off from everything and everyone they had ever known. We humans certainly are migrators!

    • Donna Maurillo says:

      I definitely recommend ancestry.com. You will be amazed by the amount of information they have in their files – primarily in the US and Canada, plus the British Isles and a few other places.

      I researched my Italian family history also at the Mormon Church Family History Library here in Santa Cruz at 220 Elk Street, 831-426-1078. Their hours are T 9am-3pm; W 9am-9pm; Sat 9am-12pm.

      They don’t sell their religion. In fact, they’re very helpful in finding all kinds of records, which you can borrow from the Salt Lake City library. I traced my mother’s family back to the 1500s in Italy. That, coupled with a book about the history of Italy, helped me figure out what life was like during all these centuries, and even what may have compelled my family to leave and come to the US.

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