In recent days, a tango “festival” of sorts has taken place in Procida. Procida tanghèri, in collaboration with a large group of similar people from the continent, perform the arabesques of this particular dance. I don’t know how to dance, but I really like watching tango dancers perform. The latter is not a real dance, but a kind of sacred rite of an ancient religion, the dancers of which are priests. The rhythm of the music is sweet, captivating, seductive; the expression on the faces of the dancers is serious, cold-blooded, almost hieratic, as if they are in the midst of a sacred rite; their movements are broad but decisive. A few years ago I watched a famous film about tango. The pair of dancers mesmerized and drew even the most disappointed spectators into the whirlpool of the voluptuous sensuality of the dance. Because tango is a very sensual dance. It’s about ancient and new sensuality at the same time, and the couple in the film expressed this without any hesitation. Thank you! The dancers were Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez! And if I may… At a certain moment during the dance, the first one says: “Tango is a horizontal desire expressed vertically.” Never has a definition been more appropriate! Today, however, my thoughts return to another September 8th: 1943, eighty years ago. I was little then, I was six years old, but I remember everything that happened that day. It was as if the memories had crystallized in my mind to the point that they had become an integral part of my being. It was a bright day in Procida, a hot September: in Madonna della Libera, where I lived, my mother took me and my little sister up to the roof to turn over the figs that had been left to dry in the sun. This was a daily ceremony for preparing dried figs.
They were placed in a large clay pot and each layer was sprinkled with a bay leaf. I can’t tell you the aroma they gave off when they opened it, usually at Christmas! Suddenly we heard the loud ringing of the bells of the Church of Annunziata, as if it were Cuarantore. We went down from the roof to understand what was happening. From the balcony, from which my mother watched and we clung to her skirt, we saw the neighbors, Concetta “Spacieddo”, Melanina “Munauto”, Scarparo’s daughters, running up the hill to get to the church. Nobody knew anything. After a while, some began to descend, shouting in euphoria and as if in a state of madness: “This is fernuta ‘a varra! This is war! My mother, a strong and emotionally complex woman, hugged me and my sister and said in a quiet voice: “Daddy is coming back!” from captivity! About ten minutes later my maternal grandfather from Ciraccio came to the house. Everything immediately became clear. He heard Badoglio’s voice on the radio announcing a truce. In the Madonna della Libera area, no one had a radio. I didn’t have it at home. My grandfather from Ciraccio had a large Telefunken telephone, which he placed on the balcony at certain times of the day so that the people gathered in the street could hear the military “bulletin”. He was in America for many years and said that people there were much ahead of us and radio was a common thing that everyone had. Even the parish priest, Madonna della Libera, did not have a radio, and I always wondered how he managed to hear the news of the truce in advance. Years later, I expressed these doubts to my niece Luciddaa, and she replied not to pay attention, because priests always manage to find out everything before others. That day we went to bed happy and contented. The bad thing is over. The next morning I looked out onto the inner balcony overlooking the guardhouse and saw many soldiers milling around among the vegetables and fruit trees. My mother was already awake and talking to them. They asked for civilian clothes and frantically took off their uniforms. They wanted to disguise themselves and escape. They were afraid of the Germans. These were soldiers who worked piecework near cannon batteries. They feared that their former allies would kill them all or deport them to Germany in retaliation. However, there were no Germans in Procida and there never will be. But our soldiers did not listen to reason, they were too afraid. Some hid in the Rabbit Ditches. Their image still stands before my eyes. Days have passed; the war is not over; my father did not return; the Germans began bombing the island from Monte di Procida; our inhabitants from Saint Co. fled to the most remote areas of Procida. The family across the street from my house took in all the relatives who escaped from the Navy. I’m sorry that I write such sad things. And to say that I started with tango, how wonderful. Sorry if I got carried away, but these events are also part of our history and our daily lives.